Members of BlackPush Inc., H.O.P.E. Hustlers, Concerned Black Clergy of Atlanta and other organizations gathered inside the First Iconium Baptist Church’s gymnasium on Friday afternoon to acknowledge the uptick in gun violence in the city, and recognize the lives lost this year to the recurring issue. Photo by Janelle Ward/The Atlanta Voice

Members of BlackPush Inc., H.O.P.E. Hustlers, Concerned Black Clergy of Atlanta and other organizations gathered inside the First Iconium Baptist Church’s gymnasium on Friday afternoon to acknowledge the uptick in gun violence in the city, and recognize the lives lost this year to the recurring issue.

State representatives, clergymen and attendees called for social and political action from local politicians and community members, and released 151 orange balloons into the sky to commemorate the 151 Atlanta residents who died by firearm homicide in 2022.

Friday marked the church’s first memorial event dedicated to gun homicide victims and their families, held in accordance with Gun Violence Awareness Day.  The event began with spokespeople listing all victims by name, who ranged in age from infants to elders.

The Reverend Timothy McDonald, pastor of First Iconium Baptist Church, said before the balloon release to view each life lost as an individual who left family and friends behind.
“We have to be careful that we don’t allow a name to become a statistic,” McDonald said. “That’s somebody’s son, somebody’s daughter, somebody’s father – not just a statistic.” 
McDonald also encouraged attendees to continue fighting for the political change they want to see occur within their communities.

“We’ve got to do more than talk about it,” Reverend Timothy McDonald, pastor of First Iconium Baptist Church (not shown) said. “We’ve got to be about it.” Photo by Janelle Ward/The Atlanta Voice

“We’ve got to do more than talk about it,” McDonald said. “We’ve got to be about it.” 
The event brought together grieving parents and community members, many of whom began nonprofit organizations as a result of losing a loved one. The memorial also inspired Sheila Isong, a representative from Giffords, former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords’ nonprofit organization protesting American gun violence, to fly in from Washington and pledge solidarity with Atlanta’s hurting communities.

Isong, engagement director at Giffords, said she refers to the country’s gun violence issue as an epidemic and a public health crisis. She also said gun violence doesn’t discriminate based on skin color, social status, or any other personal factor of identification.
“It doesn’t matter what you look like, where you’re from, your color, your age, what church you go to,” Isong said. “A bullet will kill you at close range.”

Representatives Sandra Scott and Kim Schofield, serving Georgia’s 76th and 60th districts, respectively, appeared in support of the victims and their families, as well.
Schofield said district lines are unimportant when issues like gun violence plague Atlanta’s Black community as a whole.

“The line might say this isn’t my district,” Schofield said. “But these are my people.”