Things That Matter

Two Mothers Fighting To Get Rid Of Gun Violence Were Shot And Killed In Their Own Chicago Neighborhood

Chantell Grant and Andrea Stoudemire spent Friday, July 26 on the corner of 75th Street and Stewart Avenue in Chicago’s South Side, where the women, joined by their children, handed out food to other mothers, talked with youth about violence and kept an eye out on neighborhood children playing in the area. Members of Mothers Against Senseless Killings (MASK), an anti-violence group, the women spent many days in the park helping their community. 

But on this evening, the moms were shot and killed on the very corner they long tried to make safer.

The two women, who had finished up for the day and were walking to a store to get food for their families, were shot on a sidewalk around 10 p.m. 

Witnesses say a blue SUV drove up to the mothers and fired several shots. Grant, 26, and Stoudemire, 36, were hit several times in the chest and died at a nearby hospital. There is an ongoing investigation, but Chicago law enforcement have not yet arrested anyone.

“We have no evidence that we can point to that suggests the women were the intended targets,” police spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement, according to BuzzFeed News. “We also have no evidence to the contrary.”

In a later statement, Guglielmi added that the shots were meant for a man who is associated with a local street gang and recently got out of prison. However, the unidentified 58-year-old man, who was hit in the arm in the shooting, is not cooperating with police.

Still, Tamar Manasseh, who founded MASK in 2015, said she’s not willing to accept that Grant, a mother of four, and Stoudemire, who had three children, were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“They killed mothers on a corner where mothers sit every day,” Manasseh said during a press conference Sunday. “You don’t have mothers killed in a place that is sacred to mothers and not take that as a message.”

According to the MASK website, the group formed “as a way to put eyes on the streets, interrupt violence and crime, and teach children to grow up as friends rather than enemies.” Together, the moms work to build stronger communities by focusing on violence prevention, food insecurity and housing. They also ensure community members have access to city services, opportunities for education and professional skills growth, and economic development.

A few years ago, volunteers also helped clean up a “dirty and filthy” site at the Englewood intersection and turned it into a space where kids could play safely daily. There, the children have supervision and activities, like learning to dance and eating dinner together, that teach them how to be productive members of society.

The site, she continued, was created to be a space where mothers could watch over their kids and ensure the safety and betterment of their lives.

“Chantell,” whose fourth and youngest child just turned 1 year old, “was one of those mothers,” Manasseh said. “She was a dedicated mother. Every day, Chantell brought her kids here. Every day. By now, I should have seen Chantell at least three or four times at this point of the day. I will never see her again.” 

Manasseh shared that Stoudemire wasn’t just a concerned mom but also a leader who helped everyone. 

“I will never see Andrea again,” she said. “Andrea was a mother’s mother. She mothered other mothers.”

Manasseh, who called the deaths “terrifying” and “heartbreaking,” says she has not slept much because she has been thinking about what more she and her group can do to stamp out violence in their community. 

More people are fatally shot in Chicago than in any other city in the US. During the weekend in which the two women died, 48 other people were shot in the city. Nine of them were killed, including a three-year-old child, reports CBS Chicago

Though homicides have decreased in the city in recent years and will likely continue to drop again this year, police statistics show there have been 281 in 2019 as of July 28.

 Manasseh stresses these numbers are unacceptable.

“For mothers to be killed in a place where mothers go to seek safety and sisterhood, I take that as a personal threat,” she said. “Because when you come for one of us, you better believe they came for all of us.”

The group has started a GoFundMe campaign aiming to raise $5,000 for a reward for information in the case. By Friday morning, it had raised more than $29,000.

“The murder of a woman brought us to our corner on 75th & Stewart so there’s no way we’re going to let the murder of more moms drive us away,” the fundraising page says. “We deserve to live without fear and the young women, Chantel Grant and Andrea Stoudemire who were torn from their children families tonight, deserve justice.”

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Emma González Is In A New Documentary About Gun Control Called ‘Us Kids’

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Emma González Is In A New Documentary About Gun Control Called ‘Us Kids’

ANGELA WEISS / Getty

Two years ago in 2018, American activist Emma Gonzales marked the headline of every news organization. As a victim of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland Florida, Gonzalez garnered national attention on February 17, 2018, after giving an 11-minute speech at a gun control rally in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In the days, weeks, months, and years since delivering her speech, Gonzalez has made waves with her activism.

Now, the activist who is now in college is the star of a documentary directed by Kim A. Snyder called Us Kids.

Us Kids, which received a nomination for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival this past January is available to be screened on the Alamo Drafthouse virtual screening platform.

Us Kids is available to be screen on Alamo on Demand on October 30.

The film follows the stories of the students behind Never Again MSD. The student-led organization is a group advocating for regulations that work to prevent gun violence and includes Latino activists like Emma González and Samantha Fuentes. Both teens are survivors of the shooting that took place Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florid where 17 students and staff members were killed by a gunman.

In a review about the film, Variety writes that it “primarily celebrates that resilient, focused energy from teenagers who proved perhaps surprisingly articulate as well as passionate in thrusting themselves into a politicized spotlight. It’s more interested in their personalities and personal experiences than in the specific political issues wrestled with. Like ‘Newtown,’ this sometimes results in a repetitious directorial expression of empathy, particularly in the realm of inspirational montages set to pop music. Still, the subjects are duly admirable for their poise and intelligence as Snyder’s camera follows them over 18 months, in which they go from being “normal-ass kids doing normal-ass things” to a high-profile movement’s leading spokespeople.”

The trailer for the documentary was released on Oct. 22 and introduces the survivors of the shooting.

Fuentes, who was an 18-year-old senior at the time of the shooting, speaks about her experience recalling that “I was thinking about how we were going to get out if he was going to come back, was I going to die.”

“As compelling as Hogg and González are (and as touching as their friendship is — they’re each other’s biggest boosters), it might’ve been nice if ‘Us Kids’ had itself strayed farther from the mainstream media narrative in emphasizing less-familiar faces. Considerable screen time is dedicated to Samantha Fuentes, who was hit by bullets but lived while close friend Nick Dworet died next to her,” Variety explains. “She provides a relatable perspective in being occasionally less-than-composed in the public glare (we see her upchuck at the podium a couple times). Still, there are peers frequently glimpsed in the background who never seem to get a word in, while Snyder keeps the established, semi-reluctant ‘stars’ front and center.”

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A 13-Year-Old Boy Was Shot Point-Blank, Unprovoked In His Front Yard; His Family Demands Answers From Police

Things That Matter

A 13-Year-Old Boy Was Shot Point-Blank, Unprovoked In His Front Yard; His Family Demands Answers From Police

Brayan Zavala/Photo: GOFUNDME

A family in Riverdale of Clayton County, Georgia is expressing frustration at the lack of progress the police have made in finding the killer of 13-year-old son Brayan Zavala. “We want justice,” said Brayan’s 16-year-old brother, Jesus. “We want to find whoever killed my brother so he can go to jail and pay for what he did.”

According to the deceased boy’s family, last Thursday, Brayan had been working on the front lawn with his brother and father when a masked gunman approached the property. The gunman didn’t answer when Brayan’s father asked him what he wanted. Instead, unprovoked, the stranger took out his shotgun and shot Brayan at point-blank range in the face. Stunned, the family tried to fight for Brayan’s life as the gunman fled the scene.

“The shooter didn’t even say I want your money, or this is a robbery or I’m assaulting you. He just came, stood there (in) silence and shot my brother.” his 16-year-old brother, Jesus, explained to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “We tried to stop all the blood but by the time the police got here, it didn’t seem like he had life or a chance to live.”

The children of Mexican immigrants, the death is especially tragic. “We decided to live here for a better life, turns out it is worse,” Jesus told local news station Fox 5. “This is just like Mexico. They kill because they wanna kill. That is what just happens.”

According to Jesus, Brayan was a A-student on the honor roll, always trying to stay out of trouble. “Me, my brother, my sister, we study and then do our chores, and study. We’re just focused on doing the things, you know, productivity. And going somewhere,” said Jesus told local news station Fox 5.

“He was a cheerful kid. Always smiling, joking. Like I said, always avoiding problems instead of causing problems. I don’t know why this happened to him.”

The senseless killing has shaken the community who don’t understand what would provoke an inexplicable murder of a child. Law enforcement, as well, can’t make sense of it.

“As a Clayton County police officer for over 38 years very little shocks me. But, this brutal, senseless murder has overwhelmed me,” a Clayton County Police officer named Doug Jewett wrote to the AJC. “I send my prayers to the family.”

As of now, the family is trying to pick up the pieces of their life, setting up a GoFundMe page to finance Brayan’s funeral costs. The Clayton County police department has asked anyone with information to call (770) 477-4479. As of now, no suspects have been reported or arrested, and the family is calling for justice.

“It’s been a week now since my brother died and I haven’t heard anything, no answers from police,” Jesus told Atlanta 11 Alive news. “It makes me feel really frustrated that they don’t think it’s a big deal. I mean, they killed my little brother.”

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