Michelle Kerr-Spry joined other local mothers in calling for peace on the streets after losing her son to gun violence in 2005.
“Let me paint a picture for you,” she said at a Thursday afternoon rally organized by Mothers in Charge.
“Too many mothers can’t even say goodbye to their children and kiss their foreheads in the coffin because the damage is so bad they can’t have open coffins.”
Kerr-Spry recalled the harrowing experience of being in the hospital when her 18-year-old son, Blain Spry, was shot.
“In hospital when my son was shot, all I knew was that he had been shot four times. I couldn’t afford to ask where and kept trying to pet him chin and the doctor kept pulling my hand away,” she said. “What I didn’t know was that my son had been shot in the neck and he had almost no neck left.”
Kerr-Spry said he was also shot in the heart, kidneys, lungs and stomach.
“My son’s vital organs were gone,” she said. “Too many of us don’t even get the chance to kiss our babies – to say goodbye to our babies. They’re lying in a dirty street – in a place they don’t know, with no one to love them. – dying,” said Kerr-Spry, program director for Mothers in Charge (MIC).
“This is the reality of gun violence. They die alone. They don’t die with us hugging them. They are born from our wombs, from our bodies, with love and they die alone,” said she declared.
Kerr-Spry was joined at the rally by other mothers who have lost their children to gun violence, elected officials, youth and nonprofit leaders calling on people to lay down their arms.
Some of the mothers present are celebrating this Mother’s Day for the first time without their children who are victims of gun violence.
Kerr-Spry said she was sick of experiencing Mother’s Day lying on her son’s grave yelling “why aren’t you here and why hasn’t your murderer been caught? “
“While many of you plan dinners and brunches with your moms, many of us don’t have the energy to face the day? That’s our reality,” she continued. “We ask you for peace. We tell you that we want it now.”
During the event, Dorothy Johnson-Speight, founder of Mothers In Charge, highlighted what led her to start the organization.
“I was lying on my couch in the fetal position in May 2003, wondering what to do because I was in so much pain because my son was shot over a parking space,” she said. “It occurred to me what can I do and I had a vision of mothers with megaphones, pleading with their sons – sons lay down their arms – and that’s how this theme was born .”
Johnson-Speight discussed the importance of everyone coming together to fight gun violence.
“Mothers, fathers, everyone must get involved,” she stressed. “We have to be the change you want to see. We can’t depend on the police or elected officials all the time. We also have to do what we have to do. They are our children. No one is going to come and save us. We must be the only ones to do so.
The event featured remarks from representatives of community organizations working to address violence such as the Black Male Community Council of Philadelphia, Man Up PHL, CHARLES Foundation, Every Murder is Real and the No Mo Foundation.
During the rally, City Council member Kenyatta Johnson presented the MIC with a city citation. He stressed the importance for community members to intervene so that mothers who have lost their children to gun violence can obtain justice.
“We talk a lot about police reform, criminal justice reform, but these mothers who have lost loved ones to senseless gun violence – for those with cold cases – they deserve justice,” said Johnson, chairman of the city council’s special committee on gun violence prevention.
“So if you see something, say something because one of the best things you can do for some of these mothers who have lost loved ones to gun violence is to help them get closure.
“So we also have to make sure that we’re responding as a community and working with law enforcement and with the district attorney’s office,” he said. “We know who is wreaking havoc in our community.
“We know who the shooters are and if you sit on the sidelines and let these young men wreak havoc in our community without stepping in and trying to put them on the right track, when a homicide happens and you don’t step up and work with the district attorney, work with the commissioner of police and homicide to bring justice to the family, and then you’re part of the problem in the community.
“Because what happens when this kid does this homicide, he thinks he can do it over and over and over again,” he continued.