A Mother’s Day moratorium: A Chicago mom who lost her daughter pleads for peace Sunday

Charles J. Johnson, Chicago Tribune
·4 min read

The rain picked up intensity as Nortasha Stingley’s voice rose, turning heads in the Starbucks behind her.

“As a mom, I first came to give my condolences and prayers to the new mothers and families that, unfortunately, have to join this group, that unfortunately have to spend their first Mother’s Day without their child,” said Stingley, whose teen daughter was slain in 2013. “It’s not going to be an easy Mother’s Day.”

Standing near Comer Children’s Hospital at the corner of 57th Street and Drexel Avenue, Stingley started to shout through her tears.

“Lastly, as a mother, as a human being, I’m asking that on Mother’s Day, if we could just get a day, one day of no violence. One day of no shooting. One day that we can enjoy walking up and down the streets,” she said. “As a mother, I implore you men, men, to stand up and be accountable and protect us, women and children.”

The small news conference was called by Rabbi Michael Ben Yosef of the Chicago Activist Coalition for Justice to draw renewed attention to the constant stream of gun violence in the city that he feels is “taking a back seat” in the focus on COVID-19. Yosef said he decided to have the event Tuesday after a Monday during which outgoing CPS CEO Janice Jackson announced she’s stepping down.

To Yosef, the news event with the mayor for Jackson coming after a violent weekend doesn’t seem coincidental, it seems obfuscatory.

“The politicians in this city have no answer to this problem. COVID-19 has now been addressed. But no one brings the issues of the gun violence to the forefront,” he said.

The conference had been touted as an opportunity to learn more about the condition of 5-year-old Clareon Williams, who was shot in the head in his Roseland home while playing with his dad last year. The family, however, was running late for a twice-weekly therapy appointment at Comer’s and didn’t make the news conference.

Yosef said the boy doesn’t have extensive nerve or brain damage, and while issues could manifest themselves as the boy ages, he looks to have a path to a complete recovery, “a miracle child,” as Yosef put it.

Reached by phone Tuesday, Clareon’s father, Clarence Williams, said the boy was now able to amble around the house and in the yard. The boy, who has since turned 6, lost the ability to walk and talk for several months after the shooting. Clareon is also starting to recover his ability to remember things he’s seen on TV or heard in conversation, his dad said.

“He’s just starting to get his memory back. But other than that, he’s doing real good,” Clarence Williams said. “We’re doing fine, taking it one day at time. It’s all we can do.”

At the news conference, Yosef said the family is in need of the community’s help to outfit their new home — they’re not staying at the house where the shooting occurred — and have long-term expenses

“This takes a village to help this family,” Yosef said. “He does not need toys, he needs money.”

Stingley, 44, said holidays, Mother’s Day especially, is when the pain of losing her girl, 19-year-old Marissa Boyd-Stingley, aches harder. She’s thrown herself into nonviolence advocacy work, including something she calls “Project Pink,” where she gathers friends and fellow moms who’ve lost loved ones to gun violence to do things that bring joy back to the lives of those who are grieving — part support group, part ladies night out with painting and wine.

In November, Reginald Reed was charged with murder, seven years after the death of Boyd-Stingley. But the road has been hard for Stingley. She attempted suicide twice after the death of her child.

While activists have lately focused on making the criminal justice system less punitive, Stingley said she feels it should be more punitive on those who use guns in the commission of crimes, as well as gun dealers who sell weapons that are used in violence. She doesn’t have a singular answer as to what is to be done about one of Chicago’s oldest and most painful problems, but she wants the mayor to put herself in Stingley’s shoes — as a mom.

“How would she feel if it was her daughter?” Stingily asked of the mayor “What rules, policies, laws would (Lightfoot) want in place if her daughter was shot?”