Chantell Grant and Andrea Stoudemire were at their usual spot Friday night, posted on a corner lot in the Gresham neighborhood as part of their effort to curb gun violence in their community.
The two women had spent two years working with Mothers Against Senseless Killings (MASK), a team of moms who put on events and offer a safe space for kids in the community.
But the peace-seekers became victims Friday when Grant — a 26-year-old mother of four — and Stoudemire — a 35-year-old mother of three — were killed in a drive-by shooting.
“It is terrifying. It is heartbreaking. I haven’t slept because I am trying to figure out how we can stop this,” Tamar Manasseh, founder of MASK, told the Chicago Sun-Times. “Who’s next? I just keep thinking, ‘Who’s next?’ ”
Just before 10 p.m. Friday, a blue SUV rolled by 75th Street and Stewart Avenue, where MASK sets up shop, and someone fired shots into a crowd, Chicago police said. Grant and Stoudemire were killed, and a man was grazed in the arm.
“This is still very much under investigation, but at this time, we have no evidence that we can point to that suggests the women were the intended targets. We also have no evidence to the contrary,” CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi wrote in an email. No one was in custody as of Monday evening.
Manasseh started the group in 2015, with the moms “occupying” the southwest corner of 75th and Stewart — hanging out, cooking out and walking the neighborhood — with the belief that their presence and engagement with the community alone could do some good. The mothers also offer youths counseling, healthy meals and homes for those who don’t have them.
Instead of a lively group of kids playing and adults enjoying the summer weather Monday, mourners stopped by to leave candles, flowers and sign a poster at a memorial set up by friends of the two women.
“I’m trying to hold up. I’m taking it literally one day at a time,” said Charvonda Andrews, Stoudemire’s friend of more than two decades. “Honestly, every 30 minutes I’m crying. But I’m trying to just hold it together right now. That’s been my best friend since fifth grade.
“She was very outgoing. Very spontaneous. Loved to smile,” Andrews said. “She loved taking care of her kids. That’s the main thing. Her kids were her world.”
A few minutes later, as rain started to fall on Andrews and a group of friends, they released a dozen balloons into the air and watched as two drifted off together.
Andrews, sobbing over the loss of her friend, let out her frustration: “Why are these cowards taking moms away from these kids? ... I’m so tired of Chicago.”
The man who was grazed in Friday’s shooting also stopped by the scene Monday — with his arm bandaged — to pay his respects.
The man, who spoke to the Sun-Times on the condition he remain anonymous, said he spends much of his time walking the neighborhood, trying to console people affected by gun violence. The night of the shooting, he comforted one of the women who was shot, holding her hand as she died.
”It’s too much around here. The older people can’t come out and sit on the porch; the kids can’t play,” he said. “It’s just, wow. Everyone is scared.”
MASK has started a GoFundMe campaign with the goal of raising a $5,000 reward for information “that will bring these mother killers to justice.”
The attack was the second drive-by shooting on the block in the past month. The night of June 25, a 23-year-old woman was wounded as she stood on the corner about 9 p.m., when a black vehicle drove by and someone inside opened fire, Chicago police said. She was shot in the face, back and leg but survived. There was no indication from police that the shootings were connected.
At the site Monday, Stoudemire’s older brother, Dyrell Powell, paced around the block in shock over his sister’s death.
“They killed my sister. It hurts,” Powell said. “Whoever did this, I hope they go to jail for life.”