Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

MAD DADS Helps Moms Share Their Grief with City; Families and Friends of Homicide Victims Begged Community to Stop Killings

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

MAD DADS Helps Moms Share Their Grief with City; Families and Friends of Homicide Victims Begged Community to Stop Killings

Article excerpt

Byline: KEN LEWIS

With a desperate and grieving crowd behind her, Barbara Hawkins found the words for the pain of losing a son to homicide.

"I can't see my child," Hawkins said. "I can only see a headstone."

Mothers robbed of their children bared their shattered hearts Tuesday evening in the parking lot of the We're for Jesus Church on North Main Street. They described the devastation that ripples out from a slaying, the shock waves of which are shaking Jacksonville as the number of homicides here reached 57 this year.

Mothers and family members begged for it to stop. They pleaded for witnesses to come forward, for people to cooperate with police. Mothers such as Hawkins, whose 17-year-old son Bruce Thomas was killed last year, expressed a pain so utter that it never heals.

"I don't know about ya'll, but I'm hurting every day," Hawkins said. "Let's make a commitment to stop our children -- our children! -- our children, from killing each other."

The event was the first of a month's worth of rallies sponsored by MAD DADS, a group that pits men against crime and drugs. Every Tuesday this month, concerned members and residents plan to meet at a different part of town to canvass the streets, promote dialogue and search for leads. Next Tuesday at 6 p.m., they will congregate at Sweetwater Church of Christ at 7185 Esther St. to hear from the hip hop youth. Then they will hit the streets with fliers to look for leads.

"This is what you do when you don't know what else to do," said Eddie Staton, national president of MAD DADS. "You come up with something, and hope that people get involved."

Many of Tuesday's participants had no choice but to get involved, thrust into action by tragedy and the death of their loved ones. They were surrounded by about 150 friends, family members, volunteers and police. …

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