Battle Creek Moms Turn Pain Into Goal With Support Group For Those Who Lose Children To Abuse
The criteria for membership in a group that Rosetta Brewer co-founded in March 2019 is steeped in pain and loss.
The group – SISTERS (Shamelessly Sharing In the Support of These Enforcing Victims’ Rights) Turning Pain Into Purpose – is made up of mothers whose sons and daughters have been victims of violent crimes in Battle Creek that have yet to be solved. For them, there is no closure.
Brewer says she will never forget the night in January 2006 when she was told her son, Frank Williams III, was shot outside a known crack house. He would have been 41 on August 27. The pain and grief of losing the eldest of his two sons was amplified by the reluctance of witnesses to come forward and identify the known shooter of Brewer and his family.
“My son got into it with a guy on the phone who said, ‘I’m going to kill your mom and your kids.’ My son went to the crack den. There was an ongoing feud with our family and these kids who had just returned from a burglary,” Brewer says. “There was a shooting and my son suffered a single injury. shot in the back which blew up his lung. Another young man put him in the car to take him to the hospital, but for some reason they never got to the hospital and he died in the car.
Brewer says the young man driving declined to be a witness because he said it would be a “snitch”, which is against street law followed by young men like him who do part of what they call gangs.
She dismisses the term gangs. These are children who hang out together and engage in criminal activity, she says. “They’re not really gang members. The real real gangs are in big cities like Los Angeles and Chicago,” she says.
“These kids, they called me ‘aunt’ and they slept and played at my house,” Brewer says.
That her deceased son got involved in the local groups who fought against each other is a story that she does not sugarcoat. “After he served his prison sentence, he came back and started getting into trouble again,” she says.
In the back of her mind, she says she knew there was a risk it wouldn’t end well, but she never thought it could mean losing him forever.
Turn personal pain into a mission
In the first two years after her son’s death, Brewer says she all but forgot she had another son who was coping with the loss of a sibling and navigating his own grief. A large framed photograph of Frank in his coffin hung on the living room wall as a constant reminder that only reinforced the distance she had put between herself and her remaining child.
Eventually she moved him to her room because she says, “I forgot about my other child.”
This photo is now in a closet in his house.
For a time, this photo served as a ‘reality check’ and was brought with her when she spoke at gatherings with young people in the community about what might happen to them if they followed the path of her son.
“It’s a passion of mine. At first I worked with the kids, but the kids wouldn’t hear me and I knew I needed to be more supportive of the mums,” says Brewer. It’s not just black moms, I have moms of all races.
These earlier speaking engagements were held under the auspices of Parents Against Gang Violence, which became Families of Peace. When those groups “collapsed,” Brewer says she started creating another organization because parents like her need continued support from parents who know what losing a child feels like. .
She took on the relationships she had already developed with other parents, in addition to members of the Battle Creek Police Department, particularly Det. sergeant. Jeff Case, and the city’s legal community, and co-founded SISTERS with Antwoine Davis, whose son, Khari, was shot and killed in 2018. The man accused of shooting him has been found not guilty.
Antwoine Davis died in November 2020 and Tracey Cummings stepped in shortly after. Cummings’ son, Joseph Edward “Lil Joe” Bowser IIhad been shot in March 2018. His death is still unclear.
Brewer says there were 65 unsolved homicides in the town of Battle Creek between 1968 and 2016 according to a list provided to him by the Battle Creek Police Department.
Police Chief Jim Blocker says the BCPD’s relationship with Brewer and his organization is positive and necessary.
“If it helps overcome community trauma, but at the same time gives potential justice, why wouldn’t we want to be active participants?” Blocker says. “Rosetta is a great example of someone who hasn’t let trauma hold her back for too long. She leans into her grief and makes a positive contribution.
Brewer says, “It’s easier for a mother who’s lost a child to have a relationship with someone who’s been through it. Everyone’s life goes on and we are stuck in this reality. Time may pass, but you never forget your child and why he left.
When Brewer hears about the violent death of a youngster in the community, she prepares a care package and visits the mother or father or both.
“When I hug them, our hearts connect and I can feel their pain and they can feel mine,” she says. “You have to stay strong for these moms. I had a mom recently who lost her child in a car accident. I went to see her that night and she fell into my arms and cried.
BCPD Victims Advocate Aleena Robinson says SISTERS is a unique group because of its membership and the support it offers. Robinson says she makes referrals to Brewer “all the time.”
“If there’s a homicide, I immediately think of a mother grieving the loss of a child and that’s the Rosetta group that comes to mind,” Robinson says. “What she tries to do with the community is to establish a rapport. She checks in with the mother and is someone who has been through this. She can feel a mother’s pain and she has a truly unique perspective that not everyone can give.
Once the initial crisis phase has passed and the victim or their family is able to accept help from the community, Robinson hold out your hand family members or victims and adapts its approach according to their needs.
She says she’s never seen a mother say she doesn’t want to talk to another mother who’s been through what she’s going through. “I think her (Brewer’s) work has a ripple effect, whether she’s working with a victim or someone in the community,” Robinson says. “His work goes far beyond the scope of an initial reference.”
Brewer says, “I was doing this before Aleena joined the team. I know pretty much everyone in Battle Creek, so when it happens, I know it. I give it a few days and try to reach them by phone to see them. I have always been a person who needs someone to take care of. I know their pain and I know what they are going through. Every day you learn to manage it. You do not have the choice.
Brewer says she tries to keep in touch with the victims’ families. Before COVID, SISTERS met regularly. She says she hopes to resume in-person meetings as soon as it is safe to do so.
memory and justice
Amid continued support, Brewer turns her attention to a permanent memorial she is working to put in place. The memorial will include the names of victims of unsolved murders. She doesn’t yet know what the memorial will look like or where it will be placed and is just beginning to fundraise to cover the costs.
But as fitting as this tribute may be, she knows it doesn’t take away the daily feelings of pain, loss and occasional anger that come with knowing that those who killed sons and daughters are alive and well. have not yet been arrested.
Chief Blocker says there are a number of reasons for these unresolved cases, including witnesses refusing to come forward out of fear for their own personal safety or concern about the drain that their participation in lengthy legal proceedings will take. could have on already limited resources. He says that overall his department always receives a high level of participation from those who have witnessed a crime and when they don’t, there’s a specific reason for it.
“We may have a strong inclination on who the suspect may be, but unless we can validate that, the prosecutor will not take him to court,” he says. Then there is the risk of a trial and acquittal. “People are acquitted and we cannot try them again.”
Brewer says she wants the families of victims of unsolved murders to come forward as the voice of the victims. “We have to try to bring this list down and get justice for people. If we don’t talk, no one will,” she said.
The man Brewer knows to be his son’s murderer is serving time in prison for another shooting. This is of little comfort to her, though she recognizes that getting the justice she seeks will not bring her son back or offer the closure she needs.
“I still don’t have my child. Nothing is going to close this. That person who shot my son is still alive,” Brewer said. “I have to go to a cemetery and look at a picture of my son on a tombstone. When you lose a child, there are no words. A person who loses a spouse is a widow and a child who loses a parent is an orphan. There is no word for people like me.