5th Annual D.C. Summertime Tea for Families of Slaying Victims Expands Its Scope

By Dagny Salas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 31, 2009

Not long after her son was killed in Southeast Washington in early July, Ella Carey noticed a red robin flying around her mother's house. Something about it reminded Carey of her son, Anthony Reginald Ford, and so she pointed the bird out to her 6-year-old grandson, Tekyh.

"Daddy, Daddy! Don't fly away!" Tekyh said, running after the bird. "I just want to hold you in my hand!"

It was a rare touching moment during an agonizing summer for Carey, who recently fell and broke her leg. She blames the fall on her 26-year-old son's death.

"I have just been traumatized," said Carey, who got a late night call and went to the scene, blocks away. "I was just like any other mother when I got there and saw him laying on the ground, shot. I just couldn't take it. I started crying and screaming."

On Sunday, Carey was among about 350 people who gathered at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel for the fifth annual summertime tea for families of homicide victims. This year, the event was expanded to include other victims of violent crime. Billed as a "party with a purpose," the event provides families with an opportunity to heal and network, said Valencia Mohammed, one of the event's organizers. She has lost two sons to violent deaths and likened to the event to "group therapy."

As of Aug. 28, there had been 90 homicides in the District this year, down from 122 during the same period in 2008, according to data from D.C. police.

The event didn't dwell on the pain participants had suffered, as speakers mentioned how good it was to see familiar faces. Women wrapped in flashes of colorful dresses and wearing big hats socialized and sipped tea with the few men in attendance.

Carey sat at a table with her family, most of them wearing T-shirts with her son's picture on them. Her sister, who lost a son of her own a few years ago, was at her table. Tekyh's T-shirt said, "I Love U Daddy," and the family placed framed photographs of Tekyh and his father at the front of the room.

"I was very pleasantly surprised at the response of people who at first said, 'I don't want to deal with remembering,' " said the Rev. Anthony Motley, a founder of the event. "Once they come, they see how it has helped in their grieving process. The things they didn't want to remember or had forgotten, they have an opportunity to bring closure to it."

Carey said it was good to be among others who understood her pain.

"I guess it's just a peace of mind I'm looking for, me knowing I'm not the only one suffering," Carey said. "When it hits you, when it hits home, it's a totally different story."

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