As Mother’s Day approaches, grieving moms plead for gun violence solutions

Interfaith leaders, youth mentors, law enforcement representatives and elected officials spoke at an anti-gun violence rally at City Hall Thursday. Mothers in Charge, a nonprofit led by mothers who've lost children to gunfire, organized the event. (Sammy Caiola/WHYY)

Interfaith leaders, youth mentors, law enforcement representatives and elected officials spoke at an anti-gun violence rally at City Hall Thursday. Mothers in Charge, a nonprofit led by mothers who've lost children to gunfire, organized the event. (Sammy Caiola/WHYY)

Working on a solution to gun violence and want to share it? Get in touch with gun violence prevention reporter Sammy Caiola here.

In advance of Mother’s Day weekend, moms who’ve lost children to gun violence rallied at City Hall Thursday to plead with community members and politicians to do more to stop the shootings.

They’re asking for afterschool activities, job opportunities and mentorship programs for young people, as well as more restrictions on firearm purchasing.

“We really have got to have some reasonable gun laws, and some places for our children to go and to earn income,” said Michelle Kerr-Spry, program director for Mothers in Charge, the nonprofit behind the event.

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Kerr-Spry says while other families are planning Mother’s Day brunches, she’ll be visiting her son’s gravesite. Blain Spry was fatally shot in September 2005, at age 18.

With Philadelphia averaging 1.5 homicides per day, she says she wants newly bereaved mothers to know they aren’t alone.

“They are going to celebrate Mothers Day for the first time without their child,” she said. “What do you do with that?”

Mothers in Charge held the rally along with several other gun violence prevention nonprofits. Schools and youth organizations were in attendance, as were City Council members and interfaith leaders.

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Students from the Sankofa Freedom Academy Charter. School participate in a rally at City Hall Thursday. The event was organized by Mothers in Charge, a nonprofit led by moms who’ve lost children to gun violence. (Sammy Caiola/WHYY)

Danyelle Young, an Upper Darby resident originally from West Philly, says she attended the event because she “can’t sit home anymore.”

“I been praying, but I need to do something to make a difference,” she said.

Speakers at the event said community members can get involved by spreading the word about prevention services that already exist in their neighborhoods, and talking to their elected officials about what else is needed.

Solomon Jones, executive director of nonprofit ManUpPHL, implored attendees to help redirect young men who may be at risk for becoming perpetrators of violence.

“Those 200 or 300 people at that funeral, those could be 200 or 300 people that don’t have to go through that trauma, if our young men would just stand up and be men,” he said. “But somebody gotta show ‘em how to do it.”

From now through Monday, ManUpPHL is accepting applications for its “Listening to the Streets” mentorship program, for men of color ages 18-35 who have been impacted by the criminal justice system.

“If you know a young man who could be out on these streets or could be somewhere working, could be somewhere supporting a family … we want to hear from you,” he said.

Event speakers encouraged all parents to keep a close eye on their children and to show them care and support while also connecting them to mentorship services, mental health help or anything else they might need.

There are places for community members impacted by violence to go, including EMIR Healing Center and the Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia. The city recently launched an Office of the Victim Advocate to provide additional support to victims of crime and their loved ones.

Spry encouraged other grieving mothers to continue showing up and reaching out.

“Thank you everybody for making this day so amazing, and letting these new mothers know they’re not alone,” she said. “Because this is a lonely journey.”
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If you or someone you know has been affected by gun violence in Philadelphia, you can find grief support and resources here.

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