Unified grief, unified call'
A fifth-grader found a voice in suicide he neither sought nor imagined, and other parents wonder if Jaheem Herrera can do the one thing in death he was unable to accomplish in life - stop bullying. Herrera, 11, hanged himself April 16 after his mother said he endured constant bullying, including being called “gay,” at Dunaire Elementary School in DeKalb County. His death has reached a community far from his home near Wesley Chapel Road and Interstate 20. The Faith & Community Alliance, organized by several local clergy, held a vigil for Herrera on April 28 at First Christian Church in Decatur. Roughly 150 people, most of whom did not know Herrera, attended the service to honor his life. Jeff Graham, the executive director of Georgia Equality, took blame for not passing strong anti-bullying laws. “It is my responsibility to pass legislation that will protect young people in Georgia. I have failed in that,” Graham said. “It is our responsibility as a community to protect Jaheem Herrera and we failed.” Although the Alliance reached out to Herrera’s family, they buried their son on April 27 in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, their native home, and had not returned to Atlanta. Graham was joined by a number of faith and community leaders calling for change at Dunaire, in DeKalb schools and throughout Georgia as a whole.
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