Finley: Mothers rise to stop child killings

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

Andrea Clark hopes to have the same impact on homicides that Mothers Against Drunk Driving has had on the senseless loss of life in alcohol-fueled traffic accidents.

Her group, Mothers of Murdered Children, is bone weary of losing kids to gun violence. The 8,000 mostly Detroit moms have all buried children who were shot to death.

“All of us have lost children, and there are thousands more right here in Detroit that we haven’t yet reached,” says Clark.

Her own son, Darnell Perkins, was shot to death by security officers in 2011 during an altercation outside a downtown night club. He was 30 years old and left behind four children of his own.

“The group was founded because I needed a way to live without my child, to channel my pain,” Clark says. “I wanted to find other mothers who were walking in my same shoes, to give them a reason to live and to make their child’s life matter.”

The mothers comfort and counsel each other in twice-a-month meetings at St. John’s Hospital.

But they do a lot more than grieve together. They also try to intervene with families of murder victims to convince them that vengeance is not an appropriate response.

“We want to change the mindset of retribution,” Clark says.

And they are working in the neighborhoods to encourage citizens to engage in crime fighting.

“Everyone is afraid,” she says. “Fear has taken over in the community. We’re coming together to say we’re not going to let this happen. We, as citizens, have to do our part — if you see something, say something.”

But their most urgent goal is to get homicide declared a public health crisis.

“That would allow us to get federal dollars for mental health treatment centers in Detroit,” Clark says. “We need to do grief counseling, recreation for children and support for crime victims”

They’ve drafted a resolution and submitted it to state lawmakers.

The mothers hope organizing will give them the political clout to force politicians to pay attention. Drunken driving was not a priority issue until MADD made it so, and Clark believes her group can have that same impact.

Mostly, they want to be heard by those pulling the triggers.

“We need to talk to young men about violence,” Clark says. “To show them how murder affects the entire community, and not just the victim.”

Clark and her fellow grieving mothers can be an important voice in a city that hasn’t figured out how to protect its children from violence.

Too many children are dying without their stories being told, without the impact of their deaths being fully measured by the community. We need to know more about the murder victims, but we we also need to see clearly the devastation and the loss it has had on their loved ones, and how homicide damages a community.

“I don’t want another mother to feel what we’re feeling,” Clark says. “It’s life changing.”

I’ve said before, Detroit will not be a healthy city again as long as it casually accepts the murder of a child as part of the natural fabric of the community. It isn’t.

Clark and the other mothers in her group — any mother who has lost a child — know that first hand.

Cops and community leaders haven’t figured out how to turn back the tide of gun violence in Detroit. Perhaps these mothers with their aching hearts can.

Nolan Finley’s book’s A Little Red Hen: A Collection of Columns from Detroit’s Conservative Voice” is available from Amazon, iBooks and Barnes & Noble Nook.