People held hands and bowed their heads in silent prayer on a street corner in Austin on a recent Tuesday evening.
It’s become an all too familiar sight — the community coming together to mark a recent shooting in the neighborhood or one from years past. On April 15 at South Lotus and West Congress Parkway, residents came out for the latter.
About 60 people held hands in a circle and prayed for peace in Austin, and to mark the death and remember the life of Austin teen Marcus Greer. The 17 year old was shot dead six years ago last week in an apartment building near the corner where the residents gathered.
Greer’s friends and family were there. Community activists, pastors and church members from around the West Side also attended. Many remembered Greer, who had enrolled in an alternative high school just three months before he was killed, as fun and talkative — the “life of the party.”
“He was always funny. We always joking and laughing around so much; always enjoying ourselves,” John Meyers, a friend, recalled.
He and Greer grew up together, and Meyers is among the 20-member rap crew, “Lil’ Dude Gang,” which started in Greer’s honor after his death. Lil Dude was Greer’s nickname.
“He’s the reason that we’re still doing what we’re doing right now as far as music out here and trying to stay focused,” group member and friend Xavier Cooper said.
The group, which made up almost a third of the crowd, also goes by “415 Boyz” in reference to the address of the building — 415 S. Lotus — where Greer was killed and the date he died.
Every year since his death on April 15, 2008, family and friends gather to remember him, said Courtney Owens, who grew up across the street from the Greer family, about a half-block down on Congress from that evening’s vigil. Spilling out into the street, the event resembled more of a block party.
“It’s like a holiday, seriously. It’s like a holiday; this is what we do,” Owens said, acknowledging that it was a sad holiday, but a holiday all the same.
Phyllis Upshire-Davis, pastor of Mars Hill Baptist Church who prayed with attendees, recalled that the entire neighborhood was in an uproar when Greer died, so surprised that he was the victim. Many at the vigil had memories of that night six years ago.
Tyson Harris was among the 20-some people partying in the hallway when Greer was shot — he recalled not being able to sleep “for about a week” after his death.
The shooter was a teenager himself, just 16 years old. A juvenile at the time, he was not publicly named by law enforcement. He was tried and convicted of the crime but is out of prison now.
Some in the community say the shooting was an accident. Marcus Greer’s sister, Jamilia Greer, however, recalled hearing so many stories that she doesn’t know what to believe.
Accident or not, all those at the vigil agreed it was a tragedy that Marcus Greer was taken so young by gun violence.
“For things to happen to shorties like that in this neighborhood wasn’t new to me. We’ve been losing 15 or 16 year olds since I was 15 or 16,” Andre Williams said, who fondly remembers Greer. “Kept a nice smile on him, man. You know what I’m saying, he was always happy.”