About a dozen women joined by the unfortunate common bond of having lost a child to gun violence shared their stories of courage and pain at a luncheon in Jamaica on Monday organized by Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica).
But it was more than a catharsis, it was a chance for the women to discuss what they think causes street violence and, more importantly, how to put an end to it.
Some suggestions included starting neighborhood patrols and youth programs, trying to put an end to the “don’t snitch mentality” and teen pregnancy, and encouraging parents to discipline their children from a young age, instilling strong morals and values.
“Not a day goes by where I don’t get a report from a commanding officer at a precinct saying that someone’s been shot,” Meeks said. “It seems as though it’s increasing as opposed to decreasing.”
Felonies are on the rise at all three precincts in Southeast Queens. At the 105th Precinct in Queens Village, crime is up nearly 10 percent for the year to date through July 22, according to the latest CompStat report. At the 103rd Precinct in Jamaica it has increased nearly eight and a half percent for the same time period and at the 113th, also in Jamaica, it has climbed 5 percent.
Meeks said that there was to be a meeting the next day between the Queens District Attorney, elected officials and area clergy. That’s one of the reasons he decided to hold the luncheon, so that he could bring the feedback he received from the women to the meeting.
After Shenee Johnson’s son Kedrick Ali Morrow was killed during a party in Springfield Gardens in 2010, she did more than just mourn. She founded Life Support, a nonprofit that provides a grief services to families shattered by gun violence.
“We always say it’s a club that no one wants to be in,” Johnson said. “But just reaching out and being able to talk to someone who can identify with what you’re going through is really helpful.”
Most of the cases remain unsolved, leaving the women to not only deal with the pain of their loss, but a lack of closure, Johnson said, and the suspicion that at any time they could run into their child’s killer on the street as well as the fear of retaliation against other siblings and family members.
“I don’t care what housing development you live in, what state, what borough — the projects never sleep,” said Penny Wrencher, whose son, Andre Saunders, was shot at the South Jamaica Houses in 2009. “There is always somebody in the window, but when it comes time for murder, they never see anything until it knocks on their door.”
Sharon Plummer of Far Rockaway just buried her son Shawn Owen Plummer, 18, last week and still had the memorial service program in her hand at the luncheon. He was shot dead near Seagirt Avenue and Beach 28th Street on July 13.
Unlike most of the mothers in attendance who shed tears, Plummer was angry and her emotional pain was clearly visible in her facial expressions. “It is not the parent’s fault,” she said firmly of the violence. “It is the system. ... This prison system — they have too much privilege in there. You murder someone, but you are going to sit upstate and watch TV and have a big meal and have visits. ... You take from me, I’m going to take from you.”
Toni Luck, 45, who spent 17 years in prison on various charges, had a different point of view. She lost her son Shakim Fields, 29, who was shot on Jan. 14, 2001 in Jamaica. Luck said if she could meet her son’s killer, who was never caught, she would want to help rehabilitate him and give him a second chance.
“I wasn’t here to work a law-abiding citizen job, and I might not have been the best mother in the world, but does that mean my pain is any different than yours?” she asked Plummer. “I’m going to tell you something about the system that you don’t know. Ain’t nobody sitting up in a max penitentiary bragging. It’s excruciating agony. It’s pain, misery and suffering.”