On Wednesday evening at golden hour, dozens of the people who loved and missed Day’von Hann formed a tight circle. Holding hands, they bowed their heads in prayer.
“I definitely hate the reason, but we’re all here in love,” said Javier Reyes, who had convened this sad meeting.
Reyes is the director of Crossroads, a SoMa after-school haven that Hann used to frequent, tossing around a basketball, joking with his friends. Reyes — who is tall, fatherly, and clearly heartbroken — thanked the kids and mentors who showed up to honor a very special person.
“We pray for his family, for the people that loved him,” he said. “Just like you guys, I miss him. I love him.”
Above the group hangs a poster that reads “Love God. Love people. Win the city.” It’s a cozy space, with couches and an indoor basketball court, a foosball table, and silver trays of comfort food. It is a place where Hann once felt at home.
“Amen,” Reyes says. “Eat up. And get your basketball shoes ready.”
The boy in everyone’s thoughts, 15-year-old Day’von “Day Day” Hann, was killed early Monday morning in the Mission District, shot by unknown assailants. In his too-short life, the Lincoln High School student left an impression on everyone he met. One of his former teachers put it best.
“I think his picture should be in the dictionary, right next to the definition of ‘Black Boy Joy,’’ Jeremy Vasquez said. “He was the living, breathing physical embodiment of that.”
After the kids had eaten, some gathered in the courtyard out back to reflect on the life of a boy they loved, and what they’ve been through in the days since he died. Ajay Santiago, a tall girl with long hair, red-checkered Vans, and braces, was one of the first people to know that something might be wrong. On the night that it happened, she says she was awakened by a call from a friend.
“She was like, ‘Hey, you need to get down here right away. Shit is going down. We just got shot at.’”
It was late, but the 17-year-old was terrified. She threw on some clothes, the first she could find — shorts, a hoodie, some slides. Then she booked it.
“I ran down three hills,” she said. “And when I got there, immediately Avi, [Hann’s] brother, walked up to me, and said, ‘I don’t know where my brother is.’”
Santiago says she assured Avi Hann that she would help him find his brother. But he was nowhere to be found. Around 3 a.m., the girl finally went home, but was unable to sleep. Something wasn’t right.
Sitting around a table at Crossroads with friends who also loved Hann, Santiago said it’s hard to believe Day Day really is gone.
“He was many things,” she said. “He was a comedian, a rapper. And he could tell when someone had a bad day. He could sense it. He would just go over there and give them a big hug — the biggest hug, like.”
Listening to Hann’s music videos on YouTube has been a source of some comfort for Santiago, in the days after he died. There’s one lyric she can’t stop thinking about.
“In one of his songs he says, ‘We at the top, best of the best, only the best can stay,’” she said.
She looks skyward.
“But you’re not here.”
Laylani Morales, 14, added that when she heard the news the next day, she was in shock.
“I couldn’t see,” Morales said, tearing up as she remembers. “Everything went blank. I fell to my knees.”
“It’s true,” said her friend Serenity Smith, who is 11. “I’d never seen her like that.”
“I was like, I’m just going to go to sleep,” Morales said. “And I’m going to wake up, and it’s going to be a dream.”
Her mom Krystal Morales — who is a program manager at United Playaz — also wipes away tears as she remembers what happened next.
“Laylani woke up and said, ‘Is it a dream mommy?’ That was the first thing she said. ‘Is he still alive?’ And I just looked at her and I was like, ‘No baby. This is real.’ And she turned her head over and we took a breath.”
Morales, whose curly hair was tied back in a ponytail, wore glasses and a jean jacket. She met Hann a couple of years ago at United Playaz, another youth empowerment nonprofit down the street. She was in fourth grade at the time, and new to the neighborhood. Hann made her feel at home right away.
“I wasn’t feeling like I knew anybody, and then Day Day came up to me and he just gave me a hug,” she said. “He was like, you can hang with us.” From then on, the two became friends. She started texting Hann, who gave her some good advice.
“For sixth grade, he said, focus on your work, because it’s your first year of middle school, so you gotta focus.”
Santiago says it’s hard to put into words just how loved Day’von Hann really was.
“He was the light in our darkness. And he made us feel like a community again. And there’s nothing we can do to get him back.”
“It was that smile,” added Morales, smiling sadly. “That smile would light up anyone’s day. That smile, the brightest thing ever. You could see that smile from hella far.”
“From Africa!” said Smith.
Jeremy Vasquez has known Hann since he was in middle school, through bible study classes, and a music class sponsored by Spotify that Vasquez taught.
“That boy couldn’t sit still,” he recalled, smiling. “There’s so much trauma that he was dealing with that it would be impossible to keep that to himself. So he expressed it the best way he could which is by dancing, cutting jokes, laughing.”
According to his teacher, Hann’s parents and many of friends were incarcerated. But he didn’t let that fact define him. The kind of situation that might make other kids retreat or lash out didn’t have that effect on Hann, Vasquez said.
“He was always joyous. We never heard anything negative come out of his mouth. He was always trying to see the bright side of everything, always trying to make people laugh. That was just his M.O.”
Everyone who knew Day’von Hann saw goodness in him, and believed he was destined for greatness.
“He was someone who you knew by just looking at him, he had a future,” said Sophia Coleman, one of his mentors at Crossroads.
“He was never into violence, never into fighting or any of that,” she said. “He was just a great kid with an old soul.”
Jennifer Cortez provided additional reporting for this story.