City of Vilomah

Vilomah: (adj.) “against a natural order” from Sanskrit

Trigger Warning: The following content deals with death and loss, and may be upsetting to some viewers.

About The Film:

City of Vilomah is a short documentary film that explores the lives and grieving process of Rhonda Cook and Clifford Ryan – two parents who lost their sons at a young age to gun violence in the city of Syracuse, New York. Their sons, Niko Santana and Duriel Ryan, were killed almost 20 years apart. Rhonda, who lost Niko in 2018, is consumed by grief while Clifford, who lost Duriel in 1999, has turned his anger and sadness into the activism group “OG’s Against Violence.”

“Vilomah” is a term first used by Professor Karla Holloway to define a parent whose child has died, originating from the Sanskrit language. Though there are other words like “widow” and “orphan” to define family members left behind, there is not currently a word in the English language that defines a parent whose child has passed before them. Holloway looked to Sanskrit because the term “widow” originates from this language. You can read Holloway’s article here.


Niko and Duriel

 

 

Niko Santana

(April 2, 1999 – February 7, 2018)

Niko at seven months old . Image Courtesy of Rhonda Cook

Niko at seven months old. Image Courtesy of Rhonda Cook

Niko Raul Santana was 18 years old when he was shot in the bedroom of his family’s Shonnard Street home on the west side of Syracuse, New York, just after 6:00 P.M. Niko died later that night at SUNY Upstate University Hospital.

Niko was survived by his parents, Rhonda Cook and Scott Hayden; sisters, Tiffiney, Krystal and Lexus; brothers, Kirt, Eddy, Cesar and Gregory.

Duriel Ryan

(May 12, 1982 – July 22, 1999)

Duriel (Left) at 5 years old.  Image Courtesy of Clifford Ryan

Duriel (Left) at 5 years old. Image Courtesy of Clifford Ryan

Duriel Lamar Ryan was 17 years old when he was shot and killed in broad daylight near the corner of West Newell Street and Cannon Street in Syracuse, New York. Duriel had been shot to the back of the head with a sawed-off shotgun and was killed instantly.

Duriel was survived by his parents, Clifford Ryan and Tammy Graham Armstrong; sisters, Tamara Ryan and Keziah Armstrong; brothers, Jihad Ryan, Clifford Ryan Jr., Rashad Graham, Shakin Graham, Elonzia Armstrong and Terrel Gordon.

 
 

Above and Below: Photos of Duriel and Niko; Articles from The Syracuse Post-Standard the day after they were killed.

Note: Clifford and Duriel Ryan were misspelled as “Ryans” in the above article.

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The Numbers on Homicide in Syracuse

 

 
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2018 Homicide Victims by Age

Victims ordered by date of death (left to right).

2018 Homicides by Type

 

5

The number of homicides

between January and May, 2019.

145,000

The Syracuse, New York population

according to a 2010 census.

2

The number of victims age 18

and under between January and May, 2019.

32.4

The percentage of Syracuse

residents living under the poverty line in 2017.

 

Fighting Against Violence

 

 
Image Courtesy of Clifford Ryan

Image Courtesy of Clifford Ryan

OG’s Against Violence:

OG’s Against Violence is a community outreach and activism organization based in the city of Syracuse, New York. It was founded in 2015 by Clifford Ryan in an effort to interrupt and reduce violent crime and homicide around the city. On a day-to-day basis, Clifford is out walking the streets of Syracuse’s lower income neighborhoods, speaking with children at other community organizations and after-school programs, and organizing vigils and walks for victims and their families. Since its inception, Clifford’s organization has grown to become a staple of the Syracuse community.

 
 

Resources:

 

 

City of Vilomah

Vilomah: (adj.) “against a natural order” from Sanskrit

A Film by Colin Davy

Producer Bruce Strong

Aerial Photographer Todd Torrance

Music by Felix Manzi