Where others may not see opportunity when they visit Bob Deskins Park, Myrline Barnes, a long-time community activist in the Union-Miles neighborhood, does: she sees opportunity in the form of flowers. The result is Plants for Peace, a public ceremony honoring homicide and tragic death victims.
Sponsored by Gaines Funeral Home and Unstoppable Flavors, Plants for Peace stems from Barnes’ desire to beautify the park and make residents “feel good” about it and to honor those, like herself, who have lost a loved one to gun violence. She lost her son, Willie E. Barnes, in November of 2015.
Barnes hopes that those who attend (May 11,10 a.m. to 12 p.m., at the NW corner of 93rd and Harvard) will walk away “with satisfied minds” and will “know they are not the only ones.” She wants those who are grieving to “band together as one to carry each other.”
Friends of Myrline Barnes and Union Miles Development Corporation are responsible for organizing the event. Joseph Duffy of Union Miles Development describes Plants for Peace as “a welcome opportunity for our community to pause, reflect, and determine how we wish to frame our growth going forward — both collectively and as individuals.” He adds that his organization is grateful for the chance both to help residents engage in refreshing the neighborhood’s appearance and to help “provide each participant a direct channel for individual growth through our larger community healing process.”
The program for the day is still being developed, but in addition to the planting, Dr. Carl (CJ) Gaines, Jr., of Gaines Funeral Home will offer remarks. According to Barnes, Gaines has buried many victims of gun violence and has expressed an interest in speaking as part of the program. Free hot dogs and prizes will be available for those attending.
Barnes hopes that it will not just be those who have lost a loved one to gun violence who attend. Like Gaines, she wants teenagers to come as well. When asked what she would say to neighborhood teens if she could speak to them directly, Barnes says, “Stop and think before you pull the trigger. Stop and think.”
Barnes’ efforts will not end with Plants for Peace on May 11. She intends to work with grief counselors from the Gaines Funeral Home to provide support for “mothers, sisters, brothers –anyone who has lost someone to gun violence.” Barnes says that there’s no solution for gun violence, at least not yet. “We must,” she stresses, “pay more attention.”
To honor a loved one or to simply donate a plant that will fit into the park’s site plan for the event, please contact Joe Duffy of the Union Miles Development Corporation at firstname.lastname@example.org or 216-341-0757.