FLINT, MI — It was the kind of graduation party she would have wanted.
Richfield Early Learning Center in Flint was decorated with tablecloths and balloons, all purple and pink, the favorite colors of Alexis Gwendolyn Aaron.
In the evening, pink and purple lanterns were released into the sky.
Loved ones gathered Saturday, May 22 to celebrate Aaron.
The teen was shot and killed in July 2020.
She would have turned 18 on May 20 and celebrated her high school graduation shortly thereafter.
Family and friends took pictures with a life-size photo of Aaron. The message above the photo read “Rest in love.”
T-shirts and a Snapchat filter created for the event read “Forever 17.”
Aaron’s mother, Ericka Fordham, said her daughter was her baby, her youngest child.
“I would have been planning my baby’s graduation, her prom, everything, and they took that from me,” Fordham said. “They took it from me. So I’m still going to celebrate as if my baby was still here with me.”
Aaron was struck by a bullet in the back on July 26, 2020 while at a family member’s house in the 900 block of Johnson Avenue, near West Court Street, in Flint. She died two days later.
No one has been arrested in connection with Aaron’s death.
The suspect’s vehicles are described as a white Chevy Malibu, a dark-colored Dodge Charger and a dark-colored hatchback-style vehicle last seen traveling north on Johnson Avenue, according to Crime Stoppers of Flint and Genesee County. Police do not believe Aaron was the intended victim of the shooting.
“It don’t make no sense,” Fordham said. “My baby is gone for absolutely nothing.”
Being able to hold the celebration meant everything to Fordham.
She said her daughter was sweet and kind. Everybody loved her. She brightened every room she walked into.
Fordham is a certified nursing assistant. She said her daughter also wanted to work in the medical field. She wanted to be a nurse so she could help people.
“My daughter didn’t have a bad bone in her body,” Fordham said. “She didn’t deserve this.”
Fordham called for better parenting to end the violence in the city. She said she wouldn’t wish the pain of losing a child on anyone.
People say the pain gets better, she said. But it hasn’t for Fordham.
“I won’t get no rest or sleep until my baby gets justice,” she said.
Cory Richman, 17, said it broke her heart when she lost her best friend.
Their friendship started when Richman started going to the same school as Aaron in 8th grade. They shared a locker.
Aaron was planning on continuing her education beyond high school and was excited to graduate.
Richman said she dedicated her senior year to her friend.
“We had big plans,” she said. “I’m going to college in September and she was supposed to be going to college with me. We was going to move and just have a whole bunch of fun. She lives through me now.”
Richman’s last day of school — May 20 — was on what would have been Aaron’s 18th birthday.
They attended Southwest Classical Academy together and Richman was excited to go to prom and celebrate senior year together.
“I remember her laugh. It was always really loud and happy and her smile always lit up the room,” Richman said. “She never bothered nobody. She was always a giving person. She shared. I really miss that about her.”
Quanay Brewer, 17, was the loud one in their friend group.
She said Aaron was quiet.
“(Aaron) was my dog, my sister,” Brewer said.
It’s hard being young and already seeing friends die due to violence in the city, she said.
“Being around her, it’s no bad vibes because she never did nothing wrong once in her life,” Brewer said.
She said she wants Aaron’s family to know they’re loved and should stay strong because Aaron is watching over everyone.
Aaron’s cousin Anaysha Fordham, 18, said Aaron was the glue that held her four cousins together.
If she was here, she said they’d be holding a similar party.
“For her birthday, we always went all out,” Anaysha Fordham said.
She misses Aaron’s infectious laugh.
“Her laugh, she got like different laughs – hearing her listen to music, singing her heart out, even though she can’t sing she was always singing,” Anaysha Fordham said.
She remembered Aaron playing “Fumble” by R&B artist Trey Songz on repeat.
“There was one day she listened to that song like 40 times and I was like ‘turn it off,’” joked Anaysha Fordham.
Aaron’s oldest sister, Quashia Robinson, 20, said it means “everything” to celebrate her sister.
“She was so ready to turn 18 and she was ready for prom and graduation because she knew mom was gonna be extra with it,” Robinson joked, adding Aaron would have loved the party.
Aaron was loving, caring and always on her phone, Robinson said.
Her sister said she made fun of Aaron for being on her phone. Robinson noted her sister would have loved that there was a Snapchat filter made for her graduation.
If she could see her sister today, Robinson said she’d have a few words to share: “I love you and I miss you.”
Anyone with information on Aaron’s shooting can contact the Flint Police Department at 810-237-6800.
Those wishing to remain anonymous can contact Crime Stoppers of Flint and Genesee County at 1-800-422-JAIL (5245), on the P3Tips mobile app, or online at CrimeStoppersofFlint.com.
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