Rashawn Sullivan helps James Smith’s daughter Xiomara plant a tree June 9 that will commemorate her father. “I miss him a lot,” she said.

New Life Planted at Makeshift Memorials

A new community project spearheaded by Rashawn Sullivan replaced the South Side’s makeshift shrines for individuals who have lost their lives to gun violence with new life.



Sullivan, who is the founder of the I Apologize Foundation, partnered with Onondaga Earth Corps (OEC) Saturday, June 9, to plant memorial trees at sites where such makeshift shrines have sprung up. According to Sullivan, these shrines – usually liquor bottles and memorial candles – are not only a visual blight, but disrespectful to the memory of the deceased.

Sullivan helped OEC liaise with community members who have lost a loved. Next several trees were planted in remembrance of those lost to gun violence, at the sites where these shrines exist, usually the same location where the violence happened.


Trees planted during the inaugural event were donated by Chuck Hafner’s Garden Center and Atlantic States Legal Foundation.

Sullivan’s hope is that this project will lead to tranquility and peace through the creation of increased green spaces in Syracuse as well as serve as a living memorial for families who seek closure and emotional succor.


— Text provided by Saptarshi Lahiri with photos by Hanz Lionel Valbuena

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