Pontiac's citizens gather to remember victims of violence on Memorial Day

The sound was heaven.

"We'll flood the streets with justice we freedom bound."

Many in Pontiac gathered in song, in prayer and as one Monday, to memorialize everyone victimized by violence. At Indian Village Park, those residents planted stakes with succinct eulogies for many who have died in tragic cases.

"We know a lot of people on those signs," said Chris Jackson. "They were peers or people we looked up to. My cousin was one of them in particular."

Jackson's cousin Dean Samuel was just 22 years old when he was shot and killed. His photo was placed onto a stake that stood firm in the warm sunlight. 

This Memorial Day ushered in a picturesque scene for all who were able to enjoy it. But for those who couldn't, many found other ways to celebrate the legacy of those gone. George Tolbert was killed 50 years ago. His sister mourns him still.

"He was killed in the riots in 1967," said Juanita Harper. "He was 20 years old, married, had two kids."

Harper said her brother was shot by a National Guardsman while crossing the street. His photo is a black and white image of a young Tolbert. While his identity won't be forgotten by those close to him, remembrance is only half the conversation being had on May 27. 

Jackson, who is on the board of Identify Your Dream has been integral in helping evolve the conversation about area violence. Not just one about mourning the dead, but also about how to solve the problem of violence.

"It's not just a direct impact on the family, but it ripples across the community. It's no secret that Pontiac has had its struggles over the years," Jackson said. "We're in a place right now where we want to move forward - we want to progress."