Part of Apopka is burning, and it is hurting. For several months, maybe several years or for a generation it has smoldered, but now there is a five-alarm fire raging and it's claiming lives – particularly young ones.
Three Apopka residents have been shot and killed in the last month – two of them teenagers. The most recent murder was on Monday. Contondre Bryant was gunned down in a grassy field between the fenced-in playground at Taylor Apartments and the St. Elizabeth Church of God by Faith on Old Apopka Road near 13th Street and across from a part of The West Orange Trail. According to The Orange County Sheriff’s Office, there were up to 40 witnesses, but none are cooperating with the authorities.
On the same spot Bryant was killed, his mother, Tonya English, spoke at a prayer vigil held yesterday afternoon. She talked directly to the friends of her son, a predominantly young black group of about 100 people that turned out to pay their respects.
“Ain’t nothing gangster about being dead, she said. “I don’t want to do this no more. I’m tired of the youth being killed.”
Despite her son’s murder only a few days ago, English spoke of hope to the gathering.
“Get your act together. When I look out at you, I don’t see thugs. I see doctors and lawyers. Stop living in a box. Obama was the first black President. You can live, and you can be anything you want.”
Bishop Kelvin Cobaris spoke about personal responsibility, but then also made a direct plea to the assembled teenagers.
“Apopka is a great place, but it’s not about Apopka,” he said. “It’s about the decisions we make. The best thing you can for this mother (English) is to make sure your mother isn’t standing here next week.”
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