Vigil held for slain 14-year-old; ‘We still care’

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MAYWOOD | A 14-year-old Maywood boy was murdered in late August. Countless other young men—and women—have met similar fates over the years in Maywood and surrounding communities in western Cook County.

Phyllis Duncan, the founder of Mothers of Murdered Sons (MOMS)—an advocacy group to support women that have lost their children to gun violence and reckless homicide—wanted those living in the neighborhood where 14-year-old Michael Israel Jones was fatally shot Aug. 30 to know that she and others in the village aren’t about to forget him anytime soon.

So Duncan brought a bull horn to a vigil she organized Saturday afternoon near 10th Avenue and Washington Blvd.—the area where Jones was murdered. She wanted to make sure her voice was heard throughout the neighborhood, and remind residents—even if they were inside their homes during the vigil—that this young man lost his life in their neighborhood. She urged them to contact police if they saw something or know anything that could lead to the apprehension of the suspect or suspects in the shooting.

“I brought a bull horn with me because I wanted to wake up this community,” said Duncan, who founded MOMS several months after her son, Dodavah, was shot and killed the day after Mother’s Day in 2005. “I wanted them to hear my voice … no one still came out of their doors.”  Among those attending the vigil was Brenda Jones, the mother of the slain youth. Duncan says she has been calling Jones once a week and tries to be there for her. She knows exactly what Jones is going through.

“It’s necessary because the phone calls (supporting her after Michael’s funeral) did stop,” Duncan said. “The knocks at the door did stop. Preparing the food because you couldn’t cook, did stop. But I wanted her to know that we still care for the life of her son.”  Duncan added, “She’s going through depression, she’s going through hopelessness. I know she told me she was struggling being able to sleep. Not only that, having to address her other children and family members. Michael had two sisters so that means they’re grieving. When you’re the mother of a murdered child, you almost have to forget about yourself and take care of the household and do what you have to do. You have to go back to work, which she had to do. So it’s like (Maywood) Trustee Isiah (Brandon) said, ‘You never get over it but you do get through it.’ ”

Brandon, who also has had family members killed, spoke at the vigil. Among others who also addressed the vigil was Bishop Dr. Reginald Saffo, PTMAN chairman and pastor of United Faith M.B. Church; Rev. Anthony Pelegrino, pastor of Impact Church; and Pirsia Allen, the Maywood Police Department’s community policing officer.  Allen, representing Chief Val Talley and the police department, embraced Brenda Jones and assured her that the police are doing everything they can to bring her son’s killers to justice.

“Maywood Police Department investigators are working diligently on the case,” Allen said. “They’re going over the facts that they have and they haven’t given up. I told Ms. Jones not to give up hope because I do believe that justice will prevail, and not to give up in her faith and everything is going to be OK. On behalf of our chief, he’s making it in his heart not to let the case go cold.”  Michael Jones was shot multiple times at around 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 30 in the 600 block of 11th Avenue in Maywood. He died the next morning at Loyola University Medical Center.

“I just want to thank Officer Allen for stepping up and coming out,” Duncan said. “This mother needed to hear that the village police department cared enough about her son because when I did address it, the response I got was negative. So having him coming out and representing Chief Talley and the police department made a difference.”

Saffo reminded those who attended the vigil that Maywood has produced many highly successful and noteworthy individuals over the years who’ve made their marks on society. He said the village needs to shed the perception that it is part of “the hood.”

“Maywood is hurting,” Saffo said. “Maywood needs hope; we have to recapture the eternal light of the village and bring back the neighbor to the hood.”

Saffo added, “I think it’s incumbent upon us to make an effort to recapture that history that produced great people (in Maywood). Journalists, athletes, activists, and it’s here, but it’s been covered with all the pain and hurt. I think we need to discard that notion that we’re a ‘hood.’ That has decimated us. Bring back the neighbor to the ‘hood’ and that will begin to turn this thing around because as a neighbor, I care for you, I share with you. But in the hood, I just take from you.

“I’m going to push that wherever I go. That’s my new mantra now.”

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