Among the more than three dozen marchers gathered in Wailuku on Friday afternoon to remember 4-year-old Zion McKeown, who died in a suspected case of child abuse last week, was the boy's aunty.
Lawrenette Brown of Wailuku said that she was comforted by the community's support.
"It means a lot to me. My heart feels good," Brown said. "He was a good boy, a very loving boy. He's always in my thoughts and my prayers, and I believe he's in better hands now. I know he's not suffering."
Wailuku residents Julia Alo (left) and Lawrenette Brown carry signs at the front of Friday afternoon’s march through Wailuku, held to mark the death of 4-year-old Zion McKeown. Brown said that the boy was her nephew. “I just hope justice is done,“ Brown said. “No child should be abused. I always keep him close in my heart.” Alo said that her neighborhood is plagued by drugs and domestic abuse. “I’m against this violence,” Alo said. “It’s gotta stop. It’s happening right around me. Let’s clean it up.”
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Some of the marchers carried handmade signs that read: "Children are a Blessing." "Maluhia I Na Hale" (Peace in the Home). "No Hit." "It Takes a Village to End Domestic Violence."
Social services providers Imua Family Services and Women Helping Women organized the silent vigil. The agencies handed out royal blue armbands - the color for child abuse prevention - for marchers to wear.
Participants walked from the Weinberg Building on Main Street to the state courthouse on High Street. Passing drivers honked their support.
"We recognize people are in shock over this, and we wanted to give the community an opportunity to have an outlet," said Dean Wong, executive director of Imua Family Services. "We wanted to be a voice for Zion."
Many who showed up said that they didn't personally know the boy but were saddened by his death.
"I couldn't be there for him then, but I figured I could be there for him now," said Cryschelle Belena of Kahului.
Kelbert Kealoha of Waiehu Heights said, as a grandfather, he wanted to participate in the event.
"We felt sorry for the boy; he was so young. She's 4-years-old, too," Kealoha said pointing to his granddaughter Kalena.
Friends Summer Lorenzo and Michelle Medeiros said that they called and texted all their friends and family to attend the vigil.
"The community needs to know that there are resources out there, and that the kids shouldn't suffer because of hardships a family is going through," Lorenzo said.
Medeiros added: "We need to get out the message not be shame to ask for help."
Stacey Moniz, executive director of Women Helping Women, said she hoped that the event gave people an opportunity to heal and educate one another.
"There's a saying that if you share your joy with others, it doubles. If you share your grief with others, it's halved," Moniz said. "We wanted to give the community that opportunity."
Police said Zion was unresponsive the night of May 29 when he was taken to the emergency room by his father, Kyle McKeown, and his live-in girlfriend.
An autopsy showed the boy died of blunt force trauma to his lower abdomen, "with the injuries most likely coming from someone stomping on him while he was lying on the ground," according to police.
McKeown, 32, and his girlfriend, Grace Lee-Nakamoto, 27, are charged with second-degree murder in the boy's death. They have been released on their own recognizance, pending a preliminary hearing set for July 2 in Family Court.
* Nanea Kalani can be reached at email@example.com.