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Family of gun violence victim urges community to join peace walk in St. Paul on Saturday

Callan Gray
Updated: July 31, 2020 11:20 PM
Created: July 31, 2020 10:35 PM

It's been 48 days since a young artist was shot and killed in St. Paul. There may have been more than 50 people nearby when Nia “Brooklyn” Black was killed but none have come forward with information, according to St. Paul Police.

Family members will hold a peace walk in the city on Saturday to bring attention to the case and promote community healing.

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“I can't believe it, I still wake up in disbelief,” said Latanya Black, Nia’s mother. “I just can't believe this is where I am.”

Black told us her daughter was a vibrant, ambitious 23-year-old.

“The way she was taken away from us was so the opposite of who she was,” said Latanya Black. “She was small barely 5 feet but she had a huge personality, the loudest strongest laugh ever and I want people to know that.”

St. Paul Police identify victim of Saturday morning homicide

Nia Black, known in her industry as Brooklyn, owned her own makeup company. She was sought after by clients across the country.

“They would fly in town and literally get a hotel room and have her do her makeup,” her mother said. “The highlight was when she did Star Jones, she just couldn't believe Star Jones called her to do her make up.”

Latanya Black said her daughter tried to inspire and empower others in the business.

“This was her Project Brooklyn,” she said, pointing to a shadow box created in Nia’s memory. “It’s where she brings all of the local entrepreneurs in Minneapolis, she puts them all under one roof and she has them highlights their talents.”

The event was planned for July.

On June 13, however, SPPD responded to the 100 block of Larpenteur Avenue West for a report of a large fight in the parking lot of Lamplighter Lounge. Nia Black had been shot in the head and killed.

“She was just gone they said like a thief in a night,” said Latanya Black. “My baby left, I watched her walk out the door and no one could've told me I would never see her again.”

She is asking anyone with information to come forward.

“This could’ve been your sister, this could’ve been your daughter, your niece, your granddaughter, Nia was somebody's granddaughter,” she said. “Her 93-year-old grandma traveled over 1,000 miles to come here to lay her grandbaby to rest.”

“I would plea to the community, it's your civic duty to say something," she said. "You have to because we can’t just turn a blind eye and be silent to gun violence, that's not okay, not okay.”

On Saturday, walks will take place in Chicago, Atlanta, Washington, D.C. and Denmark in Nia’s name. Latanya and other family members will hold a peace march in St. Paul. From Fritz Klark Recreational Field to the site of the shooting.

“Tomorrow is going to represent safety, supporting one another walking in love and community healing,” she said.

Through her pain, Latanya said she’s found purpose.

Over the past several weeks, what started as phone calls with a few close friends, has grown into a national movement called Mothers Against Community Gun Violence.

“We were reaching out to other mothers, women that have lost their lives right after Nia, reaching out to them saying we're only nine days into our pain but anything we can do to help you, anything we can do to support you,” she said. “We got together with other mothers in other states who have lost their children. We just started this Justice for Nia and we’ve met together literally four Sundays by Zoom and we just brainstorm what can we do, how can we support other mothers how do we move nationally.”

She said through Mothers Against Community Gun Violence they are providing therapists to mothers across the country. They’re also doing policy work, looking at ways to prevent gun violence and educate the community.

“What can we do to get these guns out of our neighborhoods, understanding better how they land in our neighborhoods, the licensing laws around guns, and keeping the guns out of the hands of the people who can cause harm to themselves or people in our community,” she said.

Latanya said mothers who need support can call 612-470-7521, or email IAmMyDaughtersKeeperNB@gmail.com,  to connect with Mothers Against Community Gun Violence

Nia is one of six women who have been killed in St. Paul in 2020. SPPD said three are gun-related homicides that happened since June 1.

The city has seen a total of 19 homicides this year, up from 13 during the same timeframe in 2019.

In Minneapolis, five women have been killed this year. Two of those homicides have been since June 1, both were due to gunshots.

There have been 39 homicides in Minneapolis so far this year compared to 21 during the same timeframe last year.

“Our message tomorrow is for unity in the community,” said Latanya Black. “I just feel like the world is so crazy, I mean you're sitting here talking to me with a mask on, COVID. The violence all of the killing that's going on in communities of color and I just feel like it needs to be talked about and I feel like we need a healing.”

“The trauma is real and the trauma isn't going anywhere. We have to talk about it and we have to band together strong and figure out how do we come up with preventative things we can do as a community.”

She hopes that someone will come forward with information about her daughter’s case.

“She was loved and she won’t be forgotten,” she said. “At her service, I said it I’m not going to leave a stone unturned, I’m not going to let this city rest, you don’t have to say her name but I will.  I don’t know if at the end of this I’ll get justice but we just had to do something because we just felt so hopeless.”

A legacy fund has been set up in Nia’s name to provide community gun violence prevention education, raise awareness about violence against women and support Project Brooklyn to elevate entrepreneurs in the health and beauty industry.

Their family has also started a petition calling for the city to revoke Lamplighter Lounge’s liquor license and shut the business down.

"We are deeply saddened by this tragedy, and aware of the petition," said city of St. Paul Communications Director Peter Leggett. "This incident is still under review by both the Saint Paul Police Department and our Department of Safety and Inspections, to determine if legal or licensing actions are warranted."


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