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‘I just can’t believe she’s gone’: Taylor Hayes’ mother leads peace walk a year after losing her daughter

‘I just can’t believe she’s gone’: Taylor Hayes’ mother leads peace walk a year after losing her daughter
Relatives and friends of the family of 7-year-old Taylor Hayes, who was killed last summer, attend a peace walk in her honor in Edmondson neighborhood in West Baltimore. Here, they walk up Edmondson Avenue as Taylor's mother, Shanika Robinson, left, helps carry a banner. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

Every week, rain or shine, Taylor Hayes’ mom ties purple balloons to the lamppost in front of her home. On Friday, exactly a year after her 7-year-old died from gunshot injuries, Shanika Robinson released the purple balloons into the air at a peace walk in Edmondson.

Last year, in early July, Taylor Hayes, was struck in the back by a bullet while riding in the backseat of a Honda Accord. Hayes was in critical condition and fought to stay alive for two weeks before dying July 19. Keon Gray was charged with Hayes’ death.

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Growing up in West Baltimore, Robinson had known a number of people who died to gun violence, but “nothing hit this close to home,” she said.

Robinson moved to Towson after losing her daughter because it was “too painful” to be in her former house but took all of her daughter’s belongings to her new home. She said whenever she goes to the store, Robinson buys an extra drink or snack for Hayes.

She does all these things to keep Hayes’ memory alive.

Shanika Robinson, mother of Taylor Hayes, holds a portrait of her daughter that was done by local artist Kimberly Sheridan, left. Relatives and friends of the family of 7-year-old Taylor Hayes, who was killed last summer, attended a peace walk in her honor in Edmondson neighborhood.
Shanika Robinson, mother of Taylor Hayes, holds a portrait of her daughter that was done by local artist Kimberly Sheridan, left. Relatives and friends of the family of 7-year-old Taylor Hayes, who was killed last summer, attended a peace walk in her honor in Edmondson neighborhood. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

“You better not be crying,” is what Robinson imagined her daughter would tell her at the peace walk held in Hayes’ name.

The loss was personal for almost everyone at the peace walk. Fathers, mothers and children who lost a family member to gun violence gathered in solidarity.

Sharon McMahan of East Baltimore lost her 17-year-old son, Juan McMahan, to gun violence in 2004. “When this first happens, [mothers] isolate ourselves," McMahan said. “But I had to learn it wasn’t my fault.”

McMahan, who founded A Mother’s Love Will Never Die, an organization for women who have lost children to gun violence, wore a button that said “SURVIVOR”.

“I survived a tragedy I never thought I was gonna survive,” she said.

Shanika Robinson, mother of Taylor Hayes, listens during a moment of silence during a peace walk that was held in her daughter's honor Friday night. Relatives and friends of the family of the 7-year-old, who was killed last summer, attended the event in the Edmondson neighborhood.
Shanika Robinson, mother of Taylor Hayes, listens during a moment of silence during a peace walk that was held in her daughter's honor Friday night. Relatives and friends of the family of the 7-year-old, who was killed last summer, attended the event in the Edmondson neighborhood. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

Lisa Molock, who founded No One Left Unhelped, an organization to help children who have been affected by street violence, brought a number of the kids to the peace walk.

The kids wore T-shirts with Hayes’ photo on them and held printed posters or personal signage as they marched. Some of the kids in Molock’s organization knew Hayes from Robert Coleman Elementary School.

Molock, a friend of Robinson’s, said many kids in Baltimore who’ve lost someone to violence grow up believing there’s no consequence to homicides. According to Molock, the idea that killing is bad needs to be reinforced in children to stop the cycle of gun violence.

Both Robinson and her kids are involved with the organization.

Stopping at a parking lot on Edmondson Avenue, the group took a moment to sing “Happy Birthday” to Robinson’s youngest child, Taylen, who turned 2 on Thursday. Robinson said it’s her four other kids who keep her going.

“It could be your child next,” Molock said to the crowd. A moment of silence followed with members of the group forming a circle and locking arms. They remained silent for 4 minutes, 54 seconds, the time in the morning when Robinson learned her daughter died.

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“I just can’t believe she’s gone,” Robinson said. When the balloons — they were purple, her favorite color — were released, they flew northeast, the way to Robinson’s home.

Mourners gathered Saturday morning for the funeral of seven-year-old shooting victim Taylor Hayes. Hayes would have been a second grader. She died July 19, two weeks after being shot while sitting in the back seat of a car. (Ulysses
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