As the war on gun violence in America continues to escalate, mothers shed tears daily.
June is National Gun Violence Awareness Month, and community activist Maxine E. Lewis is taking full advantage of this monthlong observance. Lewis, like many others, is a mother who lost her son, Carlton Locksley Bennett, who was shot and killed over his gold chain on February 6, 1993, at the age of 16.
The devastation over losing her son turned her into a powerful voice that speaks in marches, on the streets and in schools about ending gun violence. The Carlton Locksley Bennett Foundation Inc. was started by Lewis 13 years ago, and her mission is clear – to stop gun violence. But, what keeps her fighting is the legacy of her son and the organization she founded to help others who went through the same pain as her.
According to the NYPD, shootings increased citywide by 16.2 % in March compared to last year. Statistics show that 22 children between the ages of 1 and 17 are impacted by gun violence daily, and 117,345 people are shot in one year in the United States.
Albeit some circumstances are beyond our control, we must do all we can to try to forestall situations. Lewis’s strategy is to support and educate our youth with communication. She told the Canarsie Courier, “Speak about it, talk to a parent, neighbor or a teacher. If you know something, definitely speak up. We’ve heard in the community that people do not want to be a ‘snitch’. It’s not being a snitch; its providing information. It’s saying we want to save our children.”
On Wednesday, June 15th, the Carlton Locksley Bennett Foundation gathered at Canarsie Full Gospel Chapel at 1186 Remsen Avenue. This is a safe place where parents can share their stories, discuss their feelings about community violence and be around those who are grieving. Lewis wants her community to know that one does not have to grieve alone and that she holds support meetings for anyone ready to join.
Kellie Nixon, a member of the group, said it took her 10 years to publicly speak about her beloved son, Isaiah Laverpool, who perished at 27 years old in March 2009 as a result of gun violence. Nixon explained, “It has been a tremendous amount of help for me. It taught me to speak about my son and what happened, whereas before, I was never able to verbalize my story.” Nixon stated that the group she attends acknowledges when an anniversary is approaching, whether it be her son’s birthday or the day of his passing. She feels comforted by that warmth provided by others..
While everyone grieves in their own way, and it’s a personal experience, Lewis and Nixon can actively advise a person in mourning to experience their feelings through the process.
To learn more about The Carlton Locksley Bennett Foundation, visit clbfinc.org.com.