An emotional, yet empowering day for families affected by violence. The 10th annual Survivors of Murdered Loved Ones Luncheon took place at Boutwell Auditorium. Among the families, a mother who lost her daughter in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing 50 years ago.
Ten years ago, Carolyn Johnson lost her son to violence and for the last ten years she's been uniting with those who have walked in her shoes. "You really never get over losing a loved one to violence and this is a place where you come together and celebrate their lives."
Johnson is the founder of the Parents Against Violence Foundation. It hosted the annual Survivors of Murdered Loved Ones Luncheon. It uplifted families with song, dance and prayers. Around 100 victims were remembered.
Jefferson County Circuit Judge, Patricia Stephens, paid tribute to her brother killed in 1997. "It encourages me to get out in the community and be a part of effecting change."
Mayor William Bell attended the luncheon. He says, "Each time we come here to commemorate the fallen, it also gives us strength to go forward and work in the community to eliminate gun violence."
The guest speaker this year was Lisa McNair, the sister of Denise McNair, one of the four little girls tragically killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. Johnson says it was significant that the McNair family attended the luncheon during the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement.
Johnson says, "It touched my heart that a parent had to bury their child never knowing I would have to do that."
Lisa McNair says, "I'm sure they're a good support system for one another and can share each others pain. It doesn't change what happened, but sometimes it helps to share what we're going through."
Her mother, Maxine, was among the parents included in a special tribute. Maxine McNair says, "Violence does not solve the problem. talking and loving will solve the problem and being willing to say I'm sorry."
Children also received this message, to get involved in positive aspects of their communities.
Alexander Slaughter, a 14-year-old boy who spoke at the luncheon says, "As children we hold they key to the future.It's important to take charge and lead from young ages."
Mayor William Bell says along with supporting parents who've lost loved-ones to violence, it's also his responsibility to work toward finding solutions to gun violence.