RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Students, educators and community members gathered at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School Thursday evening for a Community Healing Circle, coming together to address collective trauma in the City of Richmond and across the country in the wake of recent gun violence.
Drums No Guns Founder Dr. Ram Bahgat, who led the event, said that Community Healing Circles have been happening monthly since Sharnez and Neziah Hill were killed after a shooting at the Belt Atlantic Apartments on Midlothian Turnpike last April.
“There was just this intense feeling of hopelessness around the city,” Bahgat told 8News. “One of the things that I suggested was that we start having these monthly Community Healing Circles because sometimes, it seems like it’s overwhelming to try to figure out what to do when there’s a mass shooting or when there’s a tragic murder.”
Bahgat said that Thursday’s Community Healing Circle was already scheduled before the tragedies in Buffalo, N.Y., or Uvalde, Texas. But the event was pushed out in a Richmond Public Schools (RPS) newsletter following those mass shootings, as the school division’s MLK Middle School garden would provide a space for the healing circle.
“The distance doesn’t matter because what’s happening in Texas happened in Connecticut. It’s happening in Richmond, and I just feel like if we come together, we can at least help each other heal,” Bahgat said. “I went to Sandy Hook, and the experience of just feeling that aftermath was just in every cell in my body. I can relate to it because my brother was a victim of gun violence.”
The Community Healing Circle merged music, movement and communication in a welcoming but solemn space to provide attendees the opportunity to work through whatever traumas they were carrying.
“When the shooting stops, the trauma does not end, and that’s why we have to come together as a community,” Bahgat said. “I just can’t imagine somebody being able to shoot a child. But I think that we really have to look at the root of the problem and not make excuses and deflect. We have a gun violence problem in America.”
RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras and MLK Middle School Principal Inette Dabney were also present for the Community Healing Circle, participating in drumming and conversations with other community members.
“I’m tired of hearing the same narrative. When is something going to be done?” Dabney said. “These are bright lights that have been extinguished, and it’s just so unfair. These babies didn’t have a chance to begin to live.”
Dabney said she was heartbroken when she learned about the shooting in Buffalo, and again when she heard what happened in Uvalde.
“It’s not fair that children don’t feel safe at school,” she said. “School should be a safe haven.”
Moving forward, Bahgat said community members should work through trauma together and discuss how to break the cycle of gun violence.
“It’s happening time after time after time, and I think we have to do more than just respond to it and react to it,” he said. “We have to be more proactive.”