A joyful community anti-violence event that Erika “Hoppy” Robinson once hoped to organize will go on without her—in her memory.
The beloved 26-year-old aspiring clothing designer and embodiment of New Haven-style joie de vivre was gunned down in a spray of bullets at a New Haven nightclub back in October.
In an interview at their home Monday, parents Greg and Celeste Fulcher (pictured above) said Erika and her friend DJ Luck had been planning a day of friendship, alternatives to violence, and hoops back in June, four months before her death.
She had left some details of her ideas on her computer. Now, the parents, Luck, and Erika’s sister Lakeisha and her fiance Michael Donadio are bringing Erika’s dream to life, and in her memory.
The event—the first annual High Off Life Stop the Violence Basketball Tournament—will take place between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday Aug. 17 at DeGale Field (aka Goffe Street Park) at Goffe and County streets. The centerpiece will be an eight-team round-robin basketball tournament. The event will feature speakers from anti-violence organizations, music by DJ Luck and guests, and perhaps recollections of Erika’s life. High Off Life, or (HOL), was Robinson’s signature phrase and the name of her clothing line, which is being marketed at among other places Jimmy’s Clothing and Footwear off the Boston Post Road.
The point is to celebrate life and in doing so to decry violence of all kinds, including domestic violence and abusing children, not just the gun violence that took the life of his daughter, Greg Fulcher said.
Click here for the story of the outpouring of love at her funeral in October; here for details of the Oct. 25 shooting at the Key Club at 85 Saint John St. that took Erika’s life and wounded four others; here for an interview with her grieving parents shortly after the murder; and here for legal action taken by the family against the operators of the club where their daughter was gunned down.
Erika Spoke In A Dream
Keeping Erika’s legacy alive through this event and maintaining her clothing line are among the ways Robinson’s parents have been coping with the tragedy.
They have relied as well on prayer and faith. “It was rough in the beginning. The pain was so great I didn’t want to live. It was one minute at a time [then]. Now I can take one day at a time. I put it in God’s hands, and I feel He guided me through,” said Celeste Fulcher.
Greg described an almost Job-like encounter with the Lord: “We did everything society expected. No drugs. No one has been to jail. I’ve been married to the same woman for 34 years. I didn’t complain to God; I confronted him: Why us?”
Fulcher said his answer came in a dream two nights after Erika’s death.
In his dream Erika came to him
“‘Can you hear me’” he recalled her asking.
“I can hear you.”
“Can you feel me?”
“I said, ‘No, I can’t feel you.’ It was like she was reaching out,” he recalled
When he told her he could hear her, she said, “Oh wow!” That was her singular phrase. As the dream proceeded, Erika drifted away, as in an old movie. “I’m OK. I’m OK,’” she said, fading into the background.
Fulcher interpreted that sequence as God telling him his daughter is OK. The dream helped: “Now I can pull into the driveway and not expect her to pop out and to greet me.”
Still the family is far from closure. It has not taken steps yet to put a permanent headstone on Erika’s grave at Evergreen Cemetery, on Ella Grasso Boulevard.
In the run-up to Aug. 17, the family plans to be in court, on Aug. 14, to look the accused shooter in the eye at pretrial appearance. After five continuances, which the Fulchers have all attended, they expect him to make a plea on that day, just a few days before the tournament day.
“When you kill someone, you kill a whole family,” said Celeste Fulcher.
“We’re going to make sure he looks at someone in the family,” Greg added.