East Bay Soldiers’ trip to D.C. goes beyond basketball

East Bay Soldiers’ trip to D.C. goes beyond basketball
Photos in Washington D.C. courtesy of the East Bay Soldiers.

By Kathy Chouteau

When a mass of people gather together for the National Action Network’s “Get Your Knee Off Our Neck” March Friday in Washington, D.C., a Richmond contingent of 15 people will be in the crowd.

Prompted by the protest movement that has arisen in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, as well as violence against other Black Americans, the march is being held on the 57th anniversary of the historic “March on Washington,” where Martin Luther King, Jr. eloquently uttered the words, “I Have a Dream.”

For Diana Evans Harris, founder of East Bay Soldiers, which organized the group’s trip to Washington D.C., the reasons for traveling across the country and marching alongside the likes of Rev. Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King, Jr. III are personal.

They lost one of their own to violence right here in Richmond; Friday, the group will walk in his name: Jammerrei’a Frazier. Also known as “Magic” or “JMac,” Frazier was a 17-year-old Richmond High School student who was shot and killed in November 2019 while walking to Rancho Market on Market Ave. for his mother. A four door black Infinity is of interest in the crime. To this day, his murder remains unsolved and stands as another tragic example of senseless violence against Black Americans.

Frazier was a participant in the East Bay Soldiers’ basketball program that serves boys and girls from the greater Richmond area between the ages of 9 to 17 years old. The program, which aims to offer youth a positive, productive and supportive athletic and academic experience, competes locally and also travels to faraway destinations. Before his murder, Frazier accompanied the group on an international trip to China and was clearly a beloved member of the team.

His sister, Jazmine Perkins, and God-sister, Jennifer Jackson, are accompanying the East Bay Soldiers to Washington, D.C. to march in memory of Jammerrei’a on Friday. Perkins has another reason to walk Friday: to honor the memory of her cousin, Oshiana Tompkins, a 19 year-old shooting victim at a 2019 Halloween party in Orinda, a crime with multiple killings that also remains unsolved.

“With Jasmine losing her brother in such a tragic way and knowing about the tragic murder of George Floyd and now you look at what’s going on again in Wisconsin, it’s like enough is enough,” said Evans Harris about one of the many reasons for their group participating in Friday’s march.

After watching Rev. Al Sharpton’s eulogy of Floyd, Evans Harris felt inspired to act. She drew additional encouragement from the life lessons of her mother, Ordean Thomas Evans, a longtime secretary for then-Congressman Jerome Waldie, and later, Congressmen George Miller, in Richmond.

“I called Jazmine Perkins, and told her that I needed her to get her shoes laced up because we had to go march in her brother’s memory, so that we can start the path to stopping the senseless killings in our community and beyond.”

According to Evans Harris, since the kids are back at school, the group traveling to Washington D.C. is comprised of community members and alumni involved with East Bay Soldiers ranging in age from 23 to 60 years old.

“We’re basically just a group of people in the greater surrounding space who want to be a part of history and feel like we’re taking a stand,” said Evans Harris.

To learn more about the East Bay Soldiers basketball program for youth, click here.