A Sisterhood of Grieving Mothers Shares Survival Stories

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Phyllis Duncan, founder of Mothers of Murdered Sons, speaks during the first meeting of the organization’s Grief and Wellness Support Group on Saturday at the Maywood Public Library. 

Saturday, October 8, 2016 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Devin Stokes, 18, was bound for Northeastern Illinois University on a full academic scholarship in August 2008. By the summer’s end, he would’ve been in a dorm had he and three of his friends, including Kent Flowers and Oscar Pritchett, both 18, not been ambushed by gunmen on the 1900 block of Harrison Street in Maywood.

The four friends were in a car outside of Flowers’ house when a van pulled up beside them and two gunmen got out and started firing. Stokes was shot nine times said his mother, Theresa Stokes. Flowers, Pritchett and Stokes would later die from their wounds.

A fourth friend, who was in the driver’s seat, would survive. He wasn’t identified in newspaper reports about the shooting because police considered him a witness to the crime.

“My son was shot nine times, but he still gave a police report and was able to make it to the hospital,” Theresa said. “They put the IVs in and everything, but he said, ‘I don’t need those now. I just need you all to keep me comfortable.’ The nurse said she had never seen anybody who was shot that many times be that calm. I said it was because Devin knew Jesus.”

Theresa shared her story at the Maywood Public Library on Saturday during the inaugural meeting of the Mothers of Murdered Sons Grief and Wellness Support Group. The group is the result of a collaboration between Mothers of Murdered Sons (MOMS), a nonprofit support group, the Women’s Community Leadership Council and another Chicago-based support group called the Sisterhood.

The MOMS Wellness Support Group will meet on the second Saturday of each month starting in November.

The group, said many of the mothers of murdered sons who gathered for the Oct. 8 inaugural meeting, is one of the few means of survival they’ve discovered after losing their children so tragically. The most cited survival mechanism, as Stokes referenced, is their faith.

“I just came to encourage you and let you know you can make it,” said Equilla Morgan, whose son, Kirk Anthony Morgan, was shot in December 1989 and died a month later. 

“It’s not going to go away,” she said. “You can’t bury it, you’ve got to deal with it. I’m praying to the Lord you keep your mind one more day and be able to stand one more day and that you won’t give up and give in.

Morgan said her son’s murder was solved and his killer spent some time in jail, which gives her “some closure in a way … not enough but some.”

“It’s eight years later and they still don’t know who murdered my child,” said Stokes. “I still have no closure. I can’t find closure that way, so I just find it in Jesus. My son had worn a wife beater that night. I held it up and it was bloody and [bullet-ridden]. I held it up and let God have it. That’s the only reason I’m speaking to you today and not in a nut house.”

Stokes said that the gunmen may have been targeting Flowers, whom his parents described at the time of the shooting as a “visual artist who also rapped [and] loved schoolwork” despite some difficulties completing high school, according to a Chicago Tribune report.

Stokes and one of his friends formed what they called the Young Money Club, which was a means of making money legitimately, without the influence of gangs or violence, his mother said.

Today, Theresa noted, she tries transferring her son’s unusual calm to mothers who have experienced her pain. Women like Jocelyn Meeks, whose son, Dionte Demarco Womack, 21, was shot in Chicago in 2013.

“I take it one day at a time, because that’s all I can do,” Meeks said. “The boy who murdered him is in jail. It was somebody he knew. The trial will start in February of 2017 and I will be there every day.”

Meeks said joining the Sisterhood support group “helped me a lot” with her struggle to live beyond her son’s death. She’s enrolled in school and works and “is doing I’m what I’m supposed to do, but it’s still hard.”

Phyllis Duncan, the founder of MOMS whose only son, Dodavah, was fatally shot in 2005, one day after Mother’s Day, indicated that Saturday’s meeting was as much for those who haven’t experience a mother’s grief as it was for the grieving mothers.

She and other mothers lamented how tough it typically is for the family members of those who are killed, particularly right after the shootings happen.

“We’ve been to Loyola University Medical Center to support mothers waiting to hear about their children,” Duncan told the crowd of at least 20 people. “Being a parent of a murdered child, a lot of stuff goes along with this. Some don’t even get a chance to see their sons and daughters, some don’t get a chance to see them until they go and identify their bodies at the morgues.”

Erica Williams, whose son Xavier Oneal McCord, 20, was killed in November 2012 by a Maywood police officer, said “it was a fight” to see her son after his death. She said authorities wouldn’t even let her see him in the hospital.

There are other things that the mothers said need to change, particularly concerning how people, who are often well-meaning, try to console them.

“When people tell me I still got two sons, they don’t understand,” Morgan said. “I had three! Telling me I still got two is not going to change anything.”

Tangela Jones, whose son, Tyree Grant, 23, was fatally shot in March, is relatively new to the Sisterhood.

“Everyday has been a struggle for me,” Jones said. “[It’s been a struggle] to get up, to love everybody, to not resent everything, to not be upset, to speak. I’ve battled with issues since my son died [but] I’m learning to find purpose in what happened.” VFP

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