BY JAMES HARPER
Jennifer Cord held back tears as she talked about her son who was murdered on Dec. 1, 2012, in Daytona Beach.
Cord was speaking to hundreds last Saturday during a rally after the “March Against the Madness” that began at Derbyshire Park.
“I can admit my son had bumps and bruises. He didn’t deserve to die. I am going to get justice for my son,” she said to a hushed crowd about 23-year old Rayshard L. Mitchell who was shot in the stomach, left lying in the road shortly before 7 p.m. on Verdell Street, which intersects with South Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
“People say it’s going to be OK. They just don’t know. I’m upset. End of the day, I want to get justice for my son. I will stand for my kid. All I can do is pray. Perpetrator who killed my son, I love you too. Turn yourself in. I’m going to let DBPD take care of it,” stated Cord.
After speaking, she was approached by Daytona Beach Police Department (DBPD) Chief Mike Chitwood who told her there is a “$10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of person who killed her son.”
‘Wrong place, wrong time’
Daytona Beach resident Carmen Clark, a victim of gun violence, also addressed the marchers.
She told how she was at the “wrong place, wrong time” when she was hit by two bullets in her chest during a drive-by shooting.
“One bullet lodged in my bra. The young man that shot me turned himself in. I was able to face my shooter at court. His intent was to kill.
Two shots did hit me. We have to pray for our children,” Clark remarked.
These two women were among several speakers at the rally, which was organized to bring attention to gun violence, gangs and domestic abuse.
“Not in my city, gang violence; not in my city, drug abuse, not in my city, all of these people in fear, not in my city,” was blared through a bullhorn as about 300 residents marched through the neighborhoods of the north side of the city.
“This is not an event.… First step of a movement. We will not disappear,” said Bishop Derek Triplett, pastor of Hope Fellowship Church.
Triplett, along with Pastor Tony Barhoo of Living Faith World Ministries, helped to organize the march.
“I believe we can be better. Children can grow up with high expectations,” continued Triplett, who asked all those in attendance to sign a pledge before leaving that will commit them to continue to make a difference ridding the city of violence.
‘A family disease’
Sophie Vessa, a Daytona Beach Police Department victims advocate, spoke on behalf of children growing up in homes with domestic violence.
“Leave for the child,” Vessa told mothers in the audience who may be victims of domestic abuse.
“Children have been overlooked for too many years. Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to commit domestic violence,” she noted.
Vessa called domestic violence “a family problem, a family disease.”
A victims advocate for 12 years, Vessa added, “Family is where we (are supposed to) learn to love, care for people in our lives. Step in.
You can save your son from incarceration, daughter from hopelessness. It’s not fair for children to be raised in domestic violence.’’
Cusack: ‘I am with you’
Volusia County Councilwoman Joyce Cusack applauded the marchers for acting instead of reacting.
“I am with you. I raised two daughters in a safe environment. We were part of a village – raised by the community,” Cusack said, noting that communities today have gotten away from the way she was raised.
“We are living in some perilous times. We must save ourselves – can’t depend upon law enforcement. We have an at-risk society we are bringing up,” she remarked.
Turned life around
Pastor Monzell Ford, who was born in Los Angeles, spoke as a former gang member.
“I was born into the gangs. Father went to the pen when I was 7 years old. I was out in the streets,” Ford explained, sharing that he had an awakening when he was 17 years old.
“I was shot. I had a calm on me. Started praying. As long as I had breath in my body, there was hope. ….Bullet should have taken me out. Not lucky, but blessed. Didn’t stop then, but slowed down. Now I reach out to those that think God won’t accept them,” Ford told an attentive crowd.
Mayor: Work together
Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry was one of the final speakers. He and his brother, Zone 5 City Commissioner Patrick Henry, also helped organize Saturday’s rally and march.
“I wish we didn’t have these problems that we have. My heart is troubled. If we are going to make a difference, we are not going to do it alone. We have to work together,” said Mayor Henry.
Henry, who retired from Volusia County Schools as a coach and teacher, gave the parents advice on how to keep their kids safe.
“Instill the importance of education in those closest to you. Give them something. Teach them something with a spirit of love. We can make a difference in our children’s lives,” he said.
Commissioner Henry drove home the point about the purpose for marching.
“Gun violence, drugs, domestic violence is not going to run me out of my zone. Black males dying at epidemic proportions due to gun violence. Our young Black men live in a war zone. Let’s not end (advocacy) today,” he said.