Orange stickers spreads legacy of slain Virginia journalist
NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — There are two “Sierra was here” stickers at Colonial Avenue’s Cafe Stella, a bistro frequented by Sierra Jenkins before the young journalist was fatally shot in March outside a downtown Norfolk bar.
One can be found on the back of a parking sign outside — the sticker’s bright orange background makes it easy to spot, even from a distance. The second sticker is on a shelf inside the restaurant, tucked away in a corner where Drew Ferebee first gathered with Jenkins’ family and friends following her death.
“It is like her spirit is still here,” said Ferebee, who was Jenkins’ best friend. “She came here a lot to do interviews. She kind of made Cafe Stella her home.”
Following Jenkins’ death, Ferebee used a logo created for Jenkins’ website to make stickers.
“I wanted to leave people with a piece of her that they could carry with them,” Ferebee said.
What started as a project to keep Jenkins’ memory alive among friends has taken on a new message as thousands of orange stickers have been passed out to strangers. Family and friends created an Instagram account to chronicle the sticker placements and now use it to raise awareness about gun violence, Ferebee said.
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Roughly 50,000 stickers have been given out in the less than six months since Jenkins’ death. To date, the farthest reaching sticker was placed in Dubai. The plan is to eventually sell the stickers and funnel proceeds into a scholarship project in her honor.
“The idea was to see how far she could go,” Ferebee said. “In 25 years, Sierra accomplished more than people do in 65 years. Sierra would have gone so much farther in life.”
Jenkins, an education reporter for The Virginian-Pilot and Daily Press, was one of three people killed in a shooting early March 19 at Chicho’s Pizza Backstage in downtown Norfolk. The gunfire, then-police chief Larry Boone said, started after an argument over a spilled drink. Antoine Legrande Jr., 24, was arrested and charged with three counts of second-degree murder May 17, about two months after the shooting.
Prior to joining The Pilot in December 2020, she interned at Atlanta Magazine and CNN, and worked as a news assistant for CNN Health. Jenkins was particularly interested in social issues, always looking for stories that could create change.
This undated photo provided by Chris Taylor shows Sierra Jenkins, 25, a reporter with The Virginian-Pilot and Daily Press newspapers in Virginia, who died Saturday March 19, 2022, following a shooting outside a bar in Norfolk, Va. (Chris Taylor/AP)
Ferebee said the stickers initially were placed by Jenkins’ family and friends, but quickly expanded to friends of friends and strangers.
“I was so excited for when I would find a sticker that I did not place,” Ferebee said, who placed 30 stickers around Norfolk and another 40 around Washington.
As the stickers have become more widespread, Ferebee said the messaging behind them has shifted to focus on gun violence prevention and awareness through the Sierra Jenkins Project.
The project is working to launch a website, from which sticker packs can be purchased. Moniquekia Thompson, Jenkins’ mother, crafted the mission statement, stating that the purpose of the stickers is to get people outside, to encourage purposeful traveling, spark gun violence awareness and assist in the restoration of humanity.
“More and more people are losing the regard for human life. This must stop,” Thompson said.
All proceeds from the website will go toward a scholarship fund to be awarded to college-bound high school students at Granby High School, Jenkins’ alma mater.
“Sierra Jenkins was passionate about education, reading, and writing. She intended to go back to school to obtain her master‘s degree but that dream was cut short due to senseless gun violence. It’s only right that we carry out her desire for others to succeed as well,” Thompson said in her mission statement.
The orange squares with a Jenkins-inspired avatar had traveled the world just two weeks after the young journalist’s death, with one making it all the way to Hawaii — placed by a person who had never even met Jenkins. The placement was shared with Ferebee on the Sierra Project Instagram page.
“They placed it on a pole overlooking a beach in Hawaii,” Ferebee said. “They did not even know her. They were talking about how her impact was felt and they wanted to be a part of the project.”
The post, which was shared on Instagram, reads: “Sierra, I hope you enjoy your view of the ocean, the island of Molokai growing and the humpback whales lazily breaching the water. I hope people who notice this little square of orange here wonder who you are and learn more about your too brief but extraordinary life.”
During a recent afternoon visit to Cafe Stella, another customer approached Ferebee to show her a “Sierra was here” sticker that she keeps in her wallet.
“Sierra was — no, she is — so loved. She would have never thought that her impact was this big. She was just passionately doing what she loves,” Ferebee said.