Mothers call for peace, forgiveness
March honors sons and daughters who were shooting victims
It was a late Monday night this past August when Chanel Gaskins got the phone call she never thought she’d receive: Her 13-year-old daughter had been shot and killed outside a 7-Eleven in Middle River, not a mile from home, in a neighborhood she had always considered safe.
“I didn’t ask any questions,” she said. “I just got up and ran.”
Gaskins joined at least 30 other mothers, grandmothers and children Saturday evening for a peace and forgiveness walk in Northeast Baltimore’s Belair-Edison neighborhood. The walk was organized by the Mothers of Murdered Sons and Daughters, known as MOMS, to raise awareness about the toll gun violence takes on families and send a message that enough is enough.
“Too many people think to solve the problem is to pick up a gun,” Gaskins said. “I’m willing to take a stand.”
With more than 260 homicides in Baltimore so far in 2017, a 13 percent increase over last year, the group’s message is more important than ever, said MOMS founder Daphne Alston. “We’re saying, as the moms who have lost our children — and most of us do not have solved cases — we’re willing to forgive what you all have done,” she said, “if you all change your ways and stop this senseless violence.”
The walk started at the corner of Belair Road and Nicholas Avenue, the site of one of seven homicides over Labor Day weekend. A makeshift memorial of empty wine and liquor bottles, teddy bears and synthetic roses was still assembled around a light post. “Love you kid” and “never forgotten” were among the messages scrawled on the pole.
Alston said they came to this corner to send a message of support to neighbors. “The people here, they are scared, they are traumatized, they don’t have any hope,” Alston said. “We are the hope.”
Later, they planned to march in the city’s Barclay neighborhood.
Alston, whose 22-year-old son was killed nine years ago, said MOMS gives grieving family members a place to get help from others who understand from experience what they’re going through. “The pain was just so great,” Alston recalled. “Your friends and family love you and all, but it’s hard talking to them over and over again.”
Led by a police escort, the group set off down Nicholas Avenue around 5 p.m. chanting, “Enough is enough!” and “Stop the violence, save our children!”
A few neighbors out on their front porches clapped and cheered them on.
“At the end of the day, they are the faces of all these numbers and statistics we see,” said Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who joined the group on the walk. “They should have a voice,” she said. “It’s the only thing that’s left.”
Cynthia Bruce of Manchester was walking in memory of her 23-year-old son, who was shot and killed in Baltimore in July 2015. She joined MOMS shortly after her son’s death and said the group has been invaluable.
Events like Saturday’s walk send an important message — one she said she hopes others outside the group will begin to echo, “so Baltimore will wake up, rise up and put the guns down.”
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