After the election many of us are feeling a sense of grief and loss. A normal response to grief is pain and anger. It can be a struggle to hold these overwhelming emotions. We remain committed to healing, teaching, and learning together. We encourage all of you to find ways to show care for the people and communities you love.
As survivors of homicide victims, we know what it means to mourn and still find ways to move forward. At the Peace Institute, we always turn toward the experience and expertise in the survivor's movement to guide us. We're blessed beyond measure for the leadership shown by family members of murder victims who wake up everyday and choose to keep on working for more peaceful communities. If they can do it, we can do it.
One survivor we love who has transformed her pain and anger into power and action is Mayra Leith. We asked this friend to share her story.
Mayra Leith is the co-founder of the Jimmy Velasquez Memorial Fund. Mayra's brother Jimmy was murdered in September 2014.
Can you share a memory of your loved one who was murdered?
My brother and I shared a bed in Honduras until I was 10. Then we came to the US. He always loved music, to sing. Not that he was good at it, but he liked it. You always knew what mood he was in based on what he was playing. Someimes it was old school. He loved hip hop. Eric Bean, Rakim, Yoyo, Salt n Peppa, NWA. If he was in a rebellious mood, he would blast NWA. He always dressed well. He wouldn't wait until Sunday. Our mother and grandmother trained us to dress well, smell well. Be your best.
He loved cooking. He just never liked cleaning up. I'd go visit him upstairs and he'd rope me into doing dishes. Everything was steak! I thought it was cholesterol that would kill him.
My brother wore glasses since he was little. He got transitions lenses. He saw what he wanted to see; especially if it was a pretty girl. He would see her all the way from Blue Hill Ave standing on the porch. He was goofy. He met his wife, Catalina in DC. She was a real presence in his life. He loved my mom. They would joke and talk. His laugh was so goofy you would have to laugh with him.
How does your experience as a survivor of a homicide victim shape your work and your life?
My husband and I started the Jimmy Velasquez Memorial Fund. We wanted to be proactive instead of reactive. The fund brings to life what I want to do in his name for students at Roxbury Community College. We offer small grants to students who may have a lower GPA for books, laptops, and what they need to be a good student. They took his life; yet we still have a say in his legacy. That legacy impacts so much more than just us and our family. I graduated from RCC in 1987 and now I sit on the board of trustees.
What are you doing to inform, influence, and impact policy and how can the community support your peacemaking efforts?
Besides donating to the fund, I would want them to become part of the Survivors of Homicide Victims Network. Build skills and train around trauma from homicide and be able to support someone else going through it. It's never easy to heal alone. Call me and fellow survivors to check in with them. Ask about their loved one. Hope for a collaborative healing center. Help each other, help our community heal. Its not about you knowing who you help. Its about people knowing there is help out there.
Please donate to the Jimmy Velasquez Memorial Fund here.