Gun Violence Memorial Project allows victims to speak, even in death

Gun Violence Memorial Project allows victims to speak, even in death

CHICAGO—“Kaylyn was visiting my parents. She was coming home when she was shot in a drive-by shooting,” said Alan Scott softly, the painful memory plainly etched in his voice. His daughter, Kaylyn Nicole Pryor, was a student at Robert Morris College when she was killed in 2015.

Scott had come to the opening of the Gun Violence Memorial Project at the Chicago Cultural Center on Sept. 19. The memorial, with its treasured mementos, moving pictures, and loving stories, is a testament to lives cut short by gun violence. It is as emotionally overwhelming as it is uplifting.

Scott had shared some of Kaylyn’s personal artifacts with the project and was solemnly absorbing the surroundings.

“Kaylyn was an aspiring lawyer and model. She was the first African-American girl to win Mario Tricoci’s ‘Mario Make Me A Model’ contest, said Scott proudly. “She was a complete go-getter, successful at anything she put her hands into.”

The memorial project, running through Jan. 5, 2020, seeks to create a permanent, national memorial honoring the lives and narratives of victims of gun violence with loving care and dignity. It was commissioned for the Chicago Architecture Biennial and designed by Hank Willis Thomas (who lost his brother Songha to gun violence). Mass Design LabEverytown for Gun Safety, and Purpose Over Pain, a Chicago-based group of gun violence survivors, also collaborated in the design process.

The Aragons established “Israel’s Gift of Hope” Foundation to support siblings, friends, and family members who have been affected by gun violence.

“His mother found (his diary) after he had died. We didn’t even know he had it. He wrote down his priorities in life,” said Israel Aragon, Sr. “We’re hoping that by (placing items in the memorial), people will see these kids who have been taken down by gun violence, they had dreams, they were planning a future.”

As to how he was coping with his grief, Kaylyn Pryor’s father Alan Scott said, “My life is like a puzzle. It’s in a thousand pieces, and I’m trying to put it back together. It’s been three years, and it’s still hard to make sense of it all.

“I hope no one else is a member of this club (of grieving parents). We’re trying to make people more aware and be careful. Sometimes I feel frustrated that it doesn’t stop, but I think of Kaylyn. I have to do what is right by her. I know she would want me to (keep fighting),” he said.

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People's World
Alan Scott, father of Kaylyn Nicole Pryor, at the Gun Violence Memorial Project. | John Bachtell / PW
Israel and Irma Aragon in a video discussing their son, Israel. The couple have become leaders in Moms Demand Action. | John Bachtell / PW