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'My baby was my love child.' George Wythe High Community mourns the loss of 17-year-old student

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Samiyah “Mimy” Yellardy always had a smile on her face. She loved her family and friends unconditionally. She never went anywhere without her hair done. She attended George Wythe High School. She loved rapper Lil Durk. She wanted to be a lash technician.

Yellardy was killed by gun violence early Sunday morning. Yellardy had turned 17 years old roughly two months ago on Valentine’s Day.

“My baby was my love child. She was created out of love. Her birthday was Valentine’s Day, love day,” Yellardy’s mother, Akeyia Pernell, said Wednesday during her daughter’s vigil in the student parking lot at George Wythe High School.

“I don’t want to be sad, but I am broken inside,” Pernell said. “Yes, I am broken. Yes, it hurts to the core, but I am going to get through this. The magic word is through.”

Speakers included family members, friends, George Wythe High Principal Riddick Parker, Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras, Fifth District School Board member Stephanie Rizzi, Fifth District Councilmember Stephanie Lynch, Sixth District Councilmember and Vice President Ellen Robertson, the Rev. Charles Willis and Gail Garrison, Yellardy’s bus driver from middle school.

Garrison wrote and performed a rap about Yellardy during Wednesday’s vigil. An excerpt of verses:

“We took a ride from Boushall Middle here on the South Side from there to Afton and that was it, Samaya was one of those kids I never had a problem with.”

“I knew her from my bus. Sometimes I would overhear things she would discuss. Never nothing bad, disrespectful or mean, always dressed to impress the girl stayed clean. She carried herself well always spoke when she saw me. She was one of those kids that left a good impression on me.”

“This violence and this mess with guns has to cease. We got a 17-year-old baby girl lying here deceased.”

“The children are supposed to be our future. But if they keep getting knocked down, there won’t be any future.”

When Garrison heard a shooting had occurred on Afton, her heart dropped. She prayed that it would not be Yellardy. Tears rolled down her face when she heard the news.

“She was at home. She was where she was supposed to be,” Garrison said in an interview.

Early Sunday morning — at approximately 2:24 a.m. — Richmond Police responded to a shooting at the 2200 block of Afton Avenue. Upon arrival, officers who did not disclose Yellardy’s identification found her suffering from a gunshot wound. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

The medical examiner will determine the cause and manner of death.

Anyone with information is asked to call Major Crimes Detective A. Coates (804) 646-0729 or contact Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app also may be used. All Crime Stoppers reporting methods are anonymous.

Kamras expressed his condolences for Yellardy’s family, but also asked the crowd some questions.

“I want to ask everyone here today, ‘Can we stop having vigils like this? How many have we been to?’” Which to the latter the crowd replied, “Too many.”

“It truly is going to take a village to stop this from happening ever again. I know I’m tired of coming to events like this,” Kamras said. “We all have a role to play to make sure that every one of our students gets the chance to grow up.”

To close out the vigil, Lil Durk’s “All Love” played as purple and white balloons were released into the sky. Balloons displaying a large M and the numbers 1 and 7 were also released.

After the balloon release, Willis asked everyone in attendance to put a hand out and pray over Pernell.

A homegoing celebration will be held for Yellardy on Wednesday, April 20, at the United Nations Church located at 214 Cowardin Ave. The celebration will begin at 11 a.m.

jnocera@timesdispatch.com Twitter: @jessmnocera

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