ELYRIA — Just like the mother of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, Lisa Barrios belongs to a club she never intended to join.
It’s mothers who have lost a child to violence club, and being a member requires a kind of strength that no one knows they have until their child is gone.
Monday, Barrios, who is four years removed from that day a bullet killed her son, 17-year-old Charles “Chuckie” Howard, spoke publicly for the first time. She chose a Stop the Violence and Hate Rally organized by three local women who all wanted to find a way to bring the national story closer to home.
Just like Martin, Howard was 17 when he was shot and killed Aug. 19, 2009. It’s a tough age to be, Barrios said, “Not yet a man, but no longer considered a boy.”
“When I decided to speak today, I wondered what I was going to say that has not been said by another mother about another child,” Barrios said. She donned a yellow T-shirt with an airbrushed picture of her son on the front along with the words “Mommy’s Angel.”
A crowd of about 50 people, standing in the rain at times in Ely Square, listened to Barrios speak, many of them moved by her words, which were tinged with pain.
She spoke of how in the beginning she could barely get out of bed and, when she did, she sometimes turned to prescription pills to dull the agony. Barrios spoke of turning her life over to God and letting faith heal her hurt just so she could breathe again without it feeling like her heart was breaking every single day.
She spoke of following the trial of George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed Martin, and the not guilty verdict a jury handed down at the conclusion of the second-degree murder trial. And, the anxiety she felt as she sat in a Lorain County courtroom while a jury decided the fate of 19-year-old Alverno Howse Jr., who is serving a 13-year sentence for the reckless homicide charge he was eventually convicted of in 2010 in connection with her son’s death.
“I can’t tell you what I would have done if it was not guilty,” she said. “But for my son the verdict was guilty and in my heart justice was served.”
But, Barrios asked the crowd, what did her son’s death do to better the community? Has anything happened since in the way children are raised, loved and revered in the community that would stand in the way of the next bullet?
“Until we learn to stop the hate and violence, we will always have these stories to tell,” she said. “Are you or your children in a waiting line not knowing you could be next? If we don’t do anything now, you will be standing in the same line and be in the same club I never knew I was going to be in.”
Barrios’ message was simply one of action.
“We have to care about them all,” she said. “If we don’t, we do none of them justice.”
The theme of Monday’s rally could have easily been a call to move forward with purpose. As much as many could not refrain from mentioning Martin — a sign carried by one woman read “Trayvon: You died needlessly and received no justice. But you will never be forgotten. God bless your family” — there was a lot of talk of what should happen next.
“This is an opportunity to reflect on what our personal role is in choosing humanity over hate every time,” said Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda.
Betty Moody White, president of the Elyria chapter of the NAACP, called for more civic involvement.
“As a black mother, it’s hard to have to accept that verdict, but that’s our justice system,” Moody White said. “That is why it’s important to use our power every single time its time to vote. We have to use the ballot box. We have to be mindful all the time, not just when another Trayvon Martin is killed, of who we are putting in office to govern for us.”
Moody White also implored attendees to answer the call to serve on juries if the time ever comes.
“I can’t help but to think that maybe that verdict would have been different if there was someone who looked like me on that jury and maybe we wouldn’t be standing here today,” she said.
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.