TraRon Center

Women Who Lost Loved Ones to DC Gun Violence Team Up to Help Others

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Two women who lost loved ones to gun violence in Washington, D.C., are working together to help the growing number of people, including children, who’ve also suffered the loss of family members or friends.

Ryane Nickens has lost more than a dozen family members and friends to gun violence in the past 25 years. In 2017, she founded the TraRon Center, named for her sister Tracy and her brother Ronnie, who were murdered in separate incidents in the 1990s.

Starting in Ward 8, in church basements and other donated spaces, Nickens -- a lifelong resident of the District -- created a healing place for people, including children, who’ve lost a loved one to violence.

She received an unusual email last summer.

“I emailed her I lost my husband to gunfire,” Cathy Feingold said. “We were out on a date night.”

On June 29, D.C. resident Cathy Feingold and her husband, Jeremy Black, had dinner near Logan Circle and were walking together near 14th and R streets when two groups began shooting at each other. Black, a 53-year-old father of two who worked for the Peace Corps, was struck and killed by a stray bullet.

“She emailed me three days after she watched her husband die in front of her,” Nickens said.

In her email to Nickens, Feingold asked how she could help.

A memorial fund for the TraRon Center in Jeremy Black’s name was just the beginning.

“What we’re trying to do is build a partnership, build a bridge, with people here in Takoma Park who want to have an impact on gun violence,” Feingold said.

Feingold had friends who wanted to help with the kind of support that would let the TraRon Center and other groups expand their missions of healing trauma and fighting gun violence.

“The work that these amazing leaders need as back support so that they, on Fridays, can do important work in the community and aren’t spending all their time figuring out the paperwork around a 501(c)(3),” Feingold said. “So, we think it’s about bridge building. It’s about supporting leaders that already exist in their community and making sure they have their superpower.”

“Other parts of the city are now seeing this notion of gun violence rising in communities, and they’re looking for spaces,” Nickens said.

Nickens hopes this is the year that she gets a house for the TraRon Center.

Correction (Saturday, Oct. 9): The organization is called the TraRon Center. An earlier version of this story misspelled its name.

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