The senseless and violent death of Jerome Sylvester

Jerome Sylvester

By all accounts, Jerome Sylvester was a hard working family man who was in the wrong place at the wrong time when he was gunned down on August 14th in a drive-by triple shooting near Black Creek and Trethewey in Toronto; he was 42 years old.

Sylvester, son-in-law of veteran Black Community Leader and Advocate Valarie Steele, was killed while dropping off food for his mother at her Martha Eaton Way apartment Building.

He was met downstairs by his brother and, as he was returning to his car, a vehicle drove up and sprayed Sylvester and the surroundings with bullets. He died on the spot while two other men some distance away were wounded. Shots even reached the second floor of the apartment building as the vehicle with the killer sped away.

With his pregnant wife Joy and four year old son Jerome Junior waiting at home for his return, Sylvester was declared dead at the scene.

In a moving eulogy, his mother-in-law Valarie Steele referred to Sylvester as “my son from another mother.” He was … “son, brother, uncle, husband, father, friend; roll all of that into one and that makes Jerome Jean Louis Sylvester an authentic human being that is one of the nicest persons that anyone could know.  Calm, purposeful, decent, hardworking, caring and loyal are some of the adjectives that one could use to describe him.”

Sylvester worked at the Fastening House, a supplier of construction supplies and equipment, where he built a reputation for being respectful, reliable and, according to one of his colleagues: it “was a privilege” to worked with him. Police say they have no reason to believe Sylvester was a target.

His funeral services which took place a week ago Tuesday, was conducted by Reverend Ojo Tewogbade who officiated at the marriage of Jerome Sylvester and Joy Steele in 2015.

The issue of gun violence has accounted for the deaths of a disproportionate number of young Black men, and was faced head on by those in attendance and those who were called upon to speak.

Rev.  Ojo  Tewogbade, in his homily  addressed  gun violence in the Black Community. He drew on his personal experience as a twenty-seven-year veteran of Toronto Police Service and as a pastor and chaplain dealing with the victims of gun violence. Also, adding to the theme of community complicity with gun violence, the Minister that gave the closing prayer spoke about culpability of parents who allow their young men to sleep all day, go out at nights and bring home flat screen TV sets and remain quiet.

In her eulogy, Steele counseled, “The senseless and gratuitous violence that took your life is something that we in the Black communities will have to mount a significant resistance against” She added that “for years we have been resisting the violence of racism, the violence of inequality and the violence in the substantial effort to keep us subjugated with poverty always knocking at our heels.  The entrance of drugs and violence is another evil that must be addressed.  We must resist this evil with every ounce of strength we have and that must begin with the question: ‘Where are the guns coming from and who are the procurers of these instruments of death that continue to take the lives of our young men?’… we are not sure who is creating the murders and mayhem in our communities but if as a Blackman or woman you stop participating in murders and mayhem in our communities then we can successfully ensure that this madness stops.”

“Too many upstanding young Black men have been murdered, thus undermining the stability and future of our communities.  We are tired and fed up with burying our young men.  As a community, we need to rise up and take action so that Jerome would not have died in vain and there will not be other Jeromes.”

“Murdering and destroying our communities will ensure that the mayhem and madness continue to the last family. We are better than that! We have always been better than that!”