There was grief, prayer and calls for justice at a virtual vigil that took place Thursday evening to commemorate the life of a young boy killed in a shooting this week.
Eight-year-old Lee-Marion Cain, known to friends and family as Mar Mar, died in hospital Tuesday after being shot at in a vehicle on Windmill Road. His death has been ruled a homicide and police are looking for two suspects.
During the vigil, Matthew Thomas, a pastor at the East Preston Baptist Church, urged people to resist the desire to turn to violence in retaliation in their pain and frustration and to let police bring those responsible to justice.
Thomas prayed that the child's death would be a catalyst for young people.
"A wake up call to our community that we need to do better," he said.
"That we need to have more care and consideration and compassion for one another, that we need to take back our community against the gates of hell, an evil that try to prevail against it."
Sharon Davis Murdoch, co-president of the Health Association of African Canadians, told participants at the vigil that support is available for those who need it.
She said a Black community support line staffed by members of the Association of Black Social Workers is in place where voicemail messages can be left and a staff member would return the call within 12 hours.
The number is 1-855-732-1253.
Noting that there have been three deaths in Preston over the last six weeks, Deacon Irene Rose Fraser said it has been a difficult time.
"We must find a way to heal our hearts," she said. "And there is help available."
Social worker Robert Wright told people at the vigil that counselling can help them heal.
Tragedies like the child's death, he said, can show people things in their life that they need to change and they should not be afraid to ask for help.
"We are your community, you are our son, our daughter, our brother, our father, our cousin," Wright said.
"We love you. And we know that your heart is tearing up — you can reach out for help and we will embrace you and help you."
The Black Cultural Centre live streamed the vigil on Facebook and their YouTube channel.
"The vigil is there for prayers," said Miranda Cain, Lee-Marion's cousin.
"Our community is a very faith-based community and we believe very strongly in prayer … so it's there to show the community and family support."
Cain said the response has been overwhelming.
"I can see that this has affected all of us as a whole, as Nova Scotia as a whole, as the country as a whole."
Cain said there are no plans yet for a funeral service for her young cousin and she expects the current wave of COVID-19 and its accompanying public health restrictions to prevent that for now.
In the meantime, a memorial has been growing outside Nelson Whynder Elementary, Lee-Marion's school. The school will be open Friday to help support families, according to the regional centre for education.
Cain said she hopes to build some kind of permanent memorial in North Preston, the community where Lee-Marion lived, to remind people of him and the need to curb gun violence.
Cain said she'd also like to see more done to guide youth away from violence. She said it may be time for the resurgence of Ceasefire — a program targeted at young men involved in violent crime or at risk of becoming involved in violent crime.
Ceasefire stopped running in 2018 for lack of funding.
"This community, we're in a crisis … we are definitely in a crisis here. On top of all these tragedies that have been taking place, there's no time for healing."
Lee-Marion's death is the third homicide in Dartmouth in the past six weeks.
At a news conference Wednesday, a Halifax Regional Police spokesperson said this week's shooting was not known to be connected to any other incidents, but investigators were still looking for possible connections.
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