Mary Scott, right, takes the lead down 18th Avenue South during the 2nd Annual Stop the Violence Walk in honor of her brother, Marquis, who was shot to death in 2019 in St. Petersburg. Holding the sign in front is Mary’s mother, Marjorie Scott. Photo courtesy of Boyzell Hosey
BY MARK PARKER, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — On Sept. 17, 2019, Maress Scott had dinner with his son, Marquis Scott, before dropping him off at his grandmother’s house, which was close to Marquis’s appointment at the People Empowering & Restoring Communities office the following day.
Maress Scott gave his son a bicycle to get to the appointment and told him to go inside and say his prayers. That would be the last time he would ever see his son alive.
Marquis Scott was shot and killed as he rode the bicycle around the corner to visit a friend before bed. A heartfelt memorial has adorned the spot for the two years since that tragic evening, but at first, all that was left for Maress Scott was that bicycle and a blood-soaked leaf.
Marquis Scott was 20 years old.
“After the hospital, we were there all night waiting to find out. I went back over, and it was taped off,” said Scott. “The bicycle I had just given him was still laying there.”
Scott went back early the following day, and the area was still cordoned off, but the bicycle was gone. A crowd of kids had gathered, and when Scott got out of his car, one approached him with a leaf.
“He said, ‘This is all that’s left of your son,’ because some of my son’s blood was on that leaf,” explained Scott. “I remember feeling so sad that they took my son. It wasn’t a fair trade, and all they gave me back was this leaf.”
In the two years since that unfair trade, Scott and his family have made it their mission to try and prevent other families from having to feel that same anguish.
“I know my wife told me a while back that we had to do something because we had told ‘Quis that being a Scott meant something.”
So, they did something.
Scott created the Black St. Pete pledge to plant a seed of personal accountability for the safety of communities into those most likely to turn to guns and violence as a means of solving their problems. In less than five months, almost 1,500 people have taken and signed the pledge.
He said the reception to the oath, which includes the promise not to murder another Black person and walk away from disagreements that could turn violent at least once a month, “would blow your mind.”
Scott then created a program targeting younger, elementary school-aged children: 5 Keys to Ending Gun Violence Among Young People. The training program is meant to start a conversation between a facilitator and children, and Scott has already received interest from Academy Prep, Pinellas County School, and the Juvenile Welfare Department.
“I think ‘Quis would smile. He had that great, big smile, and he’d be like, ‘Yo pops, you doing good,'” Scott recalled. “He’d be so proud of us. He’d be proud of our family.”
Scott wants young people to know that it is not just between those two people when it comes to conflict. “When one of us hurts another, they hurt a whole group of people that are connected to those individuals.” He adds that whether it is the murderer or the person murdered, “you destroy a whole lot of families.”
Scott said it does not matter if the perpetrator is from the same community; if you murder someone from the community, “all bets are off.”
“We’re not protecting murders,” said Scott. “We’re not going to stand for all that hurt and pain that you caused.”
Instead, Scott said, they are going to love each other and start the forgiveness.
“The Scott family is going to take the loss,” he said. “And now we want to save others through the love of my son and by spreading this message of nonviolence, and taking personal accountability for the safety of our community.”
Scott has rallied the community behind that message and love for his son, and on Sept. 17, Marquis’ “angelversary,” Scott led the second Annual Stop the Violence walk.
Before tracing his son’s last steps from 19th Avenue and 24th Street South to Queensboro Avenue and Yale Street, Scott told a large crowd they were there for three things: “One, to honor God; two, to memorialize our sons, and three, to bring attention to this gun violence and take a stand against it.”
With that, the crowd took to the streets with chanting, “save our sons, save our daughters,” “enough is enough,” and “say his name,” followed by a reprise of “Marquis Scott.” The Scott family’s voices cracked and strained with emotion as they loudly repeated the chants on their way to the memorial.
Once at the memorial, Maress Scott led a candlelight vigil.
“The only thing that can overcome hate is love,” he told the crowd. “I knew as the man of my household my job was to guide my family to healing. So, we had to focus on forgiveness and love.”
Scott said this was the way to move forward, but “not without our son.” He said his son’s voice, attitude, and smile “lives with us every day.” He added that years from now, they will never get over the loss of their son, so they “decided to take him with us.”
“We’ll show him what else this world has to offer.”
Tiffany Webster, who lost her son to gun violence in March, was the next person to address the crowd passionately. She said her son, D’quaz Davis, was killed by another young man she had taken in and loved as her own.
“I called this young man my son, and he ended up taking my son,” said Webster.
Webster said she would remember and represent everyone that has been lost, not just on that day, but every day moving forward.
“We’re going to keep walking, we’re going to keep talking, we’re going to keep doing what we got to do,” she said. “Because they need us. They need our voice.”
There have now been 27 homicides in St. Petersburg this year. The city averages about 20 annually and is on pace to record its most murders in two decades.
To reach Mark Parker, email firstname.lastname@example.org