Nia “Brooklyn” Black, my “Niaboo,” is my middle daughter and she was my last child living at home. The echoes of her music still resonate in my memories, emanating from her bedroom just across the hall from mine. At twenty-three years young and barely five feet tall, Nia embodied a dynamic force — a dedicated professional Makeup Artist, proud business owner, educator, and a full-time college student. With the energy of lightning, constantly moving, always on the go, she was diligently “taking care of her business,” as she would say.
On June 13, 2020, she chose to spend an evening with friends. I vividly remember seeing her dart out the garage door, racing back up the stairs to her bedroom for something she forgot, the sound of her summer flip-flops echoing on the hardwood floors as she ran back to her car. I can still picture how beautiful she looked as she left. Little did I know that the next time I would lay eyes on my child it would be in a funeral home. As Nia and her friends were leaving a bar, Nia became the victim of a horrific act of gun violence. Shots were fired at the vehicle she was riding in, and tragically, Nia was struck in the head. I received a phone call and the haunting screams on the other end of the phone conveyed the unimaginable as her friends shouted, “They’re trying to resuscitate Nia!” I helplessly held the phone and listened as the paramedics attempted to revive my baby; my heart shattered as my precious Niaboo died on that call.
With Nia’s passing, a cloud of hopelessness and anger engulfed me. I had so many questions: Why my child? Why my family? How did this become our story? What do we do with this unbearable heartbreak? As a parent I had felt perpetual concern for Nia’s safety, and I felt I failed in protecting her when she needed me the most. Despite the pain, caring families also impacted by gun violence and supportive community members offered solace, fueling my belief that something greater must emerge from this catastrophic horror.
As I laid my beloved Niaboo to rest, I vowed to unearth the murderer of my daughter, vowing at her funeral to turn the city upside down to get justice for my child. Faced with a choice to live in anguish or be part of the change, I opted for action over despair. I rallied others impacted by gun violence and concerned individuals to participate in a Peace Walk with my family, friends, and loved ones, and urged the community to break it’s silence on gun violence and become its community’s keeper, and on July 4, 2020, Mothers Against Community Gun Violence (MACGV) was birthed.
MACGV is made up of myself and a dedicated team of permanent staff and passionate volunteers. Collaborating with partner organizations, we focus on providing healing and restorative services for survivors, and work to empower grieving family members to help them advocate for their loved ones impacted by gun violence – both at the local and national legislative levels. Engaging with at-risk youth, promoting public safety, and raising awareness about gun violence through education are at the core of our mission. We organize peace walks, host town hall meetings, and our efforts have extended to shutting down establishments that harm our community. We tirelessly push for gun violence prevention policies and for more funding for gun violence intervention programs. In all we do at MACGV, we always prioritize the mental, physical, and spiritual well-being of others in an effort to prevent gun violence and retaliatory actions.
It can be very demanding running a grassroots nonprofit organization, especially when funding for daily operations remains elusive. I’ve found that taking time for self-care is essential to honor all parts of myself – as a mother, a woman, as LaTanya, a multi-faceted individual. Yet the call to do this work persists, drawing me back time and time again to contribute to something larger, to embrace greater opportunities. Since MACGV’s inception, we’ve relied on something bigger and stronger to guide us, ensuring others touched by violence know they’re not alone.
Nia’s murderer was apprehended, a rare outcome when many homicides go unsolved. However, when your child is taken in such a devastating way, life undergoes an irreversible transformation. The path forward is arduous, but I made a promise to Nia – she was taken in the darkness, but I will stand for her in the light at all times, and operate in peace, sharing her story as a beacon of hope to bring restoration to so many hurting families.