Sep. 23-HIGH POINT - The story of a Black teenager who was killed in a controversial shooting in High Point two years ago is about to become more widely known, thanks to a new exhibit opening today in New York City.
Fred Cox Jr., who was killed on Nov. 8, 2020, by Michael Shane Hill - a detective with the Davidson County Sheriff's Department - will be featured in "1-800 Happy Birthday," an exhibition honoring the lives of more than a dozen Black individuals from across the country who were killed by police.
An opening reception will be held tonight at WorthlessStudios in Brooklyn, and the exhibition will remain on display through Jan. 16, 2023. Cox's mother, Tenicka Shannon, and her niece, Ric-Quanda Pollard, will attend tonight's reception and tell Cox's story at a forum in conjunction with the exhibition.
The display will include several photos of Cox, including a baby picture, and personal items, including his football practice jersey from Southern Guilford High School, his favorite T-shirt and the outfit he wore home from the hospital after being born prematurely.
"The visuals and ephemera included in the exhibition ... allow visitors a glimpse into the personal milestones, interests and personalities of those being honored," the exhibition website states, explaining that the items displayed were chosen by family members of the honorees.
The exhibition also will include a large mural featuring likenesses of all 13 individuals honored, along with the words "Happy Heavenly Birthday."
"1-800 Happy Birthday" was originally created in 2020 as an ongoing voicemail project "to honor Black and Brown victims of police killings and systemic racism," the website explains. "The project exists online at 1800HappyBirthday.com and allows loved ones and the public to leave and listen to voicemails left on the birthdays of 'celebrants' - those unjustly killed."
At Shannon's request, the project's creators added her son's name to the original list of "celebrants," and approximately 250 individuals left voicemails for Cox's birthday, which was July 13.
"They were already done creating the exhibit," Shannon says, "but when they saw how many phone calls there were for Fred, they said they couldn't leave him out - they had to get him in the exhibit, too."
Cox, 18, was shot to death following a memorial service at Living Water Baptist Church. As mourners were leaving the church, a passing motorist or motorists fired shots toward the church, causing the mourners to seek shelter. Witnesses say Cox was helping a youth and his mother get into the church safely when he was shot from behind by the undercover detective, who was at the funeral as part of another homicide investigation.
A grand jury ruled there was "insufficient evidence to support criminal charges" against Hill, prompting Cox's family to file a civil wrongful death suit. The suit is still pending.
Shannon said she hopes the exhibition will continue her son's heroic legacy.
"It's bittersweet, but it's also great to know the world is learning about this horrific murder of Fred Cox," she says. "They'll know my son died a hero, and he didn't just die in vain."
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