On May 13, 2021, a group of family, friends and neighbors gathered on West 121st Street in Harlem to celebrate the lives of Jennifer Schlecht and her daughter Abaynesh Schlecht Tedla. The gathering also served as a dedication ceremony for a lilac tree and memorial plaque installed in their honor. The lilac tree was planted at the request of Jennifer’s parents in recognition of the many springs they spent celebrating Jenn’s birthday during the Lilac Festival in Highland Park in Rochester, N.Y., Jenn’s birthplace. The planting was supported by the West 121st Street block association and nearly 150 donors.
Jennifer and Abaynesh were murdered in November 2019 by Yonathan Tedla, Jennifer’s husband and Abaynesh’s father. The outpouring of grief and tributes to Jennifer and Abay in the months following their deaths has been tremendous, including generous donations to the Jennifer Schlecht Memorial Fund at the UN Foundation, where Jennifer worked to ensure the rights of women and girls in crisis to access sexual and reproductive health care, and the Abaynesh Memorial Fund at O’Gorman Garden Montessori School in Harlem, where Abay was a kindergartner at the time she was killed.
Speakers Ms. Nia Bediako, W. 121st Block association president; the Rev. Staci Ramos; Jennifer’s parents Ken and Mary Schlecht; friends; and elected officials at the May 13 memorial highlighted the legacy of Jennifer’s work and the warmth and radiance that she and Abaynesh brought to Harlem and the wider community. While they are both truly missed, the lilac tree serves as an ongoing memorial to their presence, and all the lives they touched.