April Days thought she might lose her mind after her son was killed in October. Twenty-three-year-old D’Lonte R. Days had been a son and dear companion. Where you saw April, you saw her son.
“He loved life. He was a typical young man finding his way, finding his niche in life,” Days said in a phone interview this week.
Her son is seen smiling boyishly in photos posted on a Web site she launched to help herself and other mothers who have lost children to violence grieve. She titled her blog “Mothers Over Brutality,” playing off the M.O.B. letters tatooed on her son's neck. To D’Lonte, M.O.B. stood for “Money Over Broads,” she said. To her, M.O.B. can stand for something else: Mothers Against Brutality.
“He was just going through that phase where he wanted to do the boy thing,” she said, recalling his rebellious youth.
D’Lonte Days dropped out of high school and pleaded to a felony drug charge by 20, but his mother put her foot down. He got his high school equivalency degree and, later, a job at a Dollar Tree in Greenbelt. He enrolled in a course with Jackson Hewitt Tax Service to become an income tax preparer.
“He loved his family. He loved his video games,” Days recalled.
When her son was fatally shot Oct. 11, Days’s world ended too.
Violence has wreaked havoc on families, regardless of race, income level and status. The Washington Post has reported on a D.C. Council member losing two grandsons to violence, one killed and the other charged with murder, and on a former D.C. School Board member who founded a nonprofit organization to hold police accountable for closing cases after two of her sons were killed. For the families left behind after a child’s death, learning to cope is a daily battle.
“Losing my son, I almost lost my mind,” Days said. “I never ever would have imagined this. Although my son had been in trouble, it was nothing like murder or him assaulting someone.”
Police have not yet made an arrest in his case, but they have been responsive to her inquiries and supportive of her quest for closure. “I’m not able to talk about the pending investigation,” she said. “But, yes, I’m happy with what the police are doing. They return my calls. They keep me updated. That makes me feel better, just keeping me informed.”
Days took to blogging to manage her grief; she also sought professional counseling. She is among several parents who lost teens or young adults to violence last year.
Two high school students, Amber Stanley and Markel Ross, were killed in Prince George’s County in what became high-profile cases. Police sought the community’s help, but so far no arrest has been made in either case.
Last month another high school student, Marcus Antonio Jones, 16, was killed after a Saturday night party. Jones’ grandfather, Phillip Beverly, broke down in tears during a community meeting, telling the crowd of losing his son, who was shot six times in 2004, and now losing his grandson. He described Jones as a child who did yard work and ran errands to the store on his bike. He said his grandson had a premonition that something bad might happen that night, and he almost changed his mind about going to the party.
“We’re going to keep fighting for Marcus,” he said. They will fight for justice, he said, so killers get long, hard sentences.
Beverly’s daughter, Alicia Tabbs, was wearing a memorial T-shirt bearing a photo of her slain nephew. She was still numb, his death is not yet real for her. Tears fell in the audience as Jones’ grandfather spoke.
News that two suspects were arrested in Jones’ murder, followed by news that police had identified the victim as part of The Danger Boys gang, based on interviews with other youth, may do little to console them.
“You never get use to going to a cemetery, but I find myself there a lot. Why? Because that’s the closest physically that I can be to my son,” April Days posted online last week. “I had 23 years with him, so I just can’t stop being his mother, I just can’t. I know my void can never be replaced by anything else in this world, so I’m still learning how to adapt to a new me and a different life. My life has always been fulfilled by my children, now I’m minus one physically.”
Her emotions are still on a roller-coaster.
“I just recently went back to work and I had a breakdown today. I was a ball of confusion mess. Continue to pray for me and my family please!” she wrote another day.
Days participated in a Washington march in support of gun control, and will look for other ways to join others seeking to end violence and create peace while honoring their lost loved ones.
She, maybe unknowingly, is following in a tradition of mothers who have reached out to help others deal with the tragic loss of a child.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving, now a nationally known nonprofit group that says it has helped pass more than 2,000 laws to reduce drunk driving, was founded almost 30 years ago by a mother who lost her daughter to a drunken driver.
Nothing prepares a parent for a call from police telling them to report to the morgue. I remember my own mother bracing herself for such a call when one of my brothers walked on the wild side. My mother lamented, “How do you think I feel knowing when this phone rings it might be the police telling me to come identify my child?” Thank God that brother is still alive 25 years later. Family intervened, prayers were answered, and he, although not yet trouble-free, is still alive.
It will take a collaboration of efforts to stem the tide of violence in our communities. It will take constructive, engaging, supervised activities for youth, effective policing and court proceedings, the support of churches providing emergency food and shelter as needed. It will take professional grief counseling for mothers on the verge of losing their mind after losing a child — first to the streets, then through the streets. It will take an awareness that violence is a problem, posing a threat to us all, and it will take our collective belief that we can do something about it.
Sonsyrea Tate Montgomery is a columnist for the RootDC.
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