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Please do me a favor and say her name out loud. Ah-Shy-Ah Quarles.
She deserves to be remembered. Her name, nor anyone senselessly murdered, should not simply be added to the list of those lost to gun violence in our community, and forgotten. She leaves behind three children, the oldest only in 2nd grade. She was a mother, daughter, friend, volunteer extraordinaire, and had a light inside that burned brightly and shined on everyone she came into contact with.
She felt she was in danger. She was trying to move forward with her life and position her children for success. She was murdered.
She will not be the last person to die a violent death. Her children will not be the last to lose a parent. Her family and friends will not be the last to grieve and agonize at their loss. What will it take for us to truly care enough to do all the things needed to stop this senseless violence in our community? Here are the names of 11 other people who were murdered in our community in 2018. Their names should not be forgotten either.
How did we slip into the mind-numbing ambivalence of our self-inflicted, self-indulgent, fast-paced world of today where most of us never see the story of Aashya and the others as something we should care about? Societal ambivalence to the plight of our neighbors is by no means a new phenomenon. There is, however, this new way of remaining apart from “the others.” We are easily distracted with so many superfluous things on our screens and other perceived priorities that we either easily ignore or throw our hands up to the systemic problems of our community. To paraphrase the great civil rights leader Vincent Harding, “Community is like any other living organism, it either grows or it dies.”
Far too many of our communities have been starved of the resources and support needed to grow and now are dead or dying. Dr. King’s adage of “This is no time for complacency… this is the time for vigorous and positive action” still rings true today.
Are we at an inflection point? Are we weary of the feeling that we cannot address the challenges of the day? Are we willing to do the work that’s required? Are we ready to change the way we allocate resources? Are we willing to be in the uncomfortable space of community work that is messy, complicated, and difficult to see significant change in a short period of time?
We don’t need any more data. We don’t need any more convincing of the need that families and communities have in our region. Aashya, Erik, Shawn, Isaac, My’Leena, Carlos, Gerrian, Kenneth, Pameal, Tramell, Tashonda, and Vernon are all the evidence we need to act, to care, and to not ignore the plight of our neighbors. I don’t pretend there are easy solutions, but I do know that if you believe and see evidence that your life can be what you want it to be, you are less inclined to be violent. If you see real opportunities and fewer hurdles to achieve your dreams and aspirations you will not feel as compelled to risk that future to acts of violence. Can we say as a region that we will invest in all the facets that make communities healthy and strong?
Aashya’s life and death and that of the other 11 people in the 24:1 Community deserve our attention (as does all the other 200+ lives lost in the greater Metro area to violence). Aashya’s children need to know that their mother’s death was not in vain. Maybe her death can spur our region to do more to strengthen families, neighborhoods, and stop the pain and destruction that happens each and every day.
What if we actually cared about our neighbors in the St. Louis region and realized that our future is tied to their future no matter what their current circumstances may be? What if we actually saw real change in children’s academic success? What if we actually saw people earning a living wage and see their financial struggles begin to wane? What if we actually saw once struggling neighborhoods start to come back alive?
It’s time to get off the stump and find the courage to tackle the critical issues that our region faces—once and for all.
Her name was Aashya Quarles.
I’ve been working in community development in the St. Louis area for 25 years, and I’ve been the CEO of Beyond Housing since 1993. While I’m proud of our accomplishments, I don’t claim to be an expert. At Beyond Housing, the experts we listen to are the voices of the community members we serve. I’ll be raising issues here that I believe matter to our community. I hope you’ll join the conversation. We do reserve the right not to post comments containing offensive language. To paraphrase Dr. King, we can disagree without being disagreeable.