About 200 people gathered Tuesday night for a vigil on the spot where a 15-year-old lesbian was stabbed to death one year earlier. The hour-long candlelight vigil for Sakia Gunn at the corner of Broad and Market streets in Newark, N.J., included the reading of a proclamation from Gov. James E. McGreevey declaring May 11, 2004, "No Name-Calling Day." The day was named in honor of Gunn and youths who have been the victims of bias crimes. Newark schools held a moment of silence earlier in the day. The proclamation was read by Laquetta Nelson, founder of the Newark Pride Alliance, a gay and lesbian advocacy group. "Sakia gave her life so that we could say to the people of Newark that it is no longer acceptable to call us names, because it hurts," Nelson said. She told the crowd of mostly young black women that straight people have a role to play in the well-being of gays and lesbians. "If you have gay family or friends, go to them; tell them you know who they are and that you love them with all your heart," Nelson said. "Set them free. Set them free."
Gunn was stabbed to death last year while waiting for a bus after she told her attacker that she and the friends he was propositioning were lesbians. On Tuesday night candles, roses, and handwritten inscriptions in black marker adorned the spot where she was killed. "We miss you, Kia," read one inscription that used shorthand and referenced a gay pride symbol, "see u over the rainbow." Richard McCullough, 29, of Newark, was charged with Gunn's murder and with bias intimidation after he turned himself in shortly after she died. McCullough has pleaded not guilty and is in Essex County Jail awaiting trial.