Seven men walked up the aisle as one female pulled up the back Reverend Patricia Moore. “How far is heaven?” said Pastor Moore. “Heaven is in your heart.” The church was filled with not one seat available. A sea of white for Wilbert “Junior” Francis who was murdered on Saturday, June 10, 2016. Gunned down 13 times on the streets of Mt. Vernon.
We have a heart problem. Not a gun problem. Please remember that Cain killed Abel with a rock. We need our hearts massaged in the City of Mt. Vernon. We need CPR here in Mt Vernon. We need a blood transfusion. We have a cancerous section in the body of Mt Vernon. It is a known fact that Cancer, if not treated will kill the body. But, Cancer that is treated and not monitored have great chances of coming back again with a vengeance.
In March 2012 Nazarene Duncan the mother of Junior stood with mothers in Mt. Vernon to address the plethora of killings. She addressed the then Mayor Ernie Davis with statistics. Hoping that there would be a change.
2007 there were 7 murders
2008 there were 12 murders
2009 there were 11 murders** [the year the homicide unit was defunct]
2010 there were 2 murders
2011 there were 6 murders
2012 there were 10 murders
resulting in a current total, in six years, of 44 deaths in the city of Mount Vernon.
The Mothers who stood with Naz understood that confronting Mount Vernon’s crime crisis was vital for the safety, peace-of-mind, and well-being of its citizens, businesses, and visitors. She believed that reducing the city’s crime rate in Mount Vernon would also be an economic imperative for New York state’s 8th largest city population-wise.
They gathered again to support Naz. This time more Mothers who are also moved by the plight. It is ironic that Junior attended the Mt Vernon Heights Congregational Church a few times looking for solutions to stop the violence in Mt Vernon. Mothers would gather once a year to Honour those who were victimized. Constance Malcolm, the mother of Ramarley Graham was also present and joined forces as well. Naz rallied behind Constance in Honour of Ramarley on the streets of the Bronx in 2012.
Mayor Richard Thomas stood and spoke to the congregation, “Yes! “I am going to say it, Enough is Enough. I never met Junior, but I know Naz. She is a mother who has been in the fore front against gun violence. I stand with you Naz. Mount Vernon stands with you! And let the record show that this is not normal. This is personal!
Naz met and spoke to Richard Thomas at the time he was a City Councilman. “I do not want my sons murdered here in Mt. Vernon. I do not want to feel the pain that these other Mothers are feeling. Look at them.” In 2012 the Black Community of Mt. Vernon was an “armed camp” with no outcry to the point where those who were crying sound like a house cat meowing at a mount lion.
It was perplexing as to why a Homicide Unit was not in place since 2009 and 90% of the murder cases were cold and unfounded. In the midst of bringing the issues to the table something horrific occurred in Mt. Vernon. Three murders within twenty-four hours. On March 12th, 2012 at 5:20 p.m. Rahsul Watkins, 21, 8:50 p.m. Stephon Ramsey, 20, and 11:15 p.m. Cleveland Baxter, 22 were all murdered within a twenty-four-hour span.
Hungry to make a change and embracing the fact that human will can make the future different and possibly better the women woke up and traveled down to Mosque No. 7 located in Harlem on April the 15th. They worshiped with the congregation and listened to the message of Student Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad. They needed help. Minister Muhammad listened and was also disturbed and moved by the numbers of murders in Mount Vernon:
As he spoke to the women he also infused them with some strong beliefs of the Muslims. He stated, “Muslim are taught to report all…Weakness, Slackness & Wrongdoings!” He continued by adding that, “Once we do this as a community we will enable ourselves to fight fear.” The mothers agreed and noted that the mentality of those involved in the violent behavior in Mount Vernon was cut from the clothe of “no snitching” or “whistle blowing”. This meeting resulted into Student Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad leading a “Stop the Violence Rally” in Mount Vernon at the Dole Center on June 2nd!
Minister Arthur Muhammad spoke at the funeral. “I want to first begin by saluting the family of Nazarene Duncan. I met Naz when we organized a stop the killing rally. There was a shooting and Naz said I do not want my son to be killed. I do not want to feel this pain.” Minister Arthur added as he paused, “I am tired of saying rest in peace. We should be living in peace.”
When sitting with Carl Reed a former resident of Mt. Vernon and the cousin of Junior, he noted that there is a difference in the City of Mt. Vernon. “This is a different era. This is a different animal. Our beef was with New Rochelle not one another. I use to live in Mt. Vernon and I see the change. I feel that the split of the high school was a major no no. It creates the them and us syndrome. I also believe that the current cliché homes without fathers is a major issue. As a youth our fathers served as fathers for the Brothers who had a home with an absent father. Junior worked alongside his father. My father is always present. That is totally different from today. Friends are looked at as fathers. Friends who are your same age are not equipped with the ability to talk about problems and give solutions. Their solution skills is to hurt, harm, and kill.” Carl continued by stating, “there is a need for men to have a shoulder to lean on. And to understand what it means to call one another “Bro!” Carl shared an interest to be a part of My Brothers Keeper an initiative that is slated to begin in Mt. Vernon.
The service ended with Junior’s brother, family, and friends in the front walking him out of the church. Mt Vernon youth are hungry and we are to feed them.
MAMAiAM, the organization started by Nazarene Duncan in 2012 to fight Against Gun Violence was inspired to continue her fight by Damon K. Jones of Blacks Law Enforcement on America. He met with them often at the dinner on Gramatan Avenue. Encouraging them to stand tall and never give up the was against gun violence.