In the wake of six homicides this year in Evanston, a new group “MOMS Saving Our Sons” called a meeting to rally the community to take action and stop the violence. The meeting, characterized as an informational meeting, drew about 40 people to the Joseph E. Hill administration building on Jan. 19. The organizers said additional meetings will be held in the coming months.
Rev. Richard Young, opened the evening meeting asking for a moment of silence. “Let’s begin by having a moment of silence for the children, especially the sons we have lost in the last six months,” he said. “All life has value. When any son of ours is lost, it hurts all of us.”
Wendy Weaver recounted how Rosa Parks had sparked the civil rights movement by refusing to give up her seat for a white woman on a bus in 1955. “Tonight,” she said, “because of the senseless violent death of David Branch, my nephew, it has sparked a group of concerned African American moms to lead a similar movement, Save Our Sons.
“Over the past six months, the Evanston community has experienced violence that has led to the death of some of our African American males: Marcus Davis, murdered Sept. 30, 2010 due to gun shots; Keith Tucker, murdered Dec. 8, 2010 due to gun shots; David Branch, murdered Dec. 21, 2010 due to stabbing; and recently Peter Lyons who committed suicide.”
After listing other shootings and violent acts in Evanston, she said, “Enough is enough.”
“Evanston, it is time to work together to end this senseless killing in our community,” she continued. “Don’t you become so well-adjusted to the violence in our community that you accept it without even thinking. I am here as a concerned mother of two sons. We need to no longer close our eyes and no longer accept the violence that is taking over our community and destroying African American males.”
Cathy Key Paynes said, “I am here tonight because my 26-year old son, David L. Branch, III, lost his life to a senseless act of violence. I am here tonight because I have a pain in my heart that I cannot express in words. I am here tonight because I feel I have to do something to prevent this tragedy that happened to me … to prevent it from happening to other moms.”
Ms. Paynes, with dignity and elegance, recounted the many comments and words of support expressed at her son’s funeral service on Dec. 29. “I believe David’s life and untimely death served as a wake-up call to me, my friends and the Evanston community at large,” she said.
“I am committed to working with other moms and Saving Our Sons,” she continued. “I leave with you the question [one person] posed at my son’s funeral, ‘What will you do next?’”
“Make a difference,” she urged.
Sherry Walker said, “I lost my son Ronald Walker on Dec. 12, 1996, 14 years ago, on the corner of Church and Dodge. My son was mistaken for someone else and was killed.” She said she has worked in the community and in Chicago to prevent violence. She said, “We need to have programs that will give our males a sense of self-worth … We need to teach them to be more productive in life … We need to help them resolve their conflicts in a positive manner.”
Rev. Hycel B. Taylor, whose remarks at David Branch’s funeral are said to have sparked the formation of Saving Our Sons, said, “The great tragedy is always at a funeral you have the whole community. On occasions like this to do something about it, you have only a few people. Why wait for another funeral to have a whole community.”
He said he looked out and told the sons at the funeral, “This is the Martin King era. My generation fought hard against racism and everything else out there so our children could live. Not to be shot in the head, not by a brother in the community…”
Rev. Taylor used an analogy of an airplane, where the people on the plane are a community, and there is a pilot, marshals, attendants, passengers and cargo. “We are in a dead man’s spiral right now,” he said. “We need to level our wings.”
Brian Smith, a member of the Evanston community, called all the males attending the meeting, 14 in all, to the front of the room. “We stand together to tell you publicly we stand with the moms,” he said.
Barbara Campbell asked people who attended the meeting to spread the word about what was discussed, “so that more will come out to this village meeting, so that we can let them know in the streets that we are in control and not them and that we are going to look out for our children – all of our sons.”
Rev. Young said MOMs Saving Our Sons is a hub that can pull together other groups in the community. He said additional meetings will be scheduled very quickly. He added that “We have men from all the different churches represented in this movement .”