Mothers of murdered children can help end gun violence. Listen to us.   

Mothers of murdered children can help end gun violence. Listen to us. 

By Donita Royal 


My son, Walter, was just 21 years old when he was murdered. Our once peaceful neighborhood had erupted in a spree of senseless, mindless violence. Walter had gone to college. He had a stable job. He was a good kid. But none of that mattered. One day, he was shot down and killed in downtown Indianapolis. And nothing has been the same for me since.

Walter died in 2013, and he was not the only victim. I had to share my tremendous grief with the mother of Walter’s best friend, Darius, who was gunned down when he was 20 years old. When crime goes unchecked, none of our children are safe.

Indianapolis’ surging criminal violence has fallen upon vulnerable neighborhoods and families with no signs of stopping. There were 215 criminal homicides in Indianapolis in the last year - the highest yearly number of homicides ever recorded in the city.

Yet according to records compiled by the Indianapolis Star, we’re already on pace to surpass that number this year.

Our city is not alone in facing a growing epidemic of criminal violence. American cities across the country have been experiencing similar crime waves. According to a report by the Major Cities Chiefs Association, 66 of the the 70 cities experienced increases in either homicide, rape, or aggravated assault in comparison to 2020.

As a mother, I want to say loud and clear: enough is enough. I’ve stood side by side with far too many grieving mothers and far too many hurting families. But despite how real our loss is, the national narrative around crime and police reform doesn’t include our stories. That needs to change.

That’s why I started my nonprofit called Mothers Against Violence Healing Ministry in 2015. I wanted to create a place where mothers could get together to support each other and help to make their voices heard. Now that we have become part of The Woodson Center’s Voices of Black Mothers United Initiative, we have a chance to amplify our truth nationwide.

A big part of that truth is the pain we feel. The mothers in our group often show up at many of our city’s crime scenes to make contact with the victim’s mother. We attend funerals as a group; we take meals to the mother’s home and sit and talk with her. We share our pain, bear each other’s burdens, and also try to find something positive and purposeful out of the pain. But while our main goal is healing, we know that our healing includes putting a stop to crime. We are sick of the violence.  We want solutions.

First of all, we must speak the truth about the importance of the police in our communities. 

Studies show that bolstering police presence actually does reduce crime. There’s a reason why 81% of Black people asked in a Gallup Poll said they want police to spend the same amount of or more time in their area. In the same survey, 90% of those polled reported favoring specific reforms aimed at improving police relations with the communities they serve and preventing or punishing abusive behavior.

We agree.  We advocate for increased funding to train police for conflict resolution skills, and tactics to discourage excessive and irresponsible law enforcement tactics.

In addition, we need a better approach to community relations and youth engagement. My group of moms works to strengthen partnerships between young people, community groups and law enforcement. We invite more leaders into our neighborhoods to get to know the people.

Building these relationships can deter violent crime, and build trust when investigations are required. For the corporations that are funding anti-racist initiatives, please consider supporting local organizations that are investing in at-risk young people and violence free zones. Those investments will save Black lives.

For the sake of all Indianapolis residents, we must address the epidemic of violence together. That means listening to the families of murdered children, and keeping our police force intact in the communities that need protection. We’ve had enough, and we don’t want another mother to experience the pain of burying a murdered child.

Donita Royal is the Indiana Chapter Director for the Woodson Center’s Voices of Black Mothers United initiative and Director for the Mothers Against Violence Healing Ministry.


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