Kenny Barnes's 37-year-old son was shot to death in 2001 at the clothing store he owned on U Street. His killer was 17.
Steven Alfaro, 17, recalled "friends and schoolmates that have been gunned down."
Police Sgt. Darrell Best's brother, 33, was fatally shot at a halfway house less than a month ago.
Barnes, Alfaro and Best were among those at a bike parade for peace Saturday to honor 6-year-old slaying victim Donmiguel Nathaniel Wilson Jr.
Community activists and young people biked from Congress Heights in Southeast to Benning Road NE in an event that was part of Safety Awareness Day and the city's sixth annual 40 Days of Increased Peace program. The program offers free activities for young people through a partnership that includes the Police Department, churches and community groups.
Stemming gun violence is a task for the entire community, said Barnes, 60, president of Reaching Out to Others Together and an organizer of the event. "It's not a legal issue where you can just lock everyone up and solve the problem. It's a public health and a mental health issue," he said, adding that gun violence is the primary cause of death among African American males ages 15 to 24.
Bike riders gathered at the Robert V. Murray Boys and Girls Club on Milwaukee Place SE around 9 a.m., pumping tires, adjusting bike seats and attaching water bottles to their bikes.
Alfaro, who rides his bike weekly around Haines Point, strapped on his helmet. A rising senior at Woodrow Wilson High School, he said fistfights and gang-related turf wars are common in the city's public schools.
Sam Isaac, director of the Murray Boys and Girls Club, said the kids who come to the club are often "living violence every day," either in their homes or on the streets. During the 40 Days of Increased Peace campaign, which runs from June 22 to Aug. 1, the club is offering events such as a basketball challenge, discussions on violence and a double Dutch competition. Other locations around the city have similar plans.
About 10 bikers headed down Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue on the 5.7-mile ride at 9:20 a.m. Lauren Bellamy, 7, hopped onto her purple Roadmaster, balanced precariously on the seat for a moment, and started wobbling down the road. Her father, whose cousin had been murdered, walked alongside her.
The Rev. LaVerne Harley of the East of the River Clergy-Police-Community Partnership said church groups need to be more involved in community events and programs that can reduce violence by improving opportunities and living conditions for children. Donmiguel's slaying, in which he was found with his hands and ankles bound in a bathtub filled with water, "is just a prime example of why we need to end this violence," Harley said.
By 10:10, most of the bikers, escorted by police, had arrived at the Richard England Boys and Girls Club on Benning Road. For Best, the police sergeant, the parade hit home. "If we can be proactive, we can touch the kids" before they get involved in crime, he said.
But gun violence did not wait for the peace paraders. Harley's emergency pager showed that a 14-year-old boy from Northeast had been shot the previous night. Dominic Page died when he was shot, apparently accidentally, by an 18-year-old friend, police said.
Several more shootings occurred throughout the day.
"Now you see why somebody like me who has chronic asthma would get on a bike to make a statement," Barnes said when he learned of the child's death. "Now you can understand the passion, even though I lost my dear son."