By Sam P.K. Collins
The D.C. Council recently approved a resolution that names a street in Northeast in honor of Makiyah Wilson, a child who lost her life to gun violence five years ago.
The resolution, unanimously approved by the D.C. Council on June 6, symbolically designates the 300 block of 53rd Street in Northeast as “Makiyah Wilson Way.” On July 16, 2018, Makiyah was shot and killed on that block, what many know as part of the Clay Terrace community.
In the years since Makiyah’s death, Makiyah’s mother Donnetta Wilson has worked to combat gun violence through the Makiyah Lee Wilson Foundation, which establishes relationships with community members and raises funds to support movements geared toward quelling gun violence and curbing homelessness.
Wilson and other members of the Makiyah Lee Wilson Foundation also put plans in motion to memorialize Makiyah, primarily through petitioning the D.C. Council for the creation of Makiyah Wilson Way.
Even after moving to Georgia in 2019, Wilson collaborated with community members in the District to collect signatures and garner council support.
“I wanted to keep Makiyah’s name alive and stop gun violence by putting a lot of different activities in the streets for youth to keep them busy with positive thoughts in their mind,” said Wilson, who’s also a hairstylist. “Makiyah was an angel on earth before [she became an angel] in heaven. The same thing happens in Georgia with little girls and boys being murdered, so I just try to help. We had a blanket drive and fed the homeless for Thanksgiving.”
Council Member Gray Collaborates with Community Members for the Designation
Per the Street and Alley Closing and Acquisition Procedures Act of 1982, people who have been deceased two years or longer are eligible for symbolic street designations with the suffixes “way” or “plaza” once the advisory neighborhood commission in which the street is located receives proper notice and the D.C. Council approves.
In May, the D.C. Council unanimously approved legislation that symbolically designates the 1400 block of Cedar Street in Southeast in honor of Davon T. McNeal III, a youth who died under circumstances similar to Makiyah’s on July 4, 2020, during an anti-violence cookout. That bill is currently under congressional review.
Davon’s mother, Crystal McNeal, didn’t respond to The Informer’s email requesting comment.
Last fall, Council member Vincent C. Gray, along with seven other council members, introduced the Makiyah Wilson Way Designation Act, which Gray described as a statement about the need to end gun violence in the community. The Committee of the Whole held a hearing in December, but the bill made no movement.
In January, Gray introduced the bill again at the beginning of the council session, this time with Council members Anita Bonds (D-At Large), Matt Frumin (D-Ward 3), Christina Henderson (I-At Large), Janeese Lewis George (D-Ward 4), Kenyan McDuffie (I-At Large), Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1), Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2) and Robert White (D-At Large) as co-sponsors.
Matthew Marcou, the D.C. Department of Transportation’s chief of staff testified on behalf of the office of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), expressing no objection to the street designation. ANC Commissioner Yolanda Fields, whose single-member district includes the 300 block of 53rd Street, submitted testimony calling the street designation a “blessing to the [Wilson] family for years to come.”
On the morning of August 11, Gray is scheduled to conduct a ceremony officially commemorating the naming of Makiyah Wilson Way. In speaking about this milestone, Gray kept the Wilson family at the forefront of his mind.
“This occasion, first and foremost, is a celebration of life. Makiyah Wilson Way honors the memory of a beautiful girl and her family,” Gray said. “Sadly, we cannot memorialize Makiyah without remembering how she was taken from us. It is tragic beyond words and a reminder that violence ends precious lives too soon. Makiyah enriched everyone she touched. Her smile and energy uplifted people.”
The Ward 7 council member went on to say, “There are other settings where we can talk about policy, public safety and why we are failing. This moment is not for that. I hope this memorial assists Makiyah’s loved ones in healing. I want them to know we will never forget Makiyah or their tragic loss. The love and joy she shared is timeless.”
Several Months of Court Proceedings and an Organizer’s One Wish
Authorities said Makiyah was a bystander in a shooting that was part of a longstanding beef between Clay Terrace and Wellington Park. Four other people, including Makiyah’s older sister Nyjhay Wilson, then 18, were caught in the crossfire at the 300 block of 53rd Street in Northeast. The sisters had been sitting on their front steps eating sunflower seeds and pickled eggs when a black Infiniti sedan pulled into Clay Terrace. Four men immediately opened fire upon exiting the vehicle.
Throughout her short life, Makiyah had been heavily engaged in basketball. She also developed an affinity for D.C. rapper Fat Trel and YouTube star CJ So Cool. On May 31, family and friends in D.C. and Georgia celebrated what would’ve been Makiyah’s 15th birthday.
In the days leading up to Makiyah’s birth anniversary, a jury heard closing statements in a trial of Makiyah’s alleged murderers — Quentin Michals, Qujuan Thomas, Isaiah Murchison, Darrise Jeffers, Marquell Cobbs, and Gregory Taylor — all of whom are from Wellington Park in Southeast. The jury entered its third full week of deliberations on Monday.
The final trial involving other affiliates of Wellington Park — Mark Price and Antonio Murchison — is scheduled to start next spring.
Tynika Jackson, a community outreach specialist at the Makiyah Wilson Foundation, said that more needs to be done to hold youth and adults who commit violent crimes in the District accountable. She recommended that communities instill more structure to prevent incidents like what claimed Makiyah’s life and that of her one-year-old nephew Melo.
In 2018, shortly before Makiyah’s death, Jackson started sitting in Donnetta Wilson’s chair to get her hair done. As the two built a relationship, Jackson counted among the handful of young women who helped lay the foundation for the Makiyah Wilson Foundation. Jackson told The Informer that she, along with another young woman, collected signatures for the designation of Makiyah Wilson Way within a two-day period in 2019, starting at a community event that Wilson hosted for the youth of Clay Terrace.
For Jackson, the gesture goes a long way for community members still trying to make sense of what happened in that courtyard five summers ago.
“This needs to be done to get justice served for Makiyah’s family,” Jackson said. “Around Clay Terrace, it’s about keeping a safe environment and keeping hope alive for the kids. For the greater community, it’s about togetherness. We have to keep our eyes open. You might never know what a child is going through unless you ask questions and bring positive vibes.”
Source: Published without changes from Washington Informer Newspaper