WOMAN: When you lose a child, you... it takes half of you away.
TINA MARTIN: Each of these women has lost a child to gun violence.
The anger that I have I will never get rid of.
WOMAN: Don't ever feel like you're alone, 'cause you're not alone.
MARTIN: Through sisterhood and activism, they are healing and fighting back.
WOMAN: If I didn't keep myself surrounded with positive people and the mothers here, I don't know how I would have made it.
MARTIN: "Heaven Can You Hear Me?"
on Local, USA.
♪ NEWS ANCHOR: Deadly shootings in Philadelphia could be linked... NEWS ANCHOR: An 18-year-old and a 21 year-old are dead, a 17-year-old was... NEWS ANCHOR: Gunman shot him twice... (camera shutter clicking) ♪ PHOTOGRAPHER: Bring the image as far forward as you can.
- Like this?
PHOTOGRAPHER: Yeah, that's perfect.
- Put it in front of my face or down?
In front like that?
PHOTOGRAPHER: Down just a little bit so I can see your eyes.
♪ MAN: I mean, gun violence in Philadelphia is the number one leading cause of death for African American men aged 14 to 24-- number one.
WOMAN: Chin down just a little-- yeah, there we go.
PATRICIA: My name is Dr. Patricia Griffin, and this is my son, Darien Owen Griffin.
We're incarcerating folks at numbers that are unbelievable but we won't put the resources in to do the healing that needs to be happening.
There need to be trauma centers in every community in Philadelphia.
Because there's so much pain, and grief, and loss, and we're paying for that in ways that it's unbelievable.
♪ DOROTHY: Good evening, everyone.
AUDIENCE: Good evening.
DOROTHY: My name is Dorothy Johnson-Speight.
First of all, let me say, welcome.
I see some new faces.
So if you're here for the first time, I'm sorry that you're here, but glad that you came.
I started Mothers In Charge in May of 2003.
This is my son's picture here.
His name was Khaaliq, and he was 24 years old.
And he was shot seven times over a parking space.
And Mothers In Charge has been the vehicle for me to heal.
This is what we do here at Mothers In Charge, to help you know that you can live through it.
We're here to support you with that.
♪ DOROTHY: On December 6, a cold night, I got the phone call that I had been dreading my entire life.
That Khaaliq had been shot and to come quick.
He had just been accepted into Lincoln University's Master's program and he wanted to move in with his brother.
And while, you know, he was 24, I wanted to say, "No, no, no," but I'm thinking, "Okay, well he's gonna move on American Street.
What could possibly happen on American Street?"
It was a nice neighborhood.
♪ There had been an argument with one of Khaaliq's friends about parking and Khaaliq was trying to break up the argument.
And Ernest Odom came out of the house and shot him seven times.
That was the worst day of my life and I didn't think I was going to survive it.
♪ CHRISTINA: The mural is a blanket that I received from the Salvin Funeral Home.
Comfort blanket, they actually called it.
And, um... it's beautiful.
Um... it's like he's just walking off into his next life, his next journey.
Almost as if he knew his time was about to expire.
This one here is Alex and his brother Cameron.
It was really funny because I looked and I said, "You guys have on the same exact outfit."
This one right here with the bushy drags is Alex and the one that's neat is Cameron.
There was a lot of competition in the house.
Video games, just basketball... We always played with each other, we had a court out back.
I was in the house and I had just stepped outside to smoke a cigarette and the next thing you know there's people running up the block telling me what happened.
We were due to work the polls that Tuesday.
He was very interested in politics.
It was two days before the election, we were talking to various young people.
I was asking him, you know, "How old are you?
"Are you registered to vote?"
And he said, "I work the polls."
And we was just so impressed we all stopped.
And that really caught Chris's attention, who happened to be in the store.
I wanted him on my team.
Any young person in the district who had that type of enthusiasm, who had that kind of presence, was somebody I wanted to work with.
And I remember saying, "Get that brother's number."
FEMALE WITNESS: There were two young people sitting on the corner and I heard a girl yell out, "Oh my God."
MALE WITNESS: "Oh my God, oh my God."
And then I heard a gunshot.
It didn't register until I saw him fall.
They just shot the little brother we were talking to.
NEWS ANCHOR: Police say the victim was talking with state rep candidate Chris Rabb and then to a staffer.
RABB: And to his parents... (voice breaking): my deepest condolences.
I was in shock.
My friends were in shock.
It was pure chaos.
When I got there, they already had everything covered up, but you could still see the outfit.
So once I saw just the sneakers and the pants alone, like I knew it was him, and that's when I just went crazy.
Cops was trying to restrain me, my brother's, he's running around the other side, trying to get over here, they chasing him.
When I got there, I ran up the street... (humorless chuckle) they had already removed the body.
Of course, I'm saying, "No..." I'm like, "It gotta be somebody else."
And I said to my sister, I said, "Where was he laying?"
And she said, "Right there."
When I touched the blood on the ground... um... that's when I knew it was my son.
♪ DOROTHY: It was April of 2003.
And I was laying in my bed in a fetal position and I was crying and, and having a real bad time with Khaaliq's death.
And I think I must've kinda dozed for a minute, but I had a vision, and the vision was that I was in a boxing ring with all of these mothers, and we had bullhorns, and we were crying and we were pleading with our sons to put down the guns.
I took that as a sign to me that I needed to be doing something.
That I need to organize mothers who had lost children.
And not just mothers.
I mean mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, any woman who's been affected by violence, to come together to change the things that were happening in Philadelphia.
So that's how Mothers In Charge was started.
and that was what gave me a reason to get up every day.
♪ All right, so we gonna get started.
It's really late today.
My name is Johndell Gredic.
My son, Nassir, was murdered May the 25th, 2015.
Memorial Day weekend.
And it's like a big piece of me is missing, and it's going to always, like... it's going to always be there.
But before I started coming to Mothers In Charge, I didn't know how to cry.
I had a lot of anger inside of me and I just wanted to just fight, curse people out and stuff.
But through-- I call them my golden girls-- through my golden girls, they really... they really helped me a lot.
Along with the other mothers, they really helped me get in touch with my feelings a little bit more better, and, like, not hold it in.
So who's the golden girls?
(laughter) All of us, right?
- (laughing): Them three.
(laughter) DOROTHY: The good part about it is we can laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time.
We have grief support or if you want to be connected to another mom who's lost someone that we can connect you with, 'cause a lot of times, that's who they want to talk to.
Someone who's had that experience that can tell them that they will live.
That they will survive through it.
My mood is subject to change.
I might feel this way right now, another hour from now I might feel completely different.
I'm trying to keep my mouth closed 'cause, you know, tears gonna come down.
- That's okay.
- Let 'em come.
DOROTHY: This is not the place... this is not the place where you're told you can't cry.
You can cry as much as you need to.
And most of us around this table know that those feelings are like a rollercoaster.
So not sometimes it's hour-to-hour, sometimes it's minute-to-minute.
Don't ever feel like you're alone 'cause you're not alone.
We're here to be with you, stand by you.
Let it out.
I've been coming since 2011.
Not just for myself, but for those who are coming and those who are still here.
That's why I'm here.
DOROTHY: And that is so appreciated.
That is so appreciated, the women who continue to come.
And not always for themselves now, but to help someone else, to help the new mom who's coming.
(music coming from speakers on the street) COLWIN WILLIAMS: I like that.
MAN: You like that?
Yeah, I like that.
MAN: Yeah, it's called grown man music.
COLWIN: Yeah, exactly.
(voiceover): This is one of the most high risk areas in North Philadelphia.
This is 17th and Susquehanna.
Chadwick here, you know, within the last year, year and a half, we done had like three homicides here, you know what I mean, within the two-, three-block radius.
And our whole thing is intervention.
Try to get in front of it before it happen.
And then when it does happen, we try to do the best we can to try to mediate it or mitigate it as much so there's no retaliation.
Lot of pain out there, a lot of... a lot of anger.
No one should be killing someone over a slice of pizza at a pizza place... or Facebook.
But oftentimes, the folks that are behind this type of violence have been victimized in many ways themselves and it's gone unaddressed.
No one's addressing their violence.
♪ REUBEN JONES: I think these young men live with this inevitability of death.
So as much as they try to preserve it by carrying a gun, you know, maybe prolong it.
I think a lot of them live with the reality that, you know, basically their lives don't have any value.
One kid told me, "Mr. Reuben, I don't wanna be the only one on the block "without a gun; you know, that makes me a victim, that makes me vulnerable."
They should be teaching two things in the schools: conflict resolution and some type of trauma treatment.
I mean, so many of our young people have been traumatized without ever having the opportunity to heal.
"Hope you like this photo, Mom, I love you.
"Why do we look so serious?
"Laugh out loud.
We shout out."
(laughs) We did look a little serious, too.
For him, this was a major accomplishment.
This was a good day.
CAMERON: My whole life switched in the blink of an eye.
Like sometimes it could be just overwhelming.
And then you got to deal with walking through the neighborhood, months later, people still, "How you holding up?
How you doing this, how are you doing that?"
It's like, you know, I just...
I just want to just deal with it on my own.
I don't... you know?
I don't believe that Cameron will be able to heal alone.
He has a lot of bottled up emotions.
People say, "Well, you have to face it," and things like that but, um, you know, that's...
I face it on my own time.
I have dreams, I face it every night.
Being a man, I feel like it's best to just try and get over it and take it for what it is.
And I'm sorry he feels that way, you know, because, um... being a man doesn't make you unable to grieve.
DOROTHY: All right, so anger is the theme tonight.
We're talking about anger.
You know, and, and that's one of the emotions that we wrestle with, that we deal with, that sometimes we can't get past.
I was so angry at God that I used to have a friend who would call me up and says, "I just want to have a word of prayer with you.
Can we pray?"
I put the phone down.
Like, I ain't trying to hear that.
(laughter) And I go back and pick up the phone, she still be praying.
I'd put the phone down again!
(laughter) I raised my grandson from two years old to age 19.
Four days after his 19th birthday, he was shot in the back.
The anger that I have I will never get rid of.
JOHNDELL: I blame his cousin.
And they father say, "Well, you shouldn't be angry.
You shouldn't feel that way about people."
That's my child.
This going to break our families up.
This was not right and this was not fair!
This should have never occurred for my daughter and for the other girls that it happened to.
I don't know where their families are.
How did this guy get away with doing all this?
(stammering): I'm hot!
- You have the right to.
- I am... super hot.
- You have a right to be.
DOROTHY: And you have the right to be.
You have the right to be.
Anybody else want to talk about how you've handled some of your anger?
When you lose a child, you... you know, it takes... it takes half of you away.
You know, it takes a piece of you that you'll never get back.
Um, with that missing piece, I filled it with... the anger.
Unfortunately, that anger consumed me for a couple of years that led to addiction, that led to D.U.I.s, that led to prison.
Not only did we lose a sibling, and a son, but now they've lost a mother.
Of course, I was angry at God, too, so that really didn't help.
DOROTHY: Mm... Talk about that a little bit because people tell us, of course, we should not be angry at God.
It's just like you can't question God like... Oh, I did.
I kicked, and screamed, and yelled, and threw things and he never left me, I left him.
But, you know, he never... he never left me.
And I had a dream and it was like I was talking to God, like in person, like for real.
And he was like, "Well, if I would have came to you "19 years ago, and told you that I was going to give you "a beautiful, healthy son for 19 years, you would have jumped on that in a heartbeat."
He goes, "And that's what I did."
It was not what he took away, it was what he gave me.
I still deal with the anger.
I don't think it's ever going to go away.
But like Miss Dorothy said, I learn... you learn to channel it.
So today, I let it fuel and propel me in the right direction.
So I hope with my story I can help someone else feel a little more stronger and heal, so... - Hugs.
DOROTHY: Give her a hug, that's nice.
♪ KEMPIS: Who am I?
I'm someone that, at the age of 15, joined a gang, and was doing unsavory things-- selling cocaine out of fortified row homes.
An explosive act of violence took place, and I ended up with blood on my hands that, at the age of 15, that the next 30 years of incarceration was never able to wash off and no amount of good that I've done, or that will do, will ever be able to wash off.
The mother of Andrew Price, in my case, she died without ever hearing me apologize to her for taking her son's life.
I would like to apologize to her through you as a mother.
And although I'm not directly responsible for your loss, I am so sorry, sister, for the pain that you had to go through.
I can't even imagine it.
You did not deserve it.
Your child did not deserve it.
And we just want nothing but to be your sons again.
You know what I'm saying?
Can we be your sons?
Can we be your brothers?
(camera shutter clicking) PHOTOGRAPHER: Chin down just a bit.
(camera shutter clicking) SHARON: When my son was killed, we were devastated.
It tore the family apart, and I was on the verge of a breakdown because I wanted to know why did the guy kill my son.
I used to write him every day when he was in prison and I asked him why.
That's all I would ask him-- why?
Um, never got an answer, but I forgave him for me, not for him.
(camera shutter clicking) ♪ CHRISTINA: One day, I saw myself just going into like a, uh... spiral downfall.
All of a sudden, very sad, tearful.
The holiday time for my family is really a big, big deal.
DOROTHY: You know, being just a year in your grief, I know I wasn't there at that point.
When I was a year after Khaaliq's death, I was bitter, and angry, and hurting, in pain and, and... Yeah, you know, some days you think you're... "Oh, okay, I'm ready to take on the world" and... - Other days, you can't get up.
- Other days, you just can't even, like, you know, I'm like a statue, just can't move.
I, I need counseling.
I feel like I've been crying now for like three weeks and I don't...
I don't want to cry anymore.
DARLENE: And I'm going to introduce Miss Christina Cherry.
She lost her son Alex.
Thank you for inviting me.
So, I'm gonna go around the table and I want everybody to say just one thing that was really, really funny about your loved one.
In the morning, I used to try to talk to him and he'd be like... and my breath would be stinky early in the morning.
(laughter) He'd be like, "Don't talk, mm-mm, Alexis."
(laughter) The funny thing about Alex was how I used to always go in his room at night when he was sound asleep and jump on his bed and he would always get mad and be like, "Yo, Mom."
(laughter) Having someone that understands your pain.
Many times family and friends won't.
And maybe because you've never experienced it, you don't either.
You don't understand that some of the things that you're experiencing that you or somebody may identify as being crazy, that it's really normal.
How long did it take, like, to wake up and just not have that drenching, burning feeling in your gut?
Does it go away, pretty much?
DIANE: It doesn't go away, but I'm going to say it like this, you always on a rollercoaster.
You feel like you've been taken to the operating room, given no anesthesia, and that's how you feel.
One day you up, the next day you down.
If I didn't keep myself surrounded with positive people and the mothers here, I don't know how I would've made it.
You just be you and not have to feel bad that you act that way.
- That's right.
PATRICIA: We're here 'cause we understand where you at.
We had that cry, we had to scream, you know what I mean?
We all walk a different path.
CHRISTINA: I just wanted to say thank you for just accepting me 'cause it's been really hard for me to, like, um... interact with my friends and family, because I guess for all of us, I'm like forever different different, and I'm never gonna be the same person that I was before, so I'm, I'm just happy being here.
♪ DOROTHY: I don't know what makes one person's resilience or ability to get up and do something and another person to lay there.
And I've seen some mothers who come through the organization who are able to find purpose and maybe, you know, some type of foundation in memory of their loved one or something.
And then there are other mothers that I've seen over the last seven, eight, ten years who are stuck in anger, in grief, in pain, in depression, and that's where they are.
And I really don't know what determines, you know, which journey that you will be on.
♪ CHRISTINA: It was overwhelming.
There were so many emotions.
And as they went around the room and told these stories, it was a sense of healing, I guess you could say, for me.
I felt okay.
Because I knew that Christina, you are not alone.
But, some days I don't think that I want to stop crying.
Some days, I think that I just wanna... miss him the way that I want to miss him.
I want to cry when I want to cry.
I want to just be sad when I want to be sad.
And I think a part of me still needs to let go.
(sighs) But then there's a part of me where I don't want to let go yet.
(indistinct chatter) (music playing loudly on speaker) MAN: This is the third sibling that his mother and father lost.
That was his father who was real irate, he just broke down, you know what I mean?
'Cause it's his third child.
He was shot a couple of blocks down.
Family came out, a lot of people had a lot of things to say about this young man, good things to say about him.
You know, this is, this... it just... this one really hurt.
It just really hurt, because he was a baby, man.
♪ MAN: Come on!
SPEAKER: Everybody put the balloons in their right hand and lift 'em up high.
On the count of three, we gonna scream his name and release the balloons.
One, two, three!
(crowd shouts indistinctly) ♪ DOROTHY: At the rising of the sun, and its going down, we remember them.
At the blowing of the wind, and in the chill of winter, we remember them.
At the opening of the buds, and in the rebirth of spring, we remember them.
With the blueness of the skies, and the warmth of summer, we remember them.
As long as we live, they, too, will live for they are always a part of us as we remember them.
Get up and give somebody a hug.
♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪