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A dress, a woman, a story. ‘Remember Her, Peoria’ honors missing, murdered victims

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A group of Peoria activists turned art into education, by creating an exhibit designed to call attention to missing and murdered women in Central Illinois

Remember Her, Peoria is a modern art installation that fuses the stories of nearly one hundred women who are either missing, the subject of an unsolved crime case, murdered or have previously suffered from domestic abuse, while simultaneously offering the exhibit's consumers, an opportunity to learn about them individually.

The activists worked tireless for months on the concept and birthed this tangible exhibit which displays 94 dresses of various colors, hung along a fence outside of Sous Chef, for the world to witness.

"Black dresses are for the murdered. The red dresses are for unsolved. Pink dresses are for the missing and purple dresses are for the women that were victims of domestic violence homicides." explained Kristen Meierkord, one of the co-creators.

It's a creative, tangible exhibit, meant to remind the larger community that the women whose names adorn those dresses, once led full lives and should not be forgotten or reduced to a statistic.

"These were individual people. That's why they each have their own dress. We could have just done something very simple and just said this many but that's been said how many times and it just ends up being a statistic. These were mothers and daughters and sisters and friends and what not and they needed to be remembered this way." Meierkord echoed.

Saturday's unveiling was well attended, with a packed parking lot full of community members who came to learn more, but also including the loved ones of the women represented.

Two recent cases included Kayla Fannon, a mother of four who was murdered by her ex, Valentine's Day 2019. Fannon's family were in attendance and said they appreciated the community's efforts to keep Kayla's story and memory alive. Alexis Scott was also among the women represented. She vanished from a party in Peoria September of 2017.

Scott's mother, April, an advocate for missing women, spoke during the event, sharing her own grief and experience. "I still have no answer and I would like my community to realize that she is a person regardless of what information is out there. She is my child. I love my child." she shared.

The group's efforts stretched even further, however.

They paired their art with action, working with Peoria Area Crime Stoppers to encourage the community to share their stories and seek help, step up and say something on behalf of others, and also brought the necessary resources into the community like Indivisible, Center for Prevention of Abuse, NAACP Next Gen, JOLT, Peoria Drum Circle, PCAV, Moms Demand Action, Soulside Healing Arts, and Peoria NOW.

"All these dress represent a human life that was taken. Hopefully people see this they want to say something if they know something. We don't care if it's even something that someone has already said. Repeat it! Don't leave any stone unturned." said Sergeant Sherrell Stinson with the Peoria Police Department. Stinson heads their crime stoppers division and combs through tips shared by the community.

Recently he acknowledged how helpful recent tips have been in not only reducing area crime, but also demonstrating to others that sharing information does help prevent the very issues that impacted the victims highlighted at Remember Her, Peoria.

The dresses are still hanging for anyone to visit. The exhibit will remain at Sous Chef, located at 1311 SW Adams, Street, for the rest of February.

Lauren Melendez

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