When Mother’s Day rolls around, most mothers can take comfort in knowing it’s their day. And most likely, great gifts and well wishes from their children will bring them much joy. But for the mothers in the organization known as MAMA, Mother’s Day is often one of the saddest times of the year. Instead of joy, it brings up painful memories of their loved ones.
Mothers Against Murderers Association, Inc., known as MAMA, is hoping to bring these mothers the joy they deserve on their special day. The group held a pre-mother’s day dinner last weekend, complete with a scrumptious mother’s day meal, beautiful decor, an amazing keynote speaker and great entertainment, all designed to bring some much-needed cheer to mothers who need it the most. It’s just one of the ways MAMA helps these special mothers –all of whom have lost a child to murder.
The dinner, paid for by community stalwart, Dan Calloway, brought joy to the mothers at a time when memories of their deceased child floods their thoughts and mind.
Angela Williams, founder of the organization, has already represented MAMA at the White House, at an event on gun laws hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama. She was able to tell her personal story to Mrs. Obama. “She was so compassionate. She really listened to me,” said Williams of the First Lady. And like Calloway, Williams, too, wants the organization known around the world, with branches all over the United States and even internationally. It’s surely a club no one wants to belong to, but if it’s their fate to have lost their beloved child to gun violence, then Angela Williams wants to help them make it through.
It was William’s sister, Georgie Dixon of West Palm Beach, who was the inspiration behind the organization. Dixon’s son Torrey Manuel was gunned down by a close friend after the two went out to celebrate New Year’s Eve in 2003. After an altercation, the two men went their separate ways and Torrey went home. Later that night, his friend appeared out of the darkness and shot him seven times with an AK47, leaving him for dead. Torrey was 29, and his mother still doesn’t know why he was murdered by someone who had eaten dinner at her house and spent many nights with her son. Through hearsay, she was told it had something to do with two girls. “The most hurtful part is it was a childhood friend. It’s been very difficult because my son was always there for me. I thank God every day for an extraordinary son. It doesn’t get easier, but you learn to live with it. My son’s legacy lives on through all the people we (the organization) have helped,” she said, still fighting back tears.
But before Dixon got to this point, she was overwhelmed by the loss and was nearly a basket case, with people finding her in parking lots in her car closed in, simply screaming out her son’s name. “I was in such bad shape,” she said, explaining her deep bouts of grief. She was at her lowest point, when Williams stepped in to help her sister.
“Her (remaining) son, Johnnie, kept calling me, telling me about his mother and how bad she was doing. She was on the brink of a nervous breakdown. And one day, I was riding down 45th Street in West Palm Beach, and it hit me: start an organization. God told me to start an organization and call it MAMA. We started out with one mother and now we have 280 mothers. I meet them at funerals, viewings, and I started going to crime scenes to be there for them,” said Williams, who is Founder and President of the group. She says she has been to 250 funerals. The group offers a ‘Circle of Healing’ support group, they speak at prisons and corrections facilities, and they simply are there for those who have lost a child to violence.
William’s brother, Artie Williams, is her Vice President and also an integral part of MAMA. He says the ladies come in as victims, but the goal is to move them beyond that point. “We try to bring stability and comfort to their lives. They come in as victims, but our goal is for them to become an advocate. We want them to know that God has not forsaken them. God would want them to help others,” said Artie, who along with his family members have lost 16 relatives to violence.
Paula Lecounte Bowe of Riviera Beach, says the organization has helped her tremendously. In 2007, her daughter, Tonya Raines, 37, was shot and killed by an ex-boyfriend. He then turned the gun on himself as officers approached him. It was a horrific murder/suicide and it was Bowe’s greatest nightmare. “My daughter was such a calm spirit,” she said. Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day are the worst, said Bowe. “It’s horrible because Tonya always brought me cards and balloons. She would call me at 2 am, just laughing and talking. She would always ask me what I’m doing, and I would ask her, ‘Do you know what time it is?’ But now, I would give anything to have that 2am call from her.” Bowe says she had not heard of MAMA, but Williams somehow found her. “She came to my daughter’s funeral and introduced herself to me.” Today, Bowe has moved from victim, to survivor and is now an advocate on behalf of senseless violence. She speaks to groups and others about her own plight. She shared her testimony at the Mother’s Day dinner. She said she loves the organization because the other mother’s understand. “Other people don’t really understand. This hurt – it goes past the heart,” she explained.