Portrait exhibit honors victims of Philadelphia gun violence ahead of Mother’s Day
The art exhibit at City Hall featured the portraits of 55 homicide victims as a way to help grieving mothers who’ve lost children to gun violence.
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For Crystal Arthur, Mother’s Day is a time to remember and celebrate her son Kristian. He was fatally shot in 2017, at age 29.
She attended an art exhibit at City Hall Friday, featuring the portraits of 55 homicide victims, including Kristian. She wore a pendant bearing his photo.
“God allowed me to be his mother, and I got to experience him for 29 years, and they were a good 29 years. I’m blessed with that,” she said.
Arthur heard about the event from Zarinah Lomax, a curator, artist, and violence prevention advocate who has launched multiple exhibits related to gun violence and grief. She partnered with Mural Arts Philadelphia on the Mother’s Day event.
“Portraits are just another way for you guys to feel seen,” she said to a crowd of several dozen parents. “It’s actually special because it’s individually yours and it’s actually about your child.”
In the City Hall courtyard, women embraced and shared memories. Arthur said meeting other grieving mothers has been vital to her healing over the last six years. She now runs a support organization called Live Life Like Kris.
“I’m really glad [about] this tribute she did, especially for Mother’s Day,” Arthur said. “This thing has made my whole day. It’s so vibrant.”
Shonda McClellan was there with Moms Bonded by Grief, another healing-centered nonprofit group. She said with Philadelphia’s gun violence crisis at an all-time high, victims often become “just a homicide number” and it’s up to their families to tell their stories. Her teenage daughter was fatally shot in 2017.
“Erica wasn’t just a number of 372 in 2017. She is my daughter, and she is a person,” McClellan said. “And this lets our kids’ faces be known and seen and not forgotten.”
The event wasn’t only for mothers. Willie Spratley was there to view a portrait of his daughter Ameya, who was murdered by her boyfriend.
He said he’ll be spending this Mother’s Day with her three sons.
“I’m gonna hold them tight on Sunday and tell them it’s OK, your mother is here with you, and she’s a part of you,” he said.
Anyone seeking grief support can find resources designed to help victims of gun violence in Philadelphia and their loved ones online.
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