DeVitta Briscoe and Shalisa Hayes lost their sons, who were friends, a year apart to youth violence in Tacoma.
The women had a small army of young adults in matching red-and-black formal attire busily arranging Tacoma’s Star Center on Sunday.
For the second year, Hayes and Briscoe organized an event around Mother’s Day called Mothers of Magnitude to honor women who have lost children to youth violence.
“The No. 1 goal tonight is that the mothers don’t get up at all, unless they have to go to the restroom,” said 18-year-old Tray Brown.
They escorted the mothers to their tables, and were ready with beverages, tissues — whatever the guests of honor might need throughout the dinner and entertainment planned for the night.
“We want to keep the memory alive of these young people gone too soon, and to embrace the mothers who have experienced such a tragedy, and give them hope,” said Briscoe, who lost her son Donald McCaney to gun violence in 2010.
Briscoe helped found The McCaney Project, which is working to create a memorial to honor local youths who have died from violence. The plan is for that memorial to be outside the youth center Hayes’ foundation, Team Billy Ray, is organizing in honor of her son. Billy Ray Shirley III was fatally shot in August 2011.
“It’s inspiring to see young people doing positive things,” said Lori Elvrom, Billy Ray’s Curtis High School English teacher, as she helped marshal the placement of centerpieces Sunday. “This is a chance to see young people taking pride in the fact that they can honor these mothers.”
Dasia Williams, 20, has been with Team Billy Ray from the start. She said Hayes’ son helped her through a tough time in high school.
“I just want to return that tenfold,” she said.
Adam Haskins, 21, admitted that he was a bit nervous before the event, but said he was “hanging in there.”
“All the mothers should be supported,” said Haskins, a friend of Donald’s.
Mothers need that support as times passes, Hayes said.
“The real work starts when the funeral ends,” she told the crowd from the stage.
One woman was honored with flowers for her birthday. Others swayed to the music on stage. Some hugged, or held hands.
Not one had to leave her seat.
Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268