GARFIELD PARK — Neighbors gathered Tuesday night to mourn the death of Serenity Arrington, 5, who was allegedly murdered by her own mother in front of the child’s 8-year-old sister.
The vigil also served as a call to end the stigma around seeking help for mental health issues some said could have been a factor in the killing.
“It’s very heartbreaking,” said Kenisha Turner, a friend of Serenity’s grandfather. “We all came together as a whole for him.”
Serenity, her sister, and her mother Simone Austin had just moved into the grandfather’s apartment weeks before the incident, prosecutors said in court earlier this week. After the attack, Austin began apologizing to neighbors and first responders, saying she shouldn’t have hurt the girl, prosecutors said.
“People are suffering and don’t know how to get help. So we need more help to help people with mental issues, depression,” Turner said.
The vigil was organized with help from Breakthrough Urban Ministries, a social service organization serving Garfield Park. Street outreach workers joined the vigil to encourage those struggling with mental health to seek professional help and community support.
It’s hard to know when somebody is on the brink of a mental health crisis because of the stigma around talking about those issues, outreach worker Robert Jefferson said. He said people should be patient and listen to their neighbors because you never know what’s going on in their lives behind the scenes.
“[There could be so] much going on with someone that you’ll never know. …The people in the community that’s not being seen— those are the people that really need the help,” Jefferson said. “As an outreach worker, that’s why we go from door to door.”
Outreach worker Antonio Wallace said the tragic killing is a manifestation of the deep-seated community trauma that impacts many Black neighborhoods.
“People only going to see trauma when there’s danger is involved. But it’s overwhelmingly more than what we see. It’s always there,” Wallace said.
Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.
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