Vigil allows mothers to grieve with others about losing a son to violence, and gain inspiration in the process

Among the mothers taking part in the Vigil to End Gun Violence were, from right: Bouchelle Stokes, Gwen Baxter, Toneya McIntosh, Donna Hall, Shundra Robinson, Floressa Smith and "Mother" Morgan. | Kwijona Calvin/Homicide Watch Chicago

Among the mothers taking part in the Vigil to End Gun Violence were, from right: Bouchelle Stokes, Gwen Baxter, Toneya McIntosh, Donna Hall, Shundra Robinson, Floressa Smith and “Mother” Morgan. | Kwijona Calvin/Homicide Watch Chicago

Homicide Watch Chicago

“I am not a stranger to pain. My husband and son are gone due to gun violence.”

That is the sad truth for Gwen Baxter, founder of the Greater Roseland Community Committee’s Youth Voices Against Violence, and many others who have lost loved one to violence in Chicago.

Last week, Baxter led the National Vigil for Victims of Gun Violence in Chicago at The Peace Center, where a gathering that might seem sorrowful to an outsider turned inspirational.

Women from the organization SISTERHOOD, a group of mothers who have lost children to gun violence, had the opportunity to share their personal stories about their children.

Donna Hall, mother of Marshall Fields-Hall, who was murdered at Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen at 5500 W. North Ave on Jan. 18, 2013, set the tone for the evening.

Marshall Fields-Hall

Marshall Fields-Hall

“When I look out, and I see all these pink shirts, I get it. I’m not alone, because if it wasn’t for the sisterhood, I don’t think I would be here,” she said.

Hall described her son as a just-turned-21-year-old who wanted to experience the fun side of adult life, but never got the chance.

“He went to the casino with my father because he had just turned 21. When they came back home, him and I sat at the table to eat, and then he left back out and he never returned home,” Hall said.

Fields-Hall went to Popeyes to meet up with friends, and while sitting in the dining area, he was shot several times through a glass window. He died an hour later.

“They didn’t realize when they killed my son, they killed a part of me,” Hall said.

The case is still open, but Hall says Chicago Police are doing all that they can.

“I keep in touch with the detectives on the case. I talk to them at least once every two weeks. The police can’t do it all on their own. I don’t like the no-snitching rule people live by, because people know what happened and they know who did it. But if no one wants to come forward, the police can’t do anything. The public has to speak up,” she said.

Next month, Hall is planning a memorial in front of Popeyes on Jan. 18, the day her son was murdered.

Another member of SISTERHOOD, Shundra Robinson, was at first reluctant about joining the group.

“I was in labor for fourteen-and-a-half hours bringing my son into this world, and many people say that’s the worst pain in the world, but I beg to differ. The pain that I feel now after he was murdered is greater than the pain I experienced bringing Deno into the world.”

Deno Wooldridge | Facebook

Deno Wooldridge | Facebook

Deno Wooldridge was murdered October 18, 2010, when he was 18. He was standing on his grandmother’s porch with his family and friends when he was shot and killed.

Robinson doesn’t deny that her son may have been part of a gang, but says that doesn’t mean he should’ve been taken.

“Everyone isn’t gang-affiliated, and so what if they are, you don’t know what they are going through. They may not have mothers and fathers raising them. Put your arms around them and love them instead of talking about them.”

Wooldridge’s murder also remains unsolved, but police are actively trying to find his killer, according to Robinson.

While many of the women who spoke at the vigil were invited, they had a guest who didn’t intend on coming.

“I came in here today to see if this space was available for my son’s surprise birthday party. I was unaware you all would be here tonight,” said Delores Bailey, mother of twin boys, Demacio and Demario Bailey.

On a recent cold December day, the twins begged their mother to be allowed to take the bus and go play basketball.

“My boys eat, sleep and drink basketball, that day they asked to go play basketball. I said, ‘Guys you see me home from work, I don’t feel good’.”

Demario Bailey

Demario Bailey

Bailey drove her kids everywhere, but that day she was home sick with a hernia inside her naval, which had enlarged from carrying the twins full-term.

“We are 15 and have never got on the bus,” the boys implored.

Bailey decided to let Demacio and Demario take the bus for the first time, a decision she thought long and hard about.

As the twins made their way toward Johnson College Prep around 12:30 p.m., out on the sidewalk of West 63rd street, they were approached by four gunman whom requested Demario’s coat.

After refusing to give up his coat, he was shot in the chest and died at the scene.

“December 13 is around the corner, and I can’t believe it’s been almost a year without him,” Bailey said. “Someone told me to take it day by day. I stopped doing that and I take it second by second.”

The gunmen in the case were captured and charged with the murder of Demario Bailey.

A balloon release was held in his honor Sunday outside Johnson College Prep.

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