JUNE 17 – JUNE 23, 2016
“These acts can happen anywhere, anytime and to anyone.’’ Deanna Hardy-Joseph
These mothers came from around the country for the event.
A circle of mothers, a circle of support BY DEANNA HARDY-JOSEPH SPECIAL TO THE FLORIDA COURIER
ntil the night of Feb. 7, 2014, I was just an ordinary person shaking my head and raising my eyebrows at the evening news. I had heard of many senseless act of violence and death of school-aged children at school sanctioned events, however, I would have never thought that such would happen in my community and to my loving and caring 14-year-old son who simply attended a school district’s “Student Day” at the Fair with friends in Tampa. And then it did. My beautiful and vibrant son, Andrew Joseph III was stolen from me and our family and many other families’ worldview on “Safety First” at “Student Day” had forever changed. The view had now changed because now the reality of this could happen to me and my child if he or she attended a school dance, school football game or school field trip or perhaps danger would occur when my child would leave home to ride the school bus. In many instances, life has a way of shaking things up in the sentience of a family, and we have all learned too tragically and painfully recognize senseless acts of violence and death of children isn’t haphazard or random. These acts can happen anywhere, anytime and to anyone. But we all should agree that these said acts are “preventable.’’ If we want to protect all our children from violence and senseless tragedies we must take action in our schools and communities before another tragic fatality like Andrew’s happens again.
Deanna Hardy-Joseph reflects on attending the Circle of Mothers Weekend and conference last month in Fort Lauderdale. The event was hosted by the Trayvon Martin Foundation. Hardy-Joseph’s son, Andrew, was killed on Feb. 7, 2014 after he was ejected from the Florida State Fair on Student Day. He died trying to cross Interstate 4. His family has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Florida State Fair Authority, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and the Hillsborough County School District.
Deanna HardyJoseph, right, speaks with another mom.
Clinton speaks During this experience, I was reminded of the pathway we all must bear to transform pain into purpose. It was a phenomenal weekend to share with others who love deeper since the death of a child and shared moments of heartache and pain for the loss of a child and/or children of varied ages and of varied circumstances, which ultimately resulted in death and this point-of-no return moment. The weekend comprised of many lavish and thoughtful outpours, which included self-help and self-reliance activities from hip-hop aerobics to thoughtprovoking sessions by world renowned motivational speakers and life coaches
Seeking answers Secretary Clinton exposed the fears of parents such as myself and many others who are living in constant fear that their children are going to be hurt and killed due to the perception and fear of another who only sees the color of their skin and not the content of their character,’’ which case in point would be the sentiments of so many deaths of young people in our society today and in past centuries. I often ask the question and ponder on the response of When are the values of life deemed important? When will children be awarded futures and no penal death sentences? And when will care and support be afforded to all and not be subjugated with death of children before change is proposed and/or created to save lives? The weekend was one to reflect on and one to envision a better place and a better time for all our children to be allowed to be children.
Coming to Tampa As I think of my 14-year-old son, Andrew Joseph III, I can’t help but think if “protective systems” were in place how it could have aided his life and his ability to live and navigate another day. I am forever different by this experience and the circumstances which have challenged my life and the people I have encountered by this death of a child experience. I have been pleasured by the meeting of Sybrina Fulton, and her support in helping other mothers like myself with her time and resources are commendable. As we all move forward and empower our community of mothers to move past the pain to purpose, we intend in the near future to host “A Circle of Mothers Empowerment Conference” in Tampa. It will be for mothers who have walked this path of child loss and want to move past the pain and promote a greater purpose in Tampa and surrounding communities.
Unified vision As I accepted the invitation to join Sybrina Fulton/Trayvon Martin Foundation along with 50 other mothers across the United States on the weekend of May 20-22 during the “Circle of Mothers Empowerment Conference” in Fort Lauderdale, I was marveled by this remarkable opportunity, which was gifted to me by a vision that Sybrina Fulton exclaimed as a vision she had after the murder of her son Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. She indicated that this vision occurred and she began to write and pray for guidance with the tragedy that occurred and entered her family’s life. She had the innate need to empower women such as myself who had suffered child loss due to gun violence and other senseless acts of harm and danger. This network formed of individuals, companies and sponsors all sharing a unified vision, which included the elimination of senseless deaths and killings of young people and community members.
mothers have reason to believe that our country doesn’t consider their children as worthy of protection because of the color of their skin.’’
‘A role to play’
Hillary Clinton spoke at the Circle of Mothers Empowerment Confererence. She is flanked by Sybrina Fulton and Deanna Hardy-Joseph.
that refocused our thought process relating to death and loss. We also had the amazing opportunity in meeting, sharing our child’s death experience with keynote speaker Secretary Hillary Rodham. Secretary Clinton expressed words indicative of “providing justice and equality for all children in America re-
gardless of their exploration in community parks, classrooms or everyday engagement with law enforcement.’’ Secretary Clinton was poignant in her expressed views of “ending systemic racism’’ and pointing out the “wrongs in America where so many young people just starting their lives are dying at an alarming rate and so many American
I am now the bearer of a responsibility with the knowledge and experience to make the difference in the safety of children at school-sanctioned events and hold community venues accountable to safety first policies that will protect children as patrons and community benefactors. I don’t have a choice in this matter and my life and my focus has been deterred by the bloodshed of my child. It will never be sufficient to endure a life as usual, an attitude with a carefree existence since innocence has been stolen and a systemic betrayal has occurred. I am engaged and active in changing everyday thinking for families with school aged children. The worldview must change and our protection of our children/students should remain in the forefront of discussions. We all have a role to play in keeping our community and children safe where they live, learn and grow.
Deanna Hardy-Joseph, a Tampa Bay resident, wrote this report exclusively for the Florida Courier. For more information, visit AndrewJosephFoundation.org.