Ebony Munnerlyn (Right) speaks to crowd at vigil for her friend Abdul Seck. Image by the author.

The sun was setting as neighbors, supporters and mourners gathered on a hilly corner in Anacostia on Wednesday, April 24 to say goodbye and celebrate the life of someone gone too soon. Abdul Seck, 31, from Bronx, New York City, was killed this past Easter Sunday during a fatal traffic crash that injured five others, including two children.

According to police statements, a driver speeding eastbound in the 1400 and 1500 blocks of V Street SE entered the intersection of 16th and V streets SE and struck another vehicle, which was carrying a family. The impact of the crash caused the second vehicle to redirect and strike Seck, who was walking on the sidewalk in the 2100 block of 16th Street SE.

Since that time, Dejuan Andre Marshall, 21, of Southeast, DC, has been arrested and charged with Second Degree Murder. The sadness, anger, and confusion over another traffic-related death was palpable at the vigil for Seck.

“Abdul was one of my friends for over 11 years. He had great things that he wanted to do for himself and now his family has to bury their son which is something a parent should never have to do,” Ebony Munnerlyn, an Anacostia resident and friend of Seck, told the crowd.

“Abdul was very young, a college graduate doing things for himself and to just be visiting one of his friends for the weekend and never be able to return home - it's some of the worse news that you have to deliver to a parent,” Munnerlyn said through tears. “It’s one of the worst feeling to say to your friend to go to the store and come back and they take too long to come back and you feel in your gut: ‘something is wrong.’”

Neighbor and Activist Ron Thompson speaks during vigil for Seck. Image by the author.

Ron Thompson, a neighbor and activist who led the vigil, lifted up another person whose life was tragically taken within the last week.

“We probably wouldn't have known about Abdul, we wouldn’t have known about 16th and V, you would not have heard about Samiya and Alabama Avenue unfortunately had Dave Salovesh not been killed three days earlier,” Thompson said. “Had we not lost a man, a friend, and advocate who looked different from Abdul, different from Samiya, in a changing part of the District of Columbia so soon before Abdul was killed its very likely that we wouldn’t be here.”

Samiya Holmes was a three-year-old killed in a traffic crash on Alabama Avenue SE on July 4, 2014.

Salovesh, 54, was safe street advocate and GGWash contributor who was killed Friday in another traffic crash in the intersection of 12th Street and Florida Avenue NE. Salovesh had been following the flow of traffic in an eastbound lane of Florida Avenue when a man in a stolen van ran a red light and hit another car before passing the double yellow lanes and striking Salovesh, according to police statements. Robert Earl Little Jr., 25, of NW DC was arrested and charged with Second Degree Murder and Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle.

Image by Alex Baca.

“I talked to the father of this young man today. He was in New York. And to hear him trembling on the phone as he attempts to talk to me breaks my heart. We’re burying far too many young people in our community for nothing,” said Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White, Sr. at the event. “We’re past the conversation about talking about equality, we’re talking about equity in our community and we haven’t gotten it.”

Looking at the stop signs set up at the intersection, White added, “Even these little stop signs. If you look right there you can’t see that view driving. You’ve already rode past once you see the stop signs. It’s a reflection of the neglect that’s been happening from the city, including myself….We ought to be held accountable and do something about it, not just talk about the problem but be action oriented about the solution.”

A view of the stop signs at 16th and V Streets SE. Image by the author.

Other councilmembers have offered legislative solutions since Seck and Salovesh’s deaths. Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen introduced emergency legislation that aims to expedite plans to redesign Florida Avenue NE to be safer for people walking and bicycling. Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh proposed a bill that would enforce the District Department of Transportation's commitment to designing and installing protected bicycle lanes.

As of Monday there have been eight traffic fatalities in the District, according to data from the DC Metropolitan Police Department. This is an 11% decrease to compared to nine this same time last year. However, a look at a 20-year span from 1999 to 2018 shows that traffic fatalities have fluctuated depending on the year.

Traffic fatalities peaked in 2001 with 72 deaths recorded, while 2012 saw the lowest with 19, according to police data. Looking at the past five years, traffic fatalities seem to be ticking back up with 26 death recorded in 2014 and 2015, 28 in 2016, 30 in 2017 and 36 in 2018. Ward 8 bears a disproportionate number of traffic deaths.

Image by Alex Baca.

Thompson put the stakes of situation bluntly.

“If we can’t say that [Ward 8 residents] deserve a four-way crosswalk that’s painted fully, if we can’t put stop signs that are visible within a few days of a man being killed, how can we ask residents of this ward to trust one, government, and two, to trust people that are coming into the city reaping the benefit of growth?” Thompson said. “How can we ask those people not to be upset, not to be angry, not to be disillusioned?”

Seck’s family is raising money to help with funeral costs via a GoFundMe campaign. So far they have raised $4,681 of their $5,000 goal.

Road safety advocates are also planning a rally at the Wilson Building at noon on Friday, April 26.