Hunger strike Day 10: Members highlight “senseless killings in our community”

A group of nine men have spent the past 10 days sleeping on cots in a makeshift tent on a Liberty City street corner. They drink water. But other than that, not a single nutrient has entered their bodies. Twice a day, they’re checked by medics.

The men, all members of the Circle of Brotherhood, are on a hunger strike. Their goal: To end gun violence where they live, work and play. How long the hunger strike lasts, that hasn’t been decided yet.

“This wasn’t borne out of an event or an incident. Everywhere you go people have priorities. Some people’s priorities are to build a wall. Our priority is to stop the killings in our community,” said Lyle Muhammad, the Brotherhood’s executive director and spokesman.

Monday, to lend the group calling themselves “The Hunger 9” a louder voice, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez stopped by, spoke with some folks and took time to read some of T-shirts hung in a row over the grassy street corner the group has called home since March 9.

One of the shirts represented Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old Miami Gardens teen who was killed by security guard George Zimmerman at his father’s Central Florida home as Martin was returning from buying some Skittles at a local convenience store.  Muhammad said Martin’s parents had visited the site.

Another T-shirt was for Isaiah Balbona, an 18-year-old highlighted in a Miami Herald series on gun violence and youths, who was shot dead when he was ambushed in a car in Opa-locka last December as his sister sat beside him.

Caddy-corner to the property at Northwest 12th Avenue and 62nd Street is a stark reminder of just why the men are calling attention to the issue: A small park named in honor of Sherdavia Jenkins, the 9-year-old who was shot and killed almost 13 years ago by a stray bullet as she played in the front yard of her Liberty Square home with friends.

“They’re [the Circle of Brotherhood] are making a difference in the community at large. They knock on doors and ask people if they need jobs. It all factors in on lowering the crime rate, lowering the murder rate,” said the mayor. “But we still have too much violence. We had other incidents over the weekend.”

On Saturday, a 6-year-old Miami Gardens child found a gun in his home and accidentally took his own life. And Sunday in broad daylight and only 10 blocks from the protest, a 15-year-old boy was shot in the legs. Police haven’t said how he’s doing and haven’t offered an explanation for why the teen was shot.

The Circle of Brotherhood, which concentrates on the most impoverished neighborhoods of Miami-Dade and works with police and anti-violence advocacy groups like “Parents of Murdered Children,” is calling attention to itself to give the community a voice, a hope that their loved ones were not lost in vain.

“We want an awareness. But more than that, an internal dialogue,” said Muhammad. “The young people, until they stepped foot over here, never even believed they could see an end to the senseless killings in our community.”