Pamela Joiner didn't want to become a political activist, but when her son Jumar was killed in Hartford in May, she turned to Mothers United Against Violence for the support she needed and a distraction from the pain she was avoiding.
"The minute that doctor told me my boy was dead, I went into denial, and I was determined, no matter what it took, to stay there," Joiner said Sunday. "I figured if I stayed busy, got involved and worked to stop the violence, then maybe, just maybe, I'd survive."
Less than a month after her son's murder, Mothers United Against Violence visited the M.D. Fox Elementary School and Joiner, one of their newest members, shared her story. The students hugged her, and vowed to avoid the streets, and finally Joiner cried.
"When the tears came, they came hard," Joiner said. "I cried for four hours straight."
Joiner's tireless activism despite the rawness and newness of her loss was what persuaded Mothers United Against Violence to give Joiner a service award on Sunday during the group's Fourth Annual Remembrance Day at the Johnson & Stewart Community Center.
More than 40 adults and dozens of young children packed the small North End center for a ceremony to honor their lost loved ones and renew their campaign to stop the gun violence which has claimed 167 lives over the last six years.
Rev. Henry Brown, the group's president, and Henrietta Beckman, its director, read the victims' names aloud and handed out candles to relatives, but Minister Evangeline Perry urged the crowd during her speech to avoid becoming "professional mourners."
"If you are broken, if you are weak, if you are wounded, how are you going to lift somebody else up?" Perry asked the crowd. "You need to learn how to fight, how to hit the streets. Don't let them keep you in bondage."
That is why Brown and Beckman are planning more street walks, more group prayer vigils, and more visits to city schools in the fall. But that is not enough, Brown said. It is time for state and city government to commit the resources needed to rescue the North End, Brown said.
The group is urging legislators and city and state officials to commit more funding for youth recreation programs and job training for young people and those who are just getting out of jail, Brown said. Give young people and ex-cons an alternative to the streets, he said.
Brown had particularly harsh words for Mayor Eddie Perez and Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
"I feel like Gov. Rell and Mayor Perez have bailed out on the black community in the North End," Brown said. "If what happens up here everyday was happening in the South End, or, God forbid, West Hartford, it would be a huge deal, and they'd be tripping over themselves to help.
"But if these courageous women who have lost their children can stand up and say this all has to stop, then I think it's time for the rest of us, the men, the church folk, the cops, and, yes, even the politicians, to follow their lead and take responsibility for our city."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at