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Newark violence claims the life of a schoolteacher

DOSHON FARAD Special to the AmNews | 8/18/2011, 10:17 a.m.
Newark violence claims the life of a schoolteacher

It appears that the rampant gun violence plaguing the city of Newark has claimed the life of yet another innocent victim, this time a 29-year-old woman.

Dawn Reddick, a Newark native, was a third grade teacher at Clark Elementary School in Charlottesville, V.A. On Friday, July 29, while visiting family in Newark, she and four other people were injured in a drive-by shooting.

The shooting took place in front of a Chinese food restaurant at Maple and Hansbury avenues. Reddick died the next day at University Hospital from gunshot wounds.

The former Arts High School honor student and Shining Star Award recipient had returned to her hometown to drop off her 9-year-old nephew, who had spent the month of July visiting Reddick and her parents, Diane and James Reddick, in Virginia. She had no idea that the trip back home would be her last.

According to Chief Anthony Ambrose of the Essex County prosecutor's office, "It appears she wasn't the intended target." Ambrose reported that the other three victims were a 7-year-old girl whose leg was only grazed and two men who were merely wounded.

As of press time, investigators have made no arrests and no motive has been determined, according to Ambrose.

Many Newark residents are saying that Reddick's death is reminiscent of the violence that has been consuming the city for a long time. Bashir Akinyele of the Newark Anti-Violence Coalition told the Amsterdam News, while attending a rally in her honor in front City Hall, "It's unfortunate that Sister Dawn was a victim of self-genocide...but the conditions are poor in our community to the point where we are killing ourselves."

"We have to create a movement strong enough to force our elected officials, like Mayor Cory Booker and city council members, to declare violence a public health emergency in the city of Newark," Akinyele added.

Reddick's death came as a shock to many family, friends and co-workers. Her mother told the online news site nj.com, "I'm numb right now, to be honest. I couldn't believe it. Terrible thing. My baby."

Mrs. Reddick further described her daughter as "A very kind, great young lady. She loved children, loved helping them."

"Twenty-nine-years old and she never gave me a minute's problem," she added.

Reddick was the recipient of the 2011 Golden Apple Award and was admired by many. Leah Puryear, chair of the Charlottesville Board of Education, told reporter Chris Stover of the Charlottesville CBS affiliate WCAV, "We have to remember her genuine love for education and how to get her students to be shining stars like she was."

"Her life was education...that was Dawn's passion. And that passion isn't here anymore. Her life was her students and all of the joy that they brought her," added Puryear.

"She brought about a calming effect. And her students learned ...she expected a lot out of them. She, in my mind, is the type of instructor that years from now her students will remember the things she taught them."

Puryear ended by saying, "She will always be our shining star."

Stover reported that school officials have put into effect a crisis plan to offer students and parents resources to help them cope with Reddick's death.

Family and friends described Reddick as a "stand-out pupil."

As a junior in high school, she won the instrumental competition for the Connie Woodruff Music Prize, a citywide jazz competition. She was a runner-up in her senior year, with a performance of "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," which Diane Reddick said was the song her daughter played for her just before leaving Virginia with her nephew on that fateful Friday.

Reddick's funeral was attended by many devastated family and friends. It was held in Newark at the Promised Land Baptist Church, where is the award-winning instrumentalist at Arts High was baptized and was later was a pianist for the youth choir.

The Rev. E.L. Chamblee, who baptized Reddick, described learning of her sudden death: "Like taking your heart."

Many well-wishers have added their condolences on a Facebook page set up to honor Reddick. Another memorial has been set up in front of the restaurant where she was shot.