David Williams is a grown man now. But when he was just a kid, he’d run up and down 24th Street in Meadowview with his friends all the time, unafraid of what the street could do to him.
If a neighbor saw him, they’d call his mom, just to make sure everything was cool. People looked out for one another back then.
Now Williams has three kids of his own – two girls and a little boy. He’s raising them in Elk Grove. It may as well be another world.
“I don’t bring them over here at all,” he said this week.
“I try to keep them away from this,” he said, pointing to a shrine of flowers and balloons tied to a chain-link fence on 24th Street.
The memorial has been there since July 8, the day Williams’ mother – Tanganyika Williams – was found bleeding on the sidewalk. Police suspect that Tanganyika’s estranged husband, Michael Williams, stabbed her and left her on the side of the street.
David was told his mother died in an ambulance on the way to a hospital. Her funeral was Friday.
Tanganyika was 48 years old and had three grandchildren, with one more on the way. She’d been married to Michael Williams for less than a year. David said she tried to end the relationship but that she’d sometimes meet her husband on 24th Street to see friends.
“Be careful of the company you keep,” David said.
Tanganyika Williams was trying to expel her own demons. David said his mom was a recovering drug addict who had worked as a drug counselor at a clinic just off 24th Street. Then she became one more victim of a street that keeps taking mothers and children.
It’s a list that includes Lashawn Peters, who was 19 years old when her body was found in Meadowview Park last June. Police are still hunting her killer.
There was also Aliyah Smith, who was 15 when she took a bullet on Nedra Court, a crammed circle of apartments locals call “The Trap” that sits within view of Tanganyika Williams’ memorial. Two men are on trial for that 2010 shooting.
All together, eight people have been killed on 24th Street or on its bordering blocks since 2007, according to police statistics. There have been six robberies and five violent assaults on the street just since last year.
There should be reason for hope. There are five houses of worship within a short walk of Williams’ memorial. There’s a public library named for Martin Luther King Jr. and a nicely groomed park named for Steve Jones, a track and football legend at nearby Luther Burbank High School. The Sam and Bonnie Pannell Community Center, at the corner of 24th Street and Meadowview Road, is a symbol of pride for all of south Sacramento.
Will those forces one day prevail? Can 24th Street be saved?
“People got to change,” Williams said.