Nineteen-year-old Joseph Graves had only been home from Northern Illinois University a day when he was shot and killed on Dec. 11, 2015, near 92nd Street and Emerald Avenue.
Though he may be gone, his mother, Latanda, carried on his memory on Sunday, joining other parents of slain children for a press conference at Saint Sabina Church to tell others in their communities and in the city that they could be next.
Over 30 handmade crosses, each with the name of a person shot and killed, were given to more than 30 parents like Graves’ mother, as well as others whose children were killed over a decade ago or at the beginning of December. Many of those present had cases that were still unsolved. This year, over 660 people have been killed.
“This shows that people are coming together in support of those who’ve lost children,” Latanda Graves said. “The pain never goes away, but finding this support has been very healing, and I hope those in similar situations know that there is support for those who have lost people.”
Father Michael Pfleger, who also lost a son to gun violence, and community leaders like Purpose Over Pain, joined the parents at the South Side church to urge the city, and the nation, to do more to stem the flow of violence the city has seen.
In order to make the city safer, people have to come forward and the divide between communities and the police has to be bridged, Pfleger said.
“Until we find the courage to deal with guns our [homicide] numbers and the number of our crosses will continue to grow,” Pfleger said. “What we have to do is stand up and speak up. The block ought to come forward, the parents ought to come forward if they know something. When people see we no longer allow people to kill others and get away with it, that’s when we’ll see the numbers drop.”
Each parent had an opportunity to say their child’s name and they all received a white handmade cross with their child’s name on it.
Pam Bosley said that the hope is to urge people to get involved. Her own son, Terrell, was killed in 2006 and his case remains unsolved.
“We can’t accept this as normal, we have to solve this problem,” Bosley said. “If you turn your head, or turn a blind eye, this could easily be you.”