Speaker says violence hurts everyone

Mar. 27, 2013 @ 10:14 PM

Violence costs the United States billions each year and hurts everyone, a speaker who travels the country promoting ways to reduce the bloodshed said Wednesday night.

Dorothy Johnson-Speight, founder of Mothers in Charge, lost her 24-year-old son to a gunman in Philadelphia who shot him seven times in 2001 during a parking space dispute. She wants others to be spared similar heartbreak.

“I lay almost in a fetal position crying that night because I was missing him so,” she said at a gathering at St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church on Onslow Street. “And I thought: ‘What can I do?’ ”

That’s when she formed the grassroots organization with other mothers whose children had suffered violent deaths.

“We talk about the impact of violence and enroll folks in the idea of getting out to make a difference,” she said.

She believes everyone can be an agent for change.

“I think change begins in the heart, because we’ve got to have passion for wanting to create anything,” she said. “But change also involves hands and feet. You’ve got to be about the business of moving to make a difference.”

In her travels across the United States and abroad, Johnson-Speight said, she often meets people who don’t believe they can do anything about violence.

“And I have to disagree with that,” she said. “There’s something each of us can do – whether you’re mentoring a young person at risk, or writing a congressperson or you’re just a young person reaching out to another young person.’’

Anger is often at the root of violence, she said, but many people don’t know how to control it.

“A lot of deaths that you see throughout the country have to do with conflict – people in arguments,” she said. “There’s got to be another way to handle it, and violence is not the answer.”

Easy accessibility to handguns is another reason for violent deaths, she said.

“We have nothing to say about folks who are responsible gun owners,” she said. “It’s about when the guns end up in the wrong hands – that’s got to change.”

Also speaking at the “community response” was Durham resident Joslin Simms, whose 31-year-old son, Ray Simms, was shot to death at the corner of Broad and Leon streets on May 21, 2005. The homicide is unsolved.

“All of this violence has got to stop,” Simms said. “There’s a lot of people who know about this stuff that’s going on, but they’re too scared to tell, or they don’t want to tell because it’s a friend. But they’ve got to look at it this way: They don’t know if these people have killed before or killed afterward. And as long as they’re quiet, no one is safe.”

Simms urged people with information about crime to call Durham CrimeStoppers and report what they know anonymously.

And she said parents should take guns away from their children.

“If you know people with these guns, report them,” she said. “If you know your child has a gun, take the gun away. Too many kids are walking around with more weapons and better weapons than the police. It’s just ridiculous.”

In the past, she said, people settled arguments with a fistfight, but those days are over.

“Now, if someone gets mad, they shoot you,” she said. “People have to realize that when they take my child’s life, they’re messing up not only my family’s life, but the other family’s life, too.

“It’s a circle, and the circle just keeps getting wider and wider,” she said. “We need to put a halt to it.”


On the Web: Mothers in Charge www.mothersincharge.org