After losing their daughter in 2019, they want to honor her memory with joy

Posted at 5:20 PM, Mar 31, 2023

NOTE: Due to the severe weather expected Saturday, April 1, the scheduled ribbon cutting and community picnic has been postponed to a yet to be determined date.

RICHMOND, Va. -- Nearly four years ago, Markiya Dickson was killed at a Richmond park after a gunfight broke out near where her family was having a Memorial Day cookout and she was hit by one of the bullets.

For the first time since it was finished, Mark Whitfield and Ciara Dickson lay eyes on the playground bearing their daughter's name.

"It's a lot of emotions," Dickson said.

"You got your sad emotions, but you're more happy than anything," Whitfield said. "People can remember her, but not just the sadness, like they come out and have fun."

The Markiya Dickson Imagination Zone is built in Fonticello Park, where Dickson and Whitfield grew up playing and eventually brought their kids to. However, it was also where, at a Memorial Day cookout in 2019, nine-year-old Markiya was killed when gunshots erupted at the nearby basketball court.

The family lost both their daughter and a sense of safety.

"Then when it happened, everybody wanted to run away from the park. Everybody like, we ain't going to the parks no more, we keeping our kids in the house," Whitfield said.

However, this sense of fear was something Markiya's parents didn't want to happen. They have been working with the city and Friends of Fonitcello Park to fix that with the Imagination Zone.

"Because one bad apple doesn't spoil everybody. Like we got to keep pushing to have fun," Whitfield said.

The family credits the work everyone has put in to make it a reality. A ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony was scheduled for Saturday, April 1, but a decision to postpone it was made Friday evening because of the impending severe weather.

"We wanted to make sure that this was a joyous event and not just a symbolic event and bring the community together to really show her family the support that they deserve, quite frankly," Teresa Cole, Friend of Fonticello Park's board chair, said of the community picnic that was set to follow the ribbon cutting.

The two parents are now optimistic about the role that their daughter will play for those who come after her.

"The kids are our future. If they're our future, we need to start investing now," Dickson said.

"I don't want nobody to like at this and be like, oh, that is sad what happened. It's a memorial. No, no. Look what it is. It's a playground where you can come have fun too. So if you want to say a memorial, let's say Markiya's Imagination Zone where you can have fun at. Keep her memory alive by having fun," Whitfield said.

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