Roughly 24 hours after his death, the family, friends, teachers and neighbors of 14-year-old Rashawn Williams gathered Wednesday night at the spot on 26th and Folsom where he was fatally stabbed by another teenager.
More than 100 people gathered around the location outside of Rubin’s Market where the crime occurred. On the wall beside the site of the stabbing, mourners had put up posters and photos of Williams, votive candles and heaps of flowers.
With young children and the very old, those in the crowd offered representations of the many communities of which Williams seemed to be a part. A large clan of extended cousins, Mission neighbors who had watched him grow up, old friends and teachers from his many years at Buena Vista Horace Mann, new classmates from his first week of freshman year at Sacred Heart Preparatory, and hulking 15-year-olds in football jerseys who he played with on the field stood together in the quiet recitation of the Rosary. Mothers and their teenage sons held each other close and cried.
For those gathered, the common theme was a simple, but tragic one: this was a good kid whose death was completely unnecessary.
Alvaro Cordoba, a 10th grader at Sacred Heart who lives not far from the scene of the crime, said he didn’t know Williams well, but felt affected by the loss.
“I’m surprised. I’m shocked,” Cordoba said. “He was just a good guy.”
After the recitation of prayers, the crowd was encouraged to come up to posters and write a message around the photographs of Williams. The photographs displayed the many faces of a young man in the midst of growing up—one had a toddler Williams in a Halloween costume, others showed a fresh-faced middle schooler with just the hint of a smile, others had a young man showing off some recently-hatched biceps.
Zaakel Jackson stood and watched holding his candle, his hand shaking. As a cousin of Williams who was “born on the same day, and babies in the same crib,” he was feeling the loss acutely.
“I just miss him so much,” Jackson said. “I miss his smile, I miss his jokes. He’s a very smart and lovable person, and it just all happened too fast.”
As the fog enveloped the sun and Bernal Hill joggers slowed down to inspect the scene, the crowd lit candles and began to line up for a processional through the neighborhood. Members of San Francisco’s Street Violence Intervention Program stood on the sidelines vigilant for potential reprisals.
Tradonna Michaels, another cousin of Williams, snapped a photo as the procession moved down Folsom Street and through Bernal Dwellings.
“It’s just sad,” said Michaels, who also expressed anger towards the boys who killed her cousin. “I mean it’s stupid, they came all the way over here to stab my cousin, but what for?”
As to the question of whether an online dispute had lead to the incident, Michaels said her cousin wouldn’t have been the source of any animosity.
“He didn’t do any of that online stuff. He was friendly with everybody, everybody knew him,” she said. “It had to be another reason.”
Jackson said something similar about whoever attacked his cousin.
“They just didn’t like him, they were jealous of him,” he said, adding that his cousin had a full academic scholarship at Sacred Heart.
The procession turned up Harrison and passed Garfield Park on 26th Street—where Williams had come with his family before he was killed—and back to the corner of Folsom. Many people lingered to share memories or just mingle in the large, extended family that had surrounded Williams.
A neighbor who asked to simply be called Scotty leaned against the wall of Rubin’s Market and looked at the flickering candles of the memorial site. He said he had watched Williams grow up around the neighborhood and he was “a good kid, just trying to live his life.”
“He could have been somebody,” said Scotty.