Grieving parents, Father Pfleger honor mothers of slain children

Mothers: ‘Don’t be afraid. Turn in the shooters’


By Chinta Strausberg


CHICAGO, IL – Joining members of the “Purpose Over Pain” coalition which hosted Sunday’s press conference held by Saint Sabina’s “Memorial Wall” which contains photos of slain children located at 78th Place and Racine was Father Michael L. Pfleger who prayed for the mothers and presented each with a red rose and a pink balloon that included the name of their child written in a black marker.

“For many people today, this is a very difficult day,” said Pfleger. “While many celebrate and going out to dinner…celebrating the gift of their children, for these mothers that are here, it is a day of struggle, a day of pain and a day of hurt.”

But, the reason “Purpose Over Pain,” a group of mothers and fathers who lost their children to gun violence, held the press conference was to explained that “we don’t want the pain of their lost to rob them of the gift of their motherhood,” said Pfleger. “We don’t want violence to win out. We don’t want violence and the enemy to have more power than the gift of the lives these mothers gave.

“We came here today to wrap our arms around these mothers to let them now that they do not stand alone. We stand together as a family of faith. We stand together as brothers and sisters who walk this journey as painful as it may be sometimes together.” He said there is a support group that will stand with them.

To the mothers, Pfleger said, “We come to celebrate you and let you know that even though it is painful for you right now, we understand that your children may not be here to take you out to breakfast, your children may not be here to buy you some gifts, but your children are here from the balconies of heaven to say happy Mother’s Day. Your children are standing in the balconies of heaven to say ‘We love you’ and they are thanking God for you.”

On behalf of their children, Pfleger presented each of the mothers with a red rose. “Don’t let the violence rob you. You have these children love…. We thank God for you,” said Pfleger who prayed for the mothers. With heads bowed, he said, “The word tells us you are able to give us comfort. The word tells us that you know our pains and your word comes to give us comfort in the midst of our pains….

“We know if we lean on you and not to our own understanding that you will give us strength, that you are light in the midst of darkness, and hope in the midst of hopelessness, that you can give us peace that surpasses all understanding, that you can give us peace in the midst of things we don’t understand and can’t make sense of.

“I ask you God, to wrap your arms around each of these mothers, let them feel your presence. Let them feel your strength. Let them hear your voice that says to each of them even in the midst of their pain, I am with you. We ask that you continue to hold them close to you.

“We call on Mary, the mother of Jesus, because she knows what it’s like to lose a son to violence,” said Pfleger. “So, Mary stand with each of these mothers today that they like you can hold on to God, hold on to their faith and put their trust in him…. Let them know, they do not stand alone and that even they are physically separated from their children, that spiritually their children look down from them in Heaven’s Row they are on this day in the throne of God thanking God for each of their mothers.”

Pam Bosley, the mother of Terrell Bosley, 18, who was fatally shot on April 4, 2006 while standing in a church parking lot, told reporters: “We stand on behalf of mothers who lost their children to violence.  We stand on behalf of mothers who cannot get out of bed because they lost their children to violence. We stand here today for mothers who lost their minds, their health…

“We’re going to march today on behalf of the cowards who continue to murder and take our children every single day,” said Bosley who announced they were going to march against those officials who say crime has been reduced 2 percent but in Englewood it went up 40 percent. “Are they counting us out? We march against those telling us counting us out and our youth out….”

More than 50 mothers who lost their children to gun violence took black markers and wrote the names of their children on pink balloons. Clutching pictures of their slain children and holding the strings of the balloons, they told of the pain they continue to suffer due to gun violence that has forever changed their lives.

Nayda Figueroa, who held a picture of her grandson, Joseph Perez, 17, who was shot ten times by a gangbanger on November 1, 2007. “Today means I will not get a hug from my grandson or see that beautiful smile,” she said her eyes tearing up.

Wanda Slater held a picture of her son, Reginald Raylo, 22, who was killed August 1, 2010 at 8434 S. Euclid. “He was at a party with some friends and some guys in a car came by and did a drive by shooting and he and his friend were both murdered,” the distraught mother said clutching the picture of her son.

Tamoa Butler, whose son, Darius Parish, 20, was killed November 7, 2011. Sunday was her first Mother’s Day without her son. Slater said her son was killed at 62nd and Damen in a dive by shooting.

Myrna Roman held a picture of her son, Manuel Manny Roman, 23, who was shot on November 1, 2009 and died December 5, 2009. He was coming out of a gas station where he purchased a can of Coca-Cola; the mother said her voice cracking from grief. “ “His wife was pregnant at the time” he was shot. “We have three children being raised without a father not by choice, which makes me very angry.

“We did everything we were supposed to as parents to raise our children right; yet someone took their lives away. I am hurting. I’m angry and I’m tired of hearing that there are other statistics out there. I raise my son not to be a statistic, not to be involved in drugs…or gangs, to be a good father, to be a good mentor to his sons and his babies and now he ends up being a statistic? I am really angry….

Marvis Robinson, held a picture of her son, Rashad Robinson, 19. He was fatally shot on March 1, 2011.  He was at 111th and Wentworth when he was shot. “He was standing outside talking to his friends and talking on the phone to some girl, as usual.

“A guy came out of the alley and shot him three times. He was shooting at the crowd, and he was the first one to fall. Then the guy walked over and said, ‘This n—-‘ is still alive’ and shot him two more times,” she recalled. “He was my only son,” Robinson said saying this is her second Mother’s Day without her son.

Marsha Lee, held a picture of her son, Thomas Lee, 20, who was killed on August 14, 2008 at 147th and Loomis when he came out of a store in Harvey, IL. “So that this crowd does not continue to grow, it takes one thing for us to do. Many of us know that our children are involved in. Many of us know that our children were selling drugs. Many of us know that our children were selling drugs.

“You don’t speak up because you’re afraid. You need to be afraid to have the shooters on the street,” said Lee. “We are not safe.” She appealed to President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama who promotes healthy eating for children. “It does no good for them to eat healthy when they can’t walk the streets,” said Lee. “We are rampant with violence…. We are speaking out so that this crowd won’t continue to grow….”

Saying she was raised in the Robert Taylor Homes, Lee said, “I don’t buy that when they say because you have a job you decide to come out and shoot. I don’t buy that because I was raised in Robert Taylor Homes.” She said her father did not work because he was disabled. “None of his children robbed. None of us ended up going to jail or to prison. I don’t buy that. You make the decision….” She said blacks and Hispanics are ending up in jail and prison as “a slave with a number on your back.”

Yvette Leyva, the mother of Cordea Leyva, 24, who was killed on October 17, 2010 on the 7800 block of Sawyer around 3:30 p.m. while walking home from a local store. She held onto her son’s picture.

The mothers released their pink balloons as Deneen Bohanon Silmon, the mother of Andre Bohanon, 21, who was robbed and shot in December of 2005, read the names of the child who were fatally shot.

“We’re sending a clear message today. Turn the shooters in. We’re tired of our children getting killed. We’re tired of burying our children. You know who the shooters are. You know who the gun suppliers are. Turn them in. Don’t be afraid of turning in a shooter,” said Silmon.

“Be afraid of the knock at your door to tell you that your loved one, your child has been killed. It’s time to turn the shooters in. Enough is enough. Enough killings, enough families destroyed, enough generations gone. It’s time to turn the shooters in. On this Mother’s Day, you don’t want to walk in our shoes,” Silmon said.

Led by Father Pfleger, the mothers marched down 79th Street around several block back to the church chanting, “Enough is enough,” “Stop the violence,” “Stop the shooting,” “Stop the silence,” “Break the silence,” and “No more violence.”

They ended their march at the “Memorial Wall” where Pfleger told them to hold the arms of each other. “We connect with one other because we want each of you to know that nobody stands alone…. When you’re laying in bed and you feel forgotten and feel abandoned and feel lost in your pain, sometimes the enemy will make you think you’re all by yourself.” He said they are not alone. “Lord, send your grace to them. Send your spirit to them. Let them know, God, that they are not alone, that they are not forgotten…. God, help every mother that agonizes throughout this country over the lost of their child, let them hear your voice that says, I am with you. You are not alone…. I am God enough to hold you in the midst of it all….”

At the end of the 11:15 a.m. worship service, Rev. Gail Rice, the keynote speaker, stood with Pfleger who asked all mothers to come to the altar. He also asked the church to keep Annette Nance-Holt in their prayers because not only is she remembering the death of her son, Blair Holt , 17, who was fatally shot five-years ago aboard a CTA bus, but just last Wednesday a day before that anniversary her mother, Juanita Nance, 86, made her transition.

Pfleger told Nance-Holt: “I have watched you grow in the faith in you so strong. When her son was killed, there was no preparation. She heard it on a phone call, but her mother sat her down last Saturday and told her I’m getting ready to go and spent an hour of conversation….”

Using Nance-Holt as an example, Pfleger said, “God knows what you can handle and…God prepared her.” Mrs. Nance talked to her daughter last Saturday and she died last Wednesday. “You have to understand that God will prepare you. God can hold you and let you know….” Pfleger said their children are standing with God, now.

Pfleger asked the church take a page from the previous generation where the community looked after the children and served as mentors. “Reach out to that young brother across the street because if you don’t do it, maybe nobody else will….”

Rev. Rice and Father Pfleger prayed for the mothers. Rice said, “It was women like you who prayed me through…so I just want to say thank you…. When my mother didn’t know what to do with me and I tell you I was a hot mess…, my mother stayed on her knees and God answered her prayers…. I thank you for what you poured into us….”

Rice said many times people talk about mothers because their children exhibited anti-social behavior, “because they weren’t excelling like their children were excelling and it had to be something that we did wrong, but the devil is a lie,” she told the church.

“We won’t listen to the words of naysayers. We will be the mothers God said that we are. We will continue to persevere. We will continue to pray for our sons and daughters, and we will succeed…. We will see our sons and daughters graduate from school..,” said Rice.

Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: