MONTCLAIR, NJ — Nearly 100 people gathered on Monday evening at Montclair's Crane Park to honor the lives of those lost to domestic violence, including West Orange native Katrina Perry.
Beverly Cotton and her son, Macon Cotton III, of Cotton's Funeral Home represented Perry, their beloved granddaughter and daughter, during the event. Perry, the daughter of Cotton II, recently lost her life on Sept. 26 when she was fatally stabbed at home. Christopher Dudley, 34, of West Orange was arrested and charged with her murder.
In the dark, attendees and loved ones held up posters with the names of victims. While also holding purple candle lanterns, attendees prayed, spoke of loved ones who lost their lives to domestic violence and shared the need for education and advocacy.
Hosted by Start Out Fresh Intervention Advocates (fondly referred to as S.O.F.I.A.), founder Cynthia Walker expressed the need for additional resources to assist those in need. Founded nearly ten years ago, Walker's 501©3 non-profit organization provides advocacy, supportive services and referrals for temporary housing to “at-risk” women and children of domestic violence.
Following the prayer, Walker addressed the crowd stating that her goal is to continue to partner with organizations to be able to help more people, especially the youth.
"With awareness, there is hope," she said. "By educating our youth, we hope they will grow into well-meaning adults. That's the key that I believe."
S.O.F.I.A. also offers a variety of free workshops to help in the process of emotional healing and financial independence.
Among those in attendance included Assemblyman Thomas P. Giblin, Orange Mayor Dwayne Warren, Montclair Councilwoman Renee Baskerville and former Orange Councilman Elroy Corbett.
Other families representing loved ones were also in attendance, including Monica Paul. Signs held with victims' names included: Monica Paul, Angela Bledsoe, Elizabeth Mae Eaddy, Ashley Jones, Shanae Howard, Karen Bermudez-Rodriguez, Shazmina Khan, Aquilla Flood, Elizabeth Alston, Tiniquah Rouse, Ava and Nova.
Several organizations were represented at the vigil Including the Essex County Links, the Montclair Drifters and the Montclair Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta.
Tracey Munford took the opportunity to praise Walker for always being available to assist those in need, no matter the day or time.
"She will find a place for them in the middle of the night, without pause," said Munford, who added that Walker has even helped her niece in Maryland, who needed support. "You have been a blessing to me and my family and to all of the women you've helped."
For more information, visit https://supportsofia.org.