It was a sight that moved the audience to tears at the Crystal Park Casino in Compton, California.
Hosted by Compton Mayor Eric Perrodin and organized by Project Cry No More and the Southern California Cease Fire Committee, approximately 50 mothers lined up Saturday morning in the ballroom of the casino at a Mother's Day Breakfast entitled "Bridging the Bond." As the mothers wiped away tears, they announced the names of their sons who had been slain by gun violence. As many of the mothers sobbed uncontrollably, members of gang interventionist groups showered them with hugs and handed the women roses.
Members of the clergy, law enforcement, educators, politicians, and concerned citizens joined in the effort to comfort the mothers.
Although Compton recently reported the lowest homicide rate in thirty years, shootings have once again surged in the last few months. A surge in shootings has also resulted in increased deaths in the city and county of Los Angeles and surrounding communities, leaving many residents shaken and wondering if and when the violence will stop.
For years, a number of gang interventionist groups have worked to quell the rash of gun and gang violence that has decimated so many communities.
Mother's Day is a special occasion when children shower their mothers with kisses and hugs, but for many Southland mothers who have lost children to gun violence, Mother's Day is a painful reminder of the tragic loss of their loved ones.
"It's going to continue to take the efforts of all of us here to stop the violence," said gang interventionist Skipp Townsend, a member of 2nd Call and one of the organizers of the Mother's Day Breakfast. "We need to stop finger pointing and get involved by choice, not by force."
During the breakfast, mothers received tributes and were treated to a hearty breakfast of sausage, eggs, turkey bacon, fried potatoes, coffee, and juice.
"We just want to let these mothers know that we have not forgotten them and that they are truly special and appreciated every single day," said Vicky Lindsey, founder of the mother's help group, Project Cry No More.
"I want to show the collaboration of all the young men coming together to turn around the perception by the community that we are all so-called gang members. By showing solidarity with the mothers, we hope that will help to change the mindset and the perception of the children being labeled as gang members," said Townsend. Community activist Taco, who also organized the event, agreed.
Second District County Supervisor, Yvonne B. Burke, and Western Regional Minister of the Nation of Islam, Tony Muhammad, were keynote speakers at the breakfast and paid tribute to the mothers.
Muhammad urged warring gangs to come together in peace. "I was told, 'Tony, if you get the gangs to unite, it will ripple across the country.'"
Pausing, Muhammad observed, "Someone is benefiting from all of this murder (in our community). Black and brown (men), we don't have to love one another in one day, but we can shake hands--a smile is a frown turned upside down. We definitely need to put the cemeteries out of business."
Burke said that she and other civic representatives had recently returned from Washington, D. C. to lobby for increased funds to combat gang violence. "We have to start when the kids are in elementary school," Burke asserted. "The only way to curtail gang and gun violence is to educate children in the third or fourth grade. We just cannot stand to continue to have the sort of violence that we have had in the past few months," observed Burke. "It's turning people against each other rather than bringing people together."
Organizers of the event included Project Cry No More, 2nd Call, Detours, Unity One, Chapter Two, Venice 2000, Save Our Sons, Criminon, and the Frontline Soldiers.