Alicia Jasquith had wanted to be buried next to her daughter ever since Lecent Ross was fatally shot in a Jamestown townhome in Rexdale seven years ago at the age of 14.
“As close to Lecent as possible,” Jasquith told Jennifer Francis, 41, a long-time friend she moved in with 10 months before her death.
“I’ll try my best,” said Francis. But it isn’t a given.
For months now, she’s been paying $50 deposits on a plot near Lecent’s gravesite, but Francis hasn’t managed to save much of the roughly $6,000 she’s been told the burial and plot will cost.
She lives in subsidized housing with two dogs and six kids, including Jasquith’s youngest two children: Nevaeh, 14, and Elijah, 12. She works multiple jobs to make ends meet.
“We’re getting by,” she said, “we’re trying.”
Jasquith died on May 3. Multiple sclerosis — a disease for which there is currently no cure — robbed her of her ability to walk and then talk. She was “skin and bones,” said Francis; adding that life had “put her through really a lot.”
But the “worst day,” Jasquith said, was July 9, 2015, when Lecent was fatally shot by a 13-year-old boy. According to the teen’s defence lawyer, the shooting was an accident — his client hadn’t realized he was holding a loaded weapon. The boy pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide in November of 2016.
Lecent’s death prompted a wave of outrage over gun violence. It also prompted an outpouring of community love and support that Kofi Sankofa is hoping to tap into again now.
Sankofa, a local community support worker with the Toronto District School Board, is helping raise funds not just so that mother and daughter might be buried together but so that Elijah and Nevaeh might have some financial cushion for their future.
“The greatest thing that can come out of this [is] that support,” he said.
Sankofa says Francis, who “took her friend in when she could no longer take care of herself or her children,” is a great example of how people in the community care for one another.
“Oftentimes, people talk about Jamestown and we talk about the violence, but what they never talk about is this love, this community love,” said Sankofa.
Navaeh, who is now the same age as Ross was when she was killed, said she visits her sister’s grave every few months with Elijah. They bring flowers and they talk to her.
She knows how important it was for her mother to be close to her sister. If she could, she’d tell her mother to “look down on me and Eli” and that she hopes she’s with her sister and happy.
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