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Mother's vow to end violence with emotional march

Erick Johnson | 5/15/2014, 9 a.m.
Skymeter Roberts, left, whose daughter, Kimouria Gardner was killed in March, was overwhelmed at times during the march against violence on Saturday.

The shouts and protests through Liberty City on Saturday were just too much for Skymeter Roberts to bear. She cried very loudly because her daughter was dead. There would be no more Mother’s Day cards or happy times at the restaurant or shopping malls. Roberts had flowers. They were not for her but to lay at the grave of her child, Kimouria Gardner, who was gunned down on a park bench back in April.

Determined to keep her daughter’s memory alive, Roberts joined a handful of grieving mothers and grandmothers during an anti-violence march last weekend on 62nd street and through the Liberty Square Housing projects, known as the Pork and Beans. As mothers around South Florida and the country went on outings to fancy restaurants and spas, more residents in predominately Black communities joined a growing movement against random shootings that have left Black women spending Mother’s Day without their children for the first time.

They joined about 60 demonstrators who carried red, yellow and pink roses as they shouted "stop the violence"’ after they started the march at 10:30 a.m. at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, where Pastor Billy Strange Jr. led a rousing prayer. Then, they marched down Martin Luther King Boulevard, blocks from where Linda Ann Grant was killed just outside a grocery store last month. Grant’s daughter, Latrice Anderson, participated in the march.

The protest was organized by Regina Gardner, stepmother of Kimouria. Regina created a support group, A Mother’s Hurting Heart Inc., to help grieving mothers cope with the tragic loss of their children. Gardner vowed to march through other neighborhoods to call attention to apathy and concern about violent crime.

“I chose this Mother’s Day weekend to let our community know that as mothers, our hearts are heavy,” Gardner said. “I’m tired from burying my child. The code of silence is null and void. We have to stand up for our children.”

Escorted by City of Miami officers in three police cars, demonstrators also passed by the location where 18-year-old Tiarra Grant and 22-year-old Shalaundra Williams were shot and killed in another shooting in December.

But Roberts and other grieving mothers were determined not allow their children’s murders to become just statistics. About 25 minutes into the march, Roberts’ eyes welled up before a stream of tears gushed down her face. She let out a loud wail drawing several demonstrators who briefly took her out of the march. Similar cries were heard throughout the march as protestors struggled to remain resilient to rising gun violence in their community

“It’s hard,” said Roberts. “It (the march) makes it a lot easier to cope with the loss. These people who are here are like family.”

The protest is the second to be held in the city within a month. But this one drew an even larger turnout from new protestors who lost their children to gun violence. They joined other mothers, grandmothers and step mothers who drew strength from one another and still seek answers to their children’s unsolved murders. Killers for many of the deaths remain free as police struggle with cases without any forthcoming eyewitnesses.

“I’m trying every day. It’s hard,” said Joanne Sams, a 60-year-old grandmother whose 20-year-old grandson, Marquis Sams and his friend Wilneka Pennyman, 19, were killed in Little Haiti when a driver pulled up and opened fire on them before driving away last month.

Despite physical and health problems, Sams walked the entire march. She planned on writing a letter to take to Marquis’ grave the next day.

“These perpetrators think they can just come into your world and take your joy. I’m not going to let that happened,” said Sharita Small, whose son Zamari Pierre-Louis was killed after being shot multiple times in January in Miami Gardens.

“My son may be gone, but in my mind and heart he is still here,” said Vickie Hemmingway, whose son, Larry Valentine, was gunned down in Liberty City last August.

Anyone with tips or information on crime should Contact Crime Stoppers by phone 305-471-TIPS. (8477).