As a kid growing up in New York City, I remember hearing gunshots, thinking they were actually firecrackers. I remember my mom being scared when I went to the corner store, even though it was so close she could see it from our house.
When I was in high school, I remember the day I heard gunshots from a local playground. As I hid for safety, I saw a friend bleed from a gunshot wound, and another friend died right in front of me. These experiences of gun violence were my daily existence as a child.
I had hoped that they would not be the daily reality of my children.
In the late ’80s and early’ 90s, the murder rate in New York City worsened by the time I became a mother. My son’s uncle was killed in his apartment building. A friend of mine was killed walking out of a building as I sat on a bench waiting for him. Stories of gun violence continued to surround me and I began to understand why my mother was so scared.
Then on August 7, 2006, I received a call that stopped me breathing.
“Reese, Ronnie was shot.
My cousin called me to tell me about my oldest son, Andrell Daron – we called him Ronnie. Shortly after I reached him he was pronounced dead.
Mother to mother I appeal to Vice President Kamala Harris, the first woman to hold the second highest position in the free world: think about what it would be like to see your life turned upside down by violence . Think about the last person you saw – your child, your spouse, or a close family member – and imagine never seeing them again. You will never hear their voice, never feel the caress of their skin or their supportive embrace. As a mother, there is a void that can never be replaced when you lose a child.
The guilt I feel for not being able to save him will never go away.
I’m sure the vice-president has heard stories like mine before. Maybe she even pursued cases like that of my son’s murderers. I want Harris to know that the impact of gun violence and incarceration begins before and continues after our courts intervene.
I raised two black sons on my own, after their father was sentenced to 40 years in prison for a double homicide. Even as a single mother, I have dedicated my life to protecting my sons from violence on our streets. My son was not a gang member, yet he was killed as a result of gun violence by gang members. While five of the shooters were convicted, this result did not allow me to close.