Jennifer Brooks
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In Crystal, they remember Barway Collins.

His sweet face, smiling out from the missing posters. The long weeks of searching for the 10-year-old who stepped from a school van in March 2015 and vanished. The grief when a search party of Boy Scouts found his bound and battered body in the Mississippi River. The horror when his father confessed to the killing.

But it's Barway's life that Jeff and Erin Kolb of Crystal want to remember.

So they enlisted a sculptor, found a lovely spot in a lovely park and set about raising thousands of dollars for a statue of a happy little boy smiling out over the park where Barway Collins ought to be.

Becker Park, across the street from the apartment complex where Barway lived and died, was a bland and underutilized green space that served as a staging area for search parties after his disappearance. In the years since, the city has transformed it into a jewel of a park, with walking paths, a splash pad and an accessible playground that draws crowds of giggling children.

"It's a place that gives a lot of people joy," said Jeff Kolb, who was a new member of the Crystal City Council when Barway disappeared.

The Kolbs have raised more than $10,000 toward their $15,000 goal. And while one mother told Kolb she didn't want to have to talk about homicide with her children on their way to the splash pad, Kolb's 7-year-old son — "the most compassionate person I've ever met in my life," according to his dad — offered to set up a lemonade stand to raise money for the memorial.

If a playground seems a strange place to remember a murdered child, imagine how much worse it would be to forget.

If K.G. Wilson had his way, he would line the streets with memorials to the children we've lost. So no one could look away.

"When children are murdered, the community should never be able to forget that," the Minneapolis peace activist said. "This is what they stole. This is what they took."

They took his 6-year-old granddaughter.

Aniya Allen was a bright, joyful kindergartner who loved rainbows and unicorns. On the ride home from McDonald's in May, her mother's car was caught in the crossfire when gunfire erupted at a North Side intersection.

Aniya was one of three small children gunned down in Minneapolis in the span of two awful weeks.

Her grandfather now waits for someone, anyone, to step forward and help identify their killers.

"The Black community is trying to forget this already. They're trying to push this under the rug," Wilson said. "It's shameful, it's horrible and they can't blame it on someone else. They can't blame it on the police. They can't blame it on any other race. It's right there in their face. And nobody is in jail for all three of those children shot in the head. Nobody."

He wants to make sure his community can't forget. He wants us to see Aniya's face every time we drive through that intersection. He wants us to understand how much we all lost when bullets took Aniya, and stole 9-year-old Trinity Ottoson-Smith as she bounced on a trampoline, and ripped Ladavionne Garrett Jr., 10, away from his parents in the middle of an afternoon car ride.

A makeshift memorial sprang up at the crossroads where Aniya was shot. Bright heaps of soft toys and rainbow balloons and candles. Cards and flowers and gauzy pink butterflies.

It won't last forever. Flowers fade and candles melt and the elements will batter the toys and butterflies until there's nothing left to remind us of a beautiful life cut brutally short.

"For these murdered children, there should be statues," Wilson said. "Me, personally, what I wanted was a memorial park."

He dreams of a park dedicated to the memory of all the children lost to violence in Minneapolis. A community park where children can play and grieving families can gather to remember. Where pictures of lost children decorate the slides, and their names and stories are written across the playground equipment.

A place to remember 2-year-old Le'Vonte King Jason Jones, caught in gun crossfire in 2016. Or Tyesha Edwards, 11, killed by a stray bullet as she did homework at her dining room table in 2002. Or Jayden Redden, 7 months old, shot and killed in south Minneapolis five years ago.

Aniya might have loved visiting a park like that.

"Little kids, all they want to do is go to the park," Wilson said. "My granddaughter would cry when it was time to leave the park. She wanted to live there."

For more information about the Barway Collins Memorial fundraiser, visit and search for Barway Collins park.