On Saturday, February 25, a memorial fundraiser was held in honor of Taylor Simone Hayden, a 25-year-old Minnesota woman who was tragically killed in a senseless act of gun violence while visiting Atlanta, Georgia. Teachers, coaches, friends and loved ones shared some of their fondest memories of Taylor.
MSR spoke with Erin Hayden, sister of the deceased, about why the fund was created. “[It was created] to keep Taylor’s legacy alive and to help put a stop to gun violence,” she responded. “My sister and I were very close, and the loss is very hard…
“The process of creating the memorial fund has been a good outlet for my family, and it has allowed us to put all of our frustrations into something positive. Though this has been a healing process, the loss was so sudden and something we never expected,” she continued. “I don’t know if we will ever really get over it.”
She also shared her thoughts on how her perspective on gun violence has changed. “I would hear about gun violence in the news and I would feel sad, but as time went by I would forget about it. Now that it has affected me personally, I just can’t sit back and do nothing. It was a no-brainer for me to get involved and see how I could help end gun violence.”
Asked what her personal message would be to any other family struggling with a loss from gun violence, Erin said, “It’s a healing process, and you have to trust that process. When you feel like crying, cry for as long as you need to. And when you are happy, be happy. It’s going to be an emotional roller coaster.
“I would also say talk about it,” she said. “Talk about the person you lost, your memories and your feelings, because keeping your feelings bottled up can be destructive.”
Senator Bobby Joe Champion, close friend to the Hayden family, was present at the event. “She never got the chance to be married. She never got the chance to have children,” he said of Taylor’s life before she was killed.
“The depth of the loss is even more unfathomable when you begin to think about it deeply, and sometimes that’s why our community masks their feelings with alcohol, drugs, and everything else, because it can become so overwhelming that we lose hope.”
Champion added, “This is why we are working to see how we can improve the lives of individuals in our community and in that improvement have the conversations about gun violence so that it does not torture our lives daily.”
State Senator Jeff Hayden is the eldest brother to Taylor Hayden. Both Hayden and Champion say they are working to end gun violence.
“I feel overwhelmed with all the support my family has received,” said Hayden. “We are glad people across the state are starting to see what happens with gun violence, and hopefully we can change the dialogue about the way in which guns affect people.
“We are not much different from a lot of people, but we are a family that has some prominent people in it, and typically these kinds of things don’t happen in the community Taylor grew up in. The number-one risk factor that Taylor had was being Black, so we must have a conversation about this,” Hayden said.
“Police brutality and violence is a problem in our community, but far more African American men kill each other in our community with the use of guns than police, and from my perspective that narrative has been absent from the conversation in all of the movements that we have had over the years.”
Hayden is hoping that the legislation he is working on will help the African American community to have the necessary conversation about gun violence and the devastation it causes. “Hang on to your faith,” he advises families who have experienced a similar loss.
“Surround yourself with your community and do something. It’s something you never get over. It’s a dull ache, and you just hope that by helping someone else that effort will also help you.”
For more information on the Taylor Simone Hayden Memorial Fund visit the website www.taylorshayden.com.
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