The events of the last 72 hours have left us reeling. So much carnage, so much fear.
Justice, broken down into bite sized pieces, can sometimes feel so close within reach. The death penalty stopped here, more healing services there. And then we are confronted with these big moments that remind us how inadequate bite-sized justice can be. When transformation is needed, how do you break that down into “winnable bits” that sustain hope through the darkness? Is this even our task?
I don’t have the answers. I know that in the last two days I watched two children – a teenage boy cry for his father Alton Sterling and a four year girl try to comfort her mother after police killed Philando Castile. No child should ever have to go through that. Black children go through it all too often. The trauma of living in fear of the very systems and institutions that are supposed to protect runs deep through communities of color and has for centuries. As a white director, I don’t know that fear or that trauma. I can only see it, account for it, and commit my life to the struggle for change.
And police are often afraid in their jobs. And it is in that fear that I imagine the seeds for change – because this system isn’t working for anyone. There is a different way, a way where we all can see each other’s pain and trauma, where we embrace a model of community safety rooted in healing, in restoration, in mercy, in relationships, in love.
On a day when there are no words, I say to the families of Alton Sterling, Philando Castille, Michael Smith, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarippa, Brent Thompson, Lorne Ahrens, and everyone who has lost a loved one to violence: I see you, I love you, and I will fight for you. To the black members of the EJUSA family: I see you, I love you, I will fight for you. And to the law enforcement members of the EJUSA family fighting for change: I see you, I love you, I will fight for you.
Dawn Mancarella, a member of EJUSA’s Crime Survivor Network, put out a special appeal today for family members of murder victims to sign on to suspend use of the death penalty in a key Florida county.
If you’ve lost a family member to murder, read Dawn’s letter below and consider taking action. If you know of others who might like to sign, please share this post.
I know the horrible pain of losing a loved one to murder. My mom, Joyce Masury, was murdered 20 years ago, and my life has never been the same.
You’ve identified yourself to EJUSA or an EJUSA state partner as someone who has experienced this same unimaginable horror. So you understand where I’m coming from.
The Los Angeles Metropolitan Churches (LAM) is building a network of local churches and community groups to provide trauma-informed services to African-American, Latino, and immigrant crime survivors in South Los Angeles.
And now, for the first time, they are receiving federal VOCA funds – funds earmarked for victims services – in order to carry out their work. These funds are more than just a grant. They mark a possible turning point for crime survivors of color, who have long been underserved by the traditional victim services field.
“All too often communities of color have had to witness and endure first-hand the ills and fall-out of social programs that don’t work, public safety systems that don’t protect and serve and cycles of violence and abuse that seem to never end,” said Cheryl Branch, Executive Director of LAM.
EJUSA is thrilled to be featured in a new publication, “A Handbook for Jewish Communities Fighting Mass Incarceration,” by the Jewish human rights organization, T’ruah. The Handbook is a comprehensive guide for action from a Jewish perspective. It contains background information on various aspects of mass incarceration, from what happens when police stop people on the streets, to conditions inside jails and prisons, to the challenges people face when they leave incarceration and attempt to rebuild their lives.
Our contribution, “Building a justice system rooted in healing,” is written by EJUSA Executive Director Shari Silberstein. It includes EJUSA’s unique perspective on crime survivors’ needs:
In our work to end the death penalty over the last 25 years, we’ve met and worked with hundreds of family members who have lost loved ones to murder. Some supported the death penalty and others opposed it. But what united them all was the devastating trauma they experienced in the wake of their unimaginable loss…
This week is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. The theme this year is Serving Victims. Building Trust. Restoring Hope., which highlights the need for early intervention and victims services that build trust with crime survivors, and creates hope that healing is possible.
We’ve been working with crime survivors for over 10 years. And what we’ve learned from them over and over again is that these services – and a commitment to healing – remain out of reach for the vast majority of them.
Crime survivors aren’t getting the help they need
The numbers agree – estimates are that more than 90% of crime survivors don’t access any victims services. You read that right: 90% of the people in the U.S. who’ve been hurt, robbed, shot, assaulted, abused, raped, or had a family member murdered got no formal help to process their trauma, cope with their grief, or rebuild their lives in even practical ways.
Shelby Farah was a bright, compassionate, determined 20-year-old when she was shot to death during a robbery at the Metro-PCS store where she worked. Shelby’s murder shocked the community in Jacksonville, Florida, and her family has spent the last two and a half years grieving their loss.
The death penalty has added to this trauma, as they have been forced to endure an extended legal process, increased media scrutiny, their own complex feelings about the death penalty, and a polarizing, public debate about it at a time when they need each other most.
EJUSA executive director Shari Silberstein was in Washington, DC last weekend for the Mothers in Charge Standing For Peace and Justice National Rally.
Mothers in Charge, a national organization of mothers and other families who have lost loved ones to homicide, held the rally to draw attention to the trauma and needs of families left behind after homicide.
Family and friends gathered with pictures of their loved ones. They tragically have one thing in common: losing their loved ones to murder.