Anti-gun violence rally draws community support in the wake of student killing

The Southern Illinois Unity Coalition organized an anti-gun violence rally on Tuesday, Aug. 24 in the wake of the shooting that killed first year student Keeshanna Jackson

Koran Snulligan,  a SIU-C student and friend of Jackson, spoke at the rally. She said this shouldn’t have happened in the first place. Jackson had only been in Carbondale for a week.  .

“She didn’t even get to have grades,” Snulligan said. “Her mom didn’t even get a chance to see her before she died.”


Friends and family members of Keeshanna Jackson came out to the Together We Must Stop the Violence Rally. The rally was in honor of Keeshanna “Shanna” Jackson, SIU freshmen who was shot and killed on August 22 while attending a party. The rally was held on Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021 at the Town Pavillion in Carbondale, Illinois. (Jared Treece | @bisalo)

Jackson’s death has since spawned a community reaction, particularly among students at the college. A candlelight vigil was organized and attended by students on Aug. 22, during which the community showed an outpouring of support for Jackson’s family and students still reeling from the loss of one of their own.

Matthew Wilson, a member of the Southern Illinois Unity Coalition and one of the organizers of the rally, said he feels Jackson’s death was like the death of a Saluki family member.

“We have been marching against gun violence since the beginning,” Wilson said. “Students are here to get an education. They should be able to party and have fun without having to worry about gun violence.”

Wilson, a Carbondale native, sought to raise awareness of gun violence in the area.

Matt Wilson, a member of the So. Illinois Unity Coalition, spoke and introduced guest speakers with the community during the Together We Must Stop the Violence Rally. The rally was in honor of Keeshanna “Shanna” Jackson, SIU freshmen who was shot and killed on August 22 while attending a party. The rally was held on Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021 at the Town Pavillion in Carbondale, Illinois. (Jared Treece | @bisalo)

 “Gun violence is still prevalent around here, and we plan to keep raising awareness,” Wilson  said.

Wilson and Nancy Maxwell, members of the Unity Coalition organized the rally with the goal of bringing together members of the community and student body, as well as Jackson’s friends and family, to advocate for an end to gun violence.

“We made plans to do this before the vigil on Sunday,” Maxwell said. “But we came out here to do what we feel needs to be done.”


Maxwell said she believes a well funded community center would be effective in giving school and college age youths a place to go, rather than leaving them in situations where they can be influenced to perpetuate gun violence.

“We are standing behind the Dentmon Center,” Maxwell said. “We want the community, the county, and the state of Illinois to help us get that center going.”

Maxwell said the Center is “like the medicine in the ice cream for the community.” She said the Center wants to allow youths to use their gymnasium as a safe place to gather during the early morning hours between midnight and 3 A.M. 

The event began with an invocation from Joseph Brown Ph.D., a Catholic priest and professor of Africana Studies at SIU-C, and a statement from Jane Otte, a member of the southern Illinois chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America (MDAGSA).

MDAGSA, founded in 2012 after the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, gathers popular support to combat gun violence across the country and has since grown to include more than six million volunteers. The group has also served as a platform of support for political campaigns, like that of U.S. Representative Lucy McBath of Georgia’s 6th District.

“We need to stand firm, and offer a compassionate ear, and let the family and community know that they are not alone, Otte said”

Otte said the purpose of the group is to promote safety everywhere, as gun violence can happen anytime and anywhere. They arrived to show support for the community and to physically show their support.

Mays, a member of the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Trustees at the Carbondale library. Mays said she has a daughter currently attending school in Atlanta, telling those in attendance how Jackson’s shooting makes her fearful for her own daughter’s life.

“My heart hurts and goes out to you,” Mays said. “I feel like the community of Carbondale needs to take some responsibility because we do not have enough resources and we do not have enough programming for teens and young adults.”

Maxwell told the crowd they can, and will, stop the violence. “We need everyone’s help. If you need help, reach out to somebody,” Maxwell said. 

Maxwell said she plans to put together a community party at the Carbondale Superblock on Saturday, Aug. 28 at which the community can come together with a variety of forms of entertainment as well as resources for community outreach and support.

Asia Ester, an SIU-C student and leader of the local chapter of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs (NACWC), gave condolences to the family, and offered support to the community and fellow students.

Bryan Morgan, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, said approval for a monument to honor Jackson’s memory was currently pending. He said that he didn’t want her memory to die and wanted to memorialize her life for the community.

“It’s ok to not be ok,” Morgan said. “But this is something that should never happen in any community.”

The rally closed with another prayer from Brown, praying for strength for the family and the community in this time of tragedy.

Every speaker told the audience to cooperate with law enforcement if they knew any information about who could have perpetrated the shooting. “How would you feel if you were the one shot and no one came forward for you,” Maxwell said.

Jackson, a freshman at SIU-C was shot at the house party in the early morning on the 500 block of Cherry Street in Carbondale Sunday, Aug. 22. When officers arrived, Jackson was administered CPR by first responders before being transported to the SIH Memorial Hospital of Carbondale, where she was pronounced dead according to a police report.

Following Jackson’s transportation to the hospital, three other shooting victims from the same location were checked in at the hospital. The victims treated for non life threatening injuries are as follows – Jyrin Blair, 29 years old of Marion, Raheem Sylas, 23 years old of Murphysboro, and a juvenile victim.

Nsia Gittens, a freshman volleyball player at SIU-C, said “I hope this brings people together and provides a support system for those who need it.”

Gittens said carrying firearms cause more harm for students than the protection they could provide, and, “wasn’t aware this could happen here.”

Stephan Harris, a student at SIU-C, said Jackson was a saluki; she was a part of the family.

“This is not a normal occasion,” Harris said. “This is not something you can brush over. You never know where it’s going to happen, but you know it will happen somewhere.”

“It’s time for us to put the guns down,” Maxwell said

The press release from the Carbondale Police Department indicates that there were multiple active shooters but no suspect information is available at the moment. The Carbondale Police Department asks the community and anyone in attendance at the party to call the Carbondale Police 618-549-2121, SIU Police 618-453-3771 or 618-549-COPS where ‘callers can remain anonymous.’

There is also an anonymous tip line for the Carbondale/SIU Crime Stoppers  (618) 549-COPS (2677) and the Murphysboro/Jackson County  (618) 687-COPS (2677). Anonymous tips can be submitted by selecting the “Crime Stoppers” tab located on the main page of the website.

The Carbondale Police Department asked the community to, “Please help yourself, along with your county, its communities and the university campus by using these numbers if you witness, or have any information pertaining to, a crime. Cash rewards for information which leads to an arrest are also made anonymously.”

Staff reporter William Box can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @William17455137. To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.