Wearing necklaces with laminated photos of Day’von Hann over their hearts, friends and family members of the 15-year-old anti-gun violence advocate shot and killed in the Mission District last month on Friday took up spray cans to channel their grief and anger into art.
The teens created a mural near Sixth and Howard streets that reads “Rise to Heaven” and is intended to memorialize Hann, known as “Day Day” and described as a star within his community. Hann’s mentors from the youth violence prevention group United Playaz and artists with the First Amendment Gallery at 1000 Howard St. who donated the wall and spray paint to Hann’s loved ones hope that it will also serve as a reminder that guns are never the answer to conflict.
“It’s giving Day Day a voice — he’s no longer with us but he was an advocate, and [with this mural] we are allowing his voice to continue to speak against violence,” said Will Ramirez, a high school coordinator with United Playaz. “We are trying to bounce back and make this a learning process for everybody. There are consequences to certain actions. “
But Hann’s grieving mother, Sha’ray Johnson, who on Friday helped to color in a heart in the center of Hann’s mural, said that her family cannot begin to heal as long as her son’s killer remains at large.
Fearing for the safety of Hann’s brother —a high school senior and her only remaining child — Johnson said Friday that she’s made multiple requests to The City to be relocated from her public housing unit in the Mission, to no avail.
“Out of 42 housing developments, I am being offered to either stay in my current unit or move to another unit where it’s just as dangerous,” said Johnson.
The San Francisco native has been a resident of public housing in San Francisco since age 18 and has dealt with unspeakable violence long before the shooting at 24th and Capp streets that claimed Hann’s life, blocks away from the family’s home.
Years ago, Johnson’s then 16-year-old sister was shot in Visitacion Valley, where Johnson and her family lived at the time. Johnson’s sister survived.
“I wasn’t relocated through any program even though they were working with me. I had to move myself,” said Johnson, adding that the incident prompted her to move to Bayview Hunters Point on her own accord, where a few years later her home was sprayed by bullets.
“They still didn’t help me,” she said.
More recently, after Johnson was moved to the Mission District by The City, her father was targeted in a shooting but also survived. Johnson said that her family had to pull their resources to move him out of the state to protect him.
Hann was not as lucky.
“My son is dead — how is his life so expendable?” said Johnson, her voice breaking in tears.
Johnson said that she was told by The City that her best option is to remain in her home until new development turns over in 2020 — but she said that she has no time to wait.
“I don’t have any assurances for my safety,” said Johnson. “I don’t know who these people are or if I’m in danger or if my other son is in danger. I only have him left. I have to protect him now with everything I’ve got.”
Immediately after Hann’s murder, Johnson and her son packed up and moved into temporary housing provided by The City. The reservation on that housing is up on Aug. 28, however, and her request for an extension has been denied, she said.
“I pay taxes. I feel like we need to set up these systems to help families that need help like this,” she added.
Mission District Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who on Friday supported Hann’s community in creating the mural, said that she has long been unnerved by a system in which public housing residents are not easily able to receive relocation assistance, even after falling victim to violent crimes, due to restrictions tied to housing vouchers.
In Johnson’s case, Ronen said that she has been advocating for the family’s relocation, but explained that “we don’t have any section 8 vouchers left so that we can move people around and to move people outside [of San Francisco].”
“It’s come up many, many times before,” said Ronen, adding that she has been working with the family of another young man “who has been a victim of gun violence several times.”
“We have tried to get him into new housing unsuccessfully,” said Ronen. “I’ve tried this many times and have been told ‘no.’ I’ve been told there are not enough units.”
Ronen said that she is working with District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton on legislation to address the issue.
“I’m at my wits end. We have got to be smart and visionary enough to come up with a solution to this problem,” said Ronen, but acknowledged that changing the system is “complicated.”
“We cannot let these families and kids in danger stay that way. We have got to get them to safety,” she said.
Ronen said that until then, she will not allow The City to force Johnson and her son to return to the Mission District and is working to extend the family’s temporary accommodation.
Johnson said that her grief has been exacerbated by the stress of the insecurity surrounding her living situation.
“I don’t want our kids to have to go through this. I don’t want any mother to have to go through this,” she said. “I don’t know what to do and to know that I don’t have the support of The City or housing, is a lot. It’s hurtful.”