By Ayana Jones
PHILADELPHIA — Michelle Kerr-Spry has joined other local mothers in calling for peace in the streets after losing her son to gun violence in 2005.
“Let me just paint a picture for you,” she said during a rally Thursday afternoon held by Mothers in Charge.
“Too many mothers cannot even say goodbye to their children and give a kiss on their forehead in the casket because the damage is so severe that they cannot have open caskets.”
Kerr-Spry recalled the harrowing experience of being at the hospital when her 18-year-old son Blain Spry was shot.
“In the hospital, when my son was shot all I knew is he had been shot four times. I didn’t have the wherewithal to ask where and I kept on trying to stroke his chin and the doctor just kept pulling my hand away,” she said. “What I didn’t know is that my son had been shot in his neck and there was barely any neck left.”
Kerr-Spry said he also sustained gunshots to his heart, kidney, lungs, and stomach.
“There was no vital organs left of my son,” she said. “Too many of us do not even have the closure to hug our babies — to say goodbye to our babies. They’re lying in some dirty street — in a place that they don’t know, with no one who loves them — dying,” said Kerr-Spry, a program director for Mothers in Charge.
“That’s the reality of gun violence. They die alone. They don’t die with us hugging them. They are brought into the world from our wombs, from our bodies, with love and they die alone,” she said.
Kerr-Spry was joined at the rally by other mothers who lost their children to gun violence, elected officials, young people, and leaders of nonprofit organizations who are calling for people to put the guns down.
Some of the mothers in attendance are marking this Mother’s Day for the first time without their children who were victims of gun violence.
Kerr-Spry said she’s tired of going through Mother’s Day laying on her son’s gravesite screaming “why are you not here and why hasn’t your killer been caught?
“While many of you are planning dinners and brunches to have with your mother, many of us don’t have the energy to face the day? That’s our reality,” she continued. “We are asking you for peace. We are telling you we want it now.”
During the event, Mothers In Charge founder Dorothy Johnson-Speight highlighted what led her to start the organization.
“I lay on my sofa in a fetal position in May of 2003 wondering what to do because I was in such pain because my son had been shot to death over a parking space,” she said. “It came to me what can I do and I had a vision of mothers with bullhorns, pleading with their sons — sons put down your guns — and that is how this theme came about.”
Johnson-Speight discussed the importance of everyone coming together to address gun violence.
“Mothers, fathers, everybody we need to get involved,” she stressed. “We’ve got to be the change that you want to see. We can’t depend on the police or elected officials all the time. We have to do what we have to do as well. These are our children. Nobody is going to come and save us. We’ve got to be the ones to do that.”
The event featured remarks from representatives of community organizations that are working to address the violence such as Black Male Community Council of Philadelphia, Man Up PHL, The CHARLES Foundation, Every Murder is Real and the No Mo Foundation.
During the rally, City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson presented MIC with a city citation. He addressed the importance of community members stepping up so that mothers who lost their children to gun violence can receive justice.
“We talk a lot about police reform, criminal justice reform but these mothers who have lost loved ones to senseless gun violence — for those who have cold cases — they deserve justice,” said Johnson, who is the chairman of City Council’s Special Committee on Gun Violence Prevention.
“So if you see something, say something because some of the best things that you can do for some of these mothers who have lost loved ones to gun violence is to help them have closure.
“So we also have to make sure that we step up to the plate as a community and work with the law enforcement and work with the district attorney’s office,” he said. “We know who is raising havoc in our community.
“We know who the shooters are and if you sit on the sideline and let those young men wreak havoc in our community without stepping up to the plate and trying to get them on the right path, when a homicide does happen and you don’t step up to the plate and work with the DA, work with the police commissioner and homicide to bring justice to the family, then you a part of the problem in the community.
“Because what happens when that young person commits that homicide they think they can do it again and again and again,” he continued.
Ayana Jones is a reporter at the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.
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