On a recent sunny Saturday afternoon, small groups across Detroit met to deal with the fallout from homicides both infamous and obscure.
The number of killings in Detroit has hovered around 300 annually in recent years, down from about 400 a year a decade ago. But the city still averages about six killings per week, leaving behind broken families struggling to recover.
Without fanfare, groups meet regularly throughout the city to console each other and seek answers about their loved ones’ deaths.
“These are not just statistics. They’re not numbers — these are people,” said Pastor Barry Randolph of the Church of the Messiah on Detroit’s east side. “They have families, friends, loved ones.”
Randolph honors hundreds of Detroit homicide victims by reading their names from an ever-growing list during an annual “Fallen Angels” ceremony.
“There’s an African proverb that says if you say the name of a person out loud, then they will live on forever, so we literally say the names of every single person, and we have hundreds of people here,” Randolph said as he gave a tour of his church’s “memorial chapel,” where dozens of homicide victims’ photographs line the furniture and walls.
Among them are victims whose killings were well-publicized, including Paige Stalker, a 16-year-old Grosse Pointe Park resident who was killed Dec. 22, 2014, on Detroit’s east side, and Tiane Brown, a Wayne State University Law student whose body was found in October 2013 in a field near the old Packard plant.
Others whose killings did not receive as much attention are also honored, including Essence Clanton, who was killed trying to break up a fight; Lori Stanford, a gospel musician who was killed by her husband; and Serena Carson, whose body was discovered by her 13-year-old son.
This day, Randolph welcomed two crime victim groups that use his church for regular meetings: Fallen Angels and Mothers of Murdered Children.
Andrea Clark, who started Mothers of Murdered Children after her 30-year-old son Darnell Perkins was fatally shot at a club downtown in April 2011, said homicides have ramifications that can last for years.
“You have families still going through the pain; many of them are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder,” Clark said. “That can give way to wanting to be a vigilante, or it can take several other turns. There are a lot of emotions, and we have to keep those in check.”
Rose Ford, a member of Clark’s group, said her 20-year-old son Darrlye Miller Jr. had a bright future until it was snuffed out Aug. 15, 2015, by a gunman who wanted his $2,400 Cartier glasses.
Miller was a standout basketball star at Northwestern High School who earned a scholarship to Tiffin University in Ohio.
“He was my baby,” Ford said. “It affected me to the point where still today it’s hard to really go on and to live my life like a mother is supposed to. I still feel guilty for living my life today. I was never prepared to bury my son; I was preparing my son to bury me. A mother should never have to bury her children.”
Coleen Farm, also with Mothers of Murdered Children, said she’s had a tough time recovering after the fatal drive-by shooting of her son Don Adams Jr. on July 24, 2012.
“It was really overwhelming to deal with,” she said. “I had a major weight loss, sleepless nights. I was edgy — I would go from zero to 100 in two seconds. I would sleep all day. I didn’t want to be bothered with my other children, my family members. I was crying continuously.”
The same day the Mothers of Murdered Children met, another group on the city’s west side passed out fliers seeking information about the Aug. 24, 2011, shooting death of Allantae Powell, a star Osborn High School football player who was about to start his senior year.
Parents of homicide victims, including Allantae’s father, Deon Rushin, say while the pain subsides with time, it never goes away. Nor do the constant questions.
“I can’t move on,” Rushin said. “I will never understand why it happened. Who can explain how someone can have the gall to kill a kid?”