© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

These Kansas City moms lost their children to homicide. On Mother's Day, they focus on the good

A group of women sits around a table and holds up cards with their name on them.
Savannah Hawley-Bates
KCUR 89.3
Each of the Core Mothers – leaders of KC Mothers In Charge – received handwritten cards to celebrate Mother's Day and the joy their children brought to their lives.

KC Mothers In Charge is a coalition of mothers whose children have died by homicide that works to reduce violent crime. The tight-knit group understands what each other is going through — and help each other celebrate despite tragic loss.

When Rosilyn Temple thinks about Mother’s Day, she thinks about her daughter’s 40th birthday, which falls on the holiday this year. They plan to celebrate with a big barbecue.

She also thinks about the one thing missing from the Mother’s Day celebration: her son Antonio “Pee Wee” Thompson, who was killed the day before Thanksgiving in 2011.

Pee Wee was Temple’s middle child – a jokester who knew how to make a whole room light up with smiles and laughter. Moving on after his death was incredibly hard for Temple, but hasn’t stopped her from seeking joy in holidays like Mother’s Day.

“I'm still here and I can hold onto my memories with Pee Wee and with my other children,” Temple says. “We definitely going to celebrate and make sure that we know what Pee Wee would have done, what he would have said. We talk about things that he did, we laugh, we just have some awesome moments.”

Being able to fully celebrate holidays like Mother’s Day didn’t come easy. When her son was killed, there were no officials at the scene to help Temple emotionally. In 2013, she started the Kansas City chapter of Mothers in Charge to be that person for other grieving families.

To mark the holiday this year, volunteers with KC Mothers in Charge wrote cards for their “Core Mothers,” from the perspective of their sons or daughters lost to homicide — cards they would have received from their children. It’s one way to celebrate one another in the midst of grief.

A woman holds a card that reads "So proud of you! Happy Mother's Day!"
Savannah Hawley-Bates
KCUR 89.3
Each Core Mother received a handwritten note to replace a Mother's Day card they would have gotten from their murdered children. The group tries to reframe the holiday into one of joy and remembrance, instead of sadness for the family member who's not there.

When a homicide occurs, Temple and other “Core Mothers” in the group are notified by KCPD. Mothers in Charge offers crisis intervention and continued comfort and support to loved ones. The Core Mothers — leaders in the group who have also lost their children to homicide — spearhead the outreach.

The effort has created a network of mothers who have all gone through the same tragedy. KC Mothers In Charge does large-scale community work and is on call 24/7 for when tragedy occurs.

“It's hope and healing through the process,” Temple says. “You will heal and be able to live through it, but you just have to make a difference for someone else that maybe needs you. But grief and healing is a process. It's a lifetime process to what you do with it.”

The network of mothers who lost children to violent crime continues to grow. So far this year, 59 people have been killed in Kansas City, according to the Kansas City Police Department. Of those, 19 victims were under the age of 25, three were younger than 18.

Cynthia Tucker is one of the Core Mothers. Her 19-year-old son, Jacob Payne, was killed in July 2022. This is her first Mother’s Day without him. While Tucker is sometimes overwhelmed with sadness surrounding the holiday, she tries to reframe it to celebrate the relationship she and Jacob shared. With her other children, Tucker prefers to remember Jacob in his life — a funny, smart, loyal and artistic child — instead of in his death.

“I know it'll be sad, but I will surround myself with my mother,” Tucker says. “My daughter is a mom now, so I'm just focusing on life. Jacob goes everywhere with me in my purse. I have pictures everywhere and always in my heart. I include him in every aspect of my life. I talk to Jacob every single day. Mother's Day is special, but I don't try to make it any different than any other day for me.”

The Core Mothers help lead vigils for homicide victims, canvas neighborhoods to interrupt crime, provide outreach to at-risk youth and visit people incarcerated for violent crimes to help them reintegrate and reduce the risk of recidivism.

All of that work involves the mothers reliving the worst days of their lives. KC Mothers in Charge contracted a licensed therapist for individual and family counseling as well as support groups. The Core Mothers are expected to get counseling at least once a month.

Beyond therapy, Mothers In Charge hosts social gatherings for families who have all experienced loss can bond.

A woman in a pink shirt stands in front of a tree. She's holding a framed picture of a young boy in a black shirt.
Savannah Hawley-Bates
KCUR 89.3
This is Cynthia Tucker's first Mother's Day without her son Jacob, who was killed last year. She says she tries to treat the holiday like any other day and takes extra steps to remember the relationship she and Jacob shared.

Yvonne Page lost her 42-year-old son Anthony Wayne Page II in 2018 when he was murdered in his home. She says he was a fun-loving son and father, and was always protective of his family members. After joining KC Mothers In Charge, Page has a new view on the holiday.

Page says dealing with the grief gets better as the years go by, but it never goes away. Joining KC Mothers In Charge helped Page get out of her “state of unbelief” and put that energy into helping others like her.

“It's not that other people don't sympathize with you or want to help, it's just that no mother understands what you're going through, except a mother that's been through what you're going through,” Page says. “It's just a different feeling. I've lost relatives, I've lost mother, father, you know, brothers, people close to me. But it's something about losing a child that is totally different.”

Latrice Murray, outreach specialist for the organization, is who convinced Page to join. The pair are now both on the team of Core Mothers. Her 17-year-old son, Darion Murray, was killed in 2009. She and her son shared a love of sneakers and basketball. As an outgoing, funny kid, Murray said her son was her “comfort child.”

Murray joined KC Mothers In Charge when it was founded to help with her own grief and is now the lead Core Mother. Since joining the group, Murray says she’s learned to celebrate holidays in a different way to keep her son’s memory alive. Instead of having a picnic on the Fourth of July, Darion’s favorite holiday, the family goes out of town to make more memories “in his name.”

“I take it one day at a time. I focus on the good times and what brought me to the organization and helping another mother,” Murray says. “We don't get over them, but thinking about the memories and stuff and helping another mother helps me get through the holidays like this. Holidays can be challenging and hard — I just learned to do something and challenge my energy somewhere else.”

For Temple, helping mothers come together in their grief and learn to reframe holidays from painful reminders of what they’ve lost to celebrations of their child’s life is a key part of the group’s mission.

“I tell mothers, don't try to exit that — that it didn't happen, they weren't a part of your life, you didn't have that child — because if you do, it's going to come back and haunt you,” Temple says. “You celebrate them. We have to give back cause we couldn't save our child and they're not coming back in his life. So if we can help save one life or be there for someone that lost their child, that's what KC Mothers In Charge do.”

When news breaks, it can be easy to rely on officials and people in power to get information fast. As KCUR’s general assignment and breaking news reporter, I want to bring you the human faces of the day’s biggest stories. Whether it’s a local shop owner or a worker on the picket line, I want to give you the stories of the real people who are driving change in the Kansas City area. Email me at savannahhawley@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @savannahhawley.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.