They came together as a collective to say: “Stop it, do something, and do it now.”
Roughly a dozen people, including mothers and community activists, gathered in front of the Daley Center for a news conference on Mother’s Day to shine a light on mothers of missing Black women and children.
The mothers held up posters and flyers of faces they have not seen in years, the same faces the mothers hope one day someone will recognize so they can experience a long-awaited return or some kind of closure.
Shantinel Howard is the mother of Jerrica Laws, who went missing from Park Forest on Aug. 17, 2015.
“She is so sweet, always smiling, and full of life,” Howard said. “She talks to strangers, she talks to everyone and offers a word from the Bible to those who need it.”
Howard was holding a poster with a painting of Jerrica in the center. Messages from community members, such as “She is beautiful,” “Bring her home” and “God will always love you,” surrounded her picture. At the very top was a message from her mother written in purple marker: “Mom misses you and loves you. Come home safely.”
“Because that’s what I’ve been praying for,” Howard said.
Damon Reed, a Chicago-based artist, worked on a project painting murals of Chicago-area women who have been missing for years, some for decades. Reed gave the poster to Howard. She displays it in her home on special occasions.
“This sits in my living room now,” Howard said. “Mother’s Day, holidays and birthdays are the most difficult for me.”
Lashann Walker is searching for her daughter, Diamond Bynum, who was 21, and her grandson, King Walker, who was 2.
The aunt and nephew left their home in Gary on the morning of July 25, 2015, likely to take a walk. The family had moved a few months prior, and Bynum, who has Prader-Willi syndrome, a condition of slow mental development, was not familiar with the new area.
But to this day, no one knows where they are.
“I don’t know if they’re still here with us or not,” Walker said. “It’s really, really hard to keep moving on every single day when you’ve got to keep living and not knowing.”
Valencia Dantzler, a community activist also known as “Madame Ambassador of House Music,” said she wants to keep helping provide mothers with resources in order for them to get some closure.
“What I’d like to do is put more spotlight (on missing people), meet with some lawmakers and see if we can create laws and provide resources to do more,” Dantzler said. “As years pass, it seems forgotten, but it’s not forgotten to the mothers.”
Vera Giles-Norris, who founded the KATS Out Foundation and is part of the Missing Please Come Home Global Alert, a group that helps raise awareness for missing people and sex trafficking, is asking the public for assistance in finding information.
“If this was your loved one, you would want someone to do it for you,” Giles-Norris said. “It’s Mother’s Day, and no mother deserves to stand in the shoes of these women.”
Each mom left with a pink Mother’s Day balloon with a bouquet of flowers. Some of the rose petals broke off and drifted in the wind as each mom went her separate way.