LITTLE ROCK, Ark – 2022 marked Little Rock’s deadliest year on record and left 81 families without a daughter, son, brother, sister and friend.
As a new year begins, the faces of those lost serve as a reminder that Little Rock needs to make a change.
Former gang members are continuing their fight to make a difference in the community, now calling on mothers who know the pain of losing a child all too well.
Like a chalk drawing on the sidewalk, Yolanda Harrison traces and retraces pictures of the past.
“I don’t see a number; I see my son. Every single one, I see my son,” Harrison said.
The police reports mark 81 homicides in 2022, but for families who have lost someone, that’s 81 days they won’t forget.
“It’s still very hard,” Harrison said.
Walking down the street, Harrison replays the final moments of her son’s 20 years on earth.
“It was the worst day of my life, I can honestly say it was the worst day of my life,” Harrison said.
Someone shot and killed Harrison’s son, Devan Sprawling, in a home on Fair Park Boulevard in 2018.
Harrison said she didn’t know until hours later when she got a call from the hospital.
“I’ve seen a lot, but nothing can compare to seeing my son there, his lifeless body,” Harrison said.
Dreams of a long life were gone in an instant.
“I think that just woke me up to the violence in this city,” Harrison said.
Harrison now joins a group of former gang members, officers and mothers who are all fighting to make a difference in the capital city.
“I think that we’re at the point now where it’s a must that everyone, not just the people that were in this room, but everyone needs to show up and be a part of what we’re trying to do,” said former Little Rock gang and non-violence activist Leifel Jackson.
As pen hits the paper, a plan is set in place to give young people a reason to stop the violence.
The group came up with three different avenues. The first was offering kids a way out, showcasing other talents they have whether it be musical or elsewhere.
The group also wanted to make a plan to go into local schools and give children a chance to talk to someone who’s overcome the violence.
“We’re going to go out loaded with all these weapons to try and help counter the guns,” Jackson said.
Voices sing out in a small room to leave the meetings behind and put feet to the pavement.
“I was praying for the day that this would happen,” Harrison said. “Former Crips, former Bloods, police officers, all of us in the same room to actually address the issue.”
Step by step, Harrison walks along a path to better days, hoping soon this street won’t be just a dark memory but a moment that changed it all.
“I know he would be happy for me, happy I’m doing this, making a difference,” Harrison said.