BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — The annual March Against Violence took place in east Bakersfield on Saturday morning. The event, which is hosted by the Wendale Davis Foundation, aimed to bring awareness to the many lives lost due to gun violence.
Saturday marked the 12th year for the march, and event organizers have a very personal connection to gun violence.
"There's this stigma that says that when someone is murdered, particularly in southeast Bakersfield, that somehow they deserved it or somehow they did something to initiate it. And thats not so," said Wesley Davis, who is the father of Wendale Davis, 16-year-old that was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting in Bakersfield in 2006.
No arrests were made for the killing, and it is considered a cold case. It led to Davis creating the Wendale Davis Foundation. Saturday's event brought hundreds to participate in a one-mile walk.
"We're just gonna walk right down into the neighborhoods. I mean this is a dangerous neighborhood, a neighborhood where many murders have transpired and so again, it's all about awareness and pointing this thing out," Davis said.
He also says an event like the March Against Violence also offers much-needed support to families that know the pain of losing a loved one to gun violence.
"Being an individual thats actually sitting in the seat of a murdered child, I know what it feels like. First hand. That's a life sentence. We'll struggle and deal with that for life whether the individuals that murdered my son are caught or not, it'll never bring my son back. That pain is always right there," he said.
"Every opportunity that I will get to remember my son, I want to make sure that everyone knows who Rashad is," said Cynthia Smith-Robertson, who lost her 36-year-old son Rashad Robertson to gun violence in 2015.
"My favorite memory is how Rashad talked about everybody, he had a bad mouth, and he'd cut you off with his mouth, but he had such a big heart he would bring you back into his heart," she said.
Davis says the problem of gun violence in Bakersfield isn't just his, it's the community's. To learn more about the Wendale Davis Foundation and it's tutoring and mentorships services, you can visit their website.