Mothers Who Fight For Justice Take Care Of Their Own With Toy Drive

Dec 21 2021

Shirley Stamps, a grandmother of six and a resident of Cutler Bay, says the holidays can be tough for families like hers trying to keep morale up despite economic challenges and community hardships.

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On Monday, a sense of relief and joy washed over her as she stood with toys for her grandchildren cradled under her arms and in her hands. She received the items during an annual holiday toy drive presented by Mothers Fighting for Justice, an organization on a mission to end gun violence and support those affected.

“Some kids aren’t fortunate enough to have things like this,” Stamps said, gesturing to the two aisle tables overflowing with toys. “And it’s hard for parents like me trying their best to give this to them. I felt really good about this event and I brought [my kids here] to enjoy. They were very happy. “

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With the country’s inflation rate at its highest level since 1982, toy prices have risen by as much as 10% this holiday season, making it harder for low-income families to afford to give their children. children something to look forward to. Additionally, toy makers predicted shortages due to persistent supply chain delays.

However, the economic hurdles were no match for Romania Dukes, founder of Mothers Fighting for Justice, who was determined to throw a big block party for the children of South Dade full of toys and games.

Held on a gated residential street near a senior apartment complex in Cutler Bay, the festive event featured a bounce house, mobile game truck, barbecue, slushy truck and a DJ.

Dozens of people from the community came out with their children, nieces and nephews, cousins ​​and anyone looking to have a good time. No registration or online registration was required to attend the event, an effort to remove barriers that would result in the refoulement of children.

A mother helps her daughter choose an item from a table full of toys during the Mothers Fighting for Justice toy drive.

(Johania Charles for the Miami Times)

Dukes says training began six years ago, following the traumatic death of his teenage son in his arms, which was reported in detail by the Miami Times in a September 27, 2017, article.

She launched the organization, and its events, to help Miamiians in need and to promote joy and peace through gatherings where people can take a break without worrying about the threat of gun violence plaguing them. their community.

“Gun violence in this community is like a Category 4 hurricane. The crime rate is terrible,” Dukes said. “That’s why I always try to do something so that these young boys don’t take the wrong path. When gunshots go out, they go through this community of old people and it affects [the] seniors too. This is the very first time that they have been able to go outside to enjoy the peace and fresh air. “

The Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD) Crime Map Database reported 401 criminal incidents in the Cutler Bay area in the past 180 days. More than 10 of these incidents involved weapons and 13 were reported assaults.

On Monday, two boys play Mario Kart in a parked mobile game truck at the Mothers Fighting for Justice toy drive.

(Johania Charles for the Miami Times)

“Helping organize this event means a lot to me because I know people can forget places like Perrine, Goulds, Cutler Bay and the rest of South Miami,” said Erick Moore, youth manager for the organization. “When I see the children who come here looking for toys with big smiles on their faces, it always brings me joy, especially knowing that many of these children are used to hearing gunshots and being surrounded by all this gun violence. It really makes me cry to see them have at least one day where they can have fun in the community they live in. “

Chef Darius McLaughlin prepares sausages and burgers for Mothers Fighting for Justice’s annual toy drive.

(Johania Charles for the Miami Times)

Moore, who lives in the neighborhood, says he hears gunshots almost every day. Haunted by the fact that anyone can become a victim, he joined Dukes’ fight in an attempt to end gun violence once he found out about his son seven years ago.

“I want people to know that I am recovering, but I am not completely healed,” Dukes said. “But I’m doing this because that’s really what got me through the holidays. All of this community service keeps me from thinking about the loss. And I know that [these children] won’t have nothing unless I do it or their church does. Most of the time, some people do not have transportation to get to other holiday gifts outside of their community. “

Like Moore, Dukes echoed how North Dade generally sees more toys than the southern parts of the county.

A crowd forms on Evergreen Street in Cutler Bay during a block party style toy drive.

(Johania Charles for the Miami Times)

“Sometimes our organization gets overlooked when it comes to donations because we’re just local and a lot of people are already working to solve Miami’s problems,” she said. “There are bigger organizations, sports teams and artists helping people, but they seem to forget about the kids here in South Dade. I’m the organization that doesn’t want to leave these kids behind so I do whatever. I can. I wish I could do more. If I had more funding, I would.

This year, Dukes said the organization has collected more than 1,000 toys, 500 diapers and 100 scooters for the toy drive.

Kids jump into a bouncy house during Monday’s toy drive in Cutler Bay.

(Johania Charles for the Miami Times)

Sponsors such as MDPD, Miami Fire Rescue, Trayvon Martin Foundation, Senator Annette Taddeo, District 8 County Commissioner Danielle Cohen Higgins, G Law Firm and Aj Jewelry have made this possible.

“Romania has always been generous,” said Trenda Little, a resident who attended the event with her nieces and nephews. “I found out about her a few years ago and admire what she does. I went to the toy drive last year and even made a donation. This event means a lot to families who do not have the [means] to buy gifts this year. “

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