Community unites to remember slain activist

During a ceremony, Braddock Park was renamed the Lenny Harris Memorial Fields at Braddock Park.

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Nestled between the Alexandria neighborhoods of Rosemont and Del Ray, kids play ball on public fields now named for a community activist, Lenny Harris, who spent much of his life working to unite people.

“He really cared about the kids. A lot. He really cared about this community being together,” recalls Deborah Harris, widow of the community activist whose life was cut short, at age 53, by violent crime nearly three years ago.

Under sun-drenched skies, Harris’ family, friends and Alexandria city officials came together for a dedication ceremony to rename Braddock Park as the Lenny Harris Memorial Fields at Braddock Park.

“My dad was a great man,” Myia Harris says about her father, who founded Alexandria’s One Love Festival, an annual event meant to unify the community on the very fields that now bear his name.

“When he was living, I didn’t know how many lives he touched in the community,” Myia says.

Harris founded Operation Hope, an organization that sponsored many programs for Alexandria’s children and teenagers. And in the halls of power, Harris gave voice to those sometimes left out.

“He was a wonderful, incredible person who was always involved in civic activities, trying to make a difference in every way,” says Alexandria City Council Member Del Pepper. “He cared deeply about children and about the community.”

Harris was murdered in 2011 and his body dumped in a well in Prince George’s County. Three men have been charged in connection with the crime. One of them has been tried and convicted of first degree murder and faces sentencing in November.

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