‘Maura’s Voice’ will be heard through new initiative

Family, friends and community members gathered at the steps of the Old Capitol for the public launch of “Maura’s Voice.” Maura Binkley was one of the victims from the Hot Yoga shooting this past November. In this photo, community members fill in this commissioned painting, which was open for everyone to contribute to following the ceremony.
Photo Submitted by Nathan Vinson.

On Nov. 2, a senseless mass shooting rocked Tallahassee to its core, leaving six wounded and two dead at a yoga studio in Midtown.

Just over four months later, a silver lining has begun to form.

On Monday, the family, friends and sorority sisters of fallen Florida State University student Maura Binkley gathered on the steps of the Old Capitol to publicly announce their new initiative, “Maura’s Voice.”

In partnership with FSU, research will be conducted to “determine what lives at the intersection of violence and hatred,” according to a press release. The studies will be led by Jim Clark, dean of FSU’s College of Social Work, who said that mass shootings have gone beyond mental incapacity.

“So often we equate violence with mental illness, but this is simply not the case; that way of understanding in an old paradigm that we see used in public policy and discussions,” Clark said. “We must step back and look at violence as a complex phenomenon and begin to ask new, unanswered and, thus far, often unfunded questions.”

The mixed crowd at the event consisted of some of Binkley’s former classmates, fellow FSU students, and members of the community.

Maura’s father Jeff Binkley, has been a driving force behind the initiative. He opened and closed the ceremony. Other speakers included FSU President John Thrasher, Maura’s best friend Audrey Benson, and state Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, who said he’s confident in what Maura’s Voice can do on a national scale.

“I think what we’ll do through this effort with Florida State University is have research based data to make good, sound decision in the Florida Legislature,” Montford said. “This will have an impact not just in Florida, but throughout the United States.”

The Maura’s Voice Research Fund is accepting donations. It has received about $30,000 of its $100,000 goal. While the initiative is admirable, the center of this effort stems from the need to protect others from similar senseless violence. Even though Maura has passed, Benson said that Maura’s Voice will carry on through this effort and the continued conversation around gun violence.

“If anyone knew the importance of speaking to a neighbor that could not mirror your own gaze, it was Maura,” Benson said. “There are many things that we, as humans, can’t understand. But, that doesn’t mean we should not talk about them. And not talking about hem does not return us to normalcy.”

You can donate to “Maura’s Voice” at http://spark.fsu.edu/Project/440/Maura%27s-Voice.