It was a Tuesday like any other on Feb. 8, 2000 when Lorrain Taylor received the phone call that would forever change her life.
“Mom, I want you to stop what you’re doing and pray for strength,” said her youngest son, Gregory Taylor Jr., who had called to deliver the kind of news that mothers everywhere pray to never have to hear.
“It was my son Greg who actually gave me the news when I found out about the boys,” said Lorrain. The boys—fraternal twins and Lorrain’s eldest sons Albade and Obadiah Taylor—had been murdered, shot to death as they worked together on a stalled car in Oakland. They were just 22 years old.
Sadly, stories like Albade and Obadiah’s are far too common around the world as gun violence among young men continues to destroy communities, leaving behind broken families and grieving mothers just like Taylor.
But Taylor, a Hayward resident, decided that, despite the agony of losing her own two sons, she was destined to become the type of mother to do something about the growing problem of gun violence in the Bay Area. And she has done just that.
On Mother’s Day 2000, just months after the deaths of her sons, Taylor was a keynote speaker at the Million Mom March in Oakland, which drew a crowd upwards of 5,000 and performed a song that she wrote in she which spoke out against the use of violence, and encouraged strength and peace within the community.
Taylor pressed on and continued to represent the Oakland chapter of the Million Mom March for five years, actively working to educate the public on the impact of gun violence before eventually starting her own non-profit organization, “1,000 Mothers to Prevent Violence.”
However, Taylor says the inspiration to step outside of her own suffering and begin her work in the community came from God, and that the strength didn’t come right away.
After falling into a deep depression and hitting bottom, Taylor says God spoke to her.
“This is what I heard Him tell me to do when I was lying on my sofa, depressed and locking myself behind my bedroom doors,” she said.
“One day, He told me, ‘Lorrain, you can lie here and die here, or you can get up and live, so what do you want to do?’” said Taylor. “So I decided I want to live…and my living is through my giving.”
1,000 Mothers to Prevent Violence, which began as the faith-based organization 24/7 Gospel, is a non -profit organization that is “dedicated to alleviating the detrimental impact of violence through direct, practical and compassionate outreach services” to family members of victims of violent crimes, according to its website.
These services offered to family members of victims of homicide and other violent crimes includes the Circle of Prayer and Empowerment (CoPE), a support group; referral services offering financial assistance; counseling services and “safe homes” for victim-survivors suffering from depression; and advocacy and domestic services, such as volunteer food and grocery home delivery.
Sherry Smith, mother of Ronald Mack Jr., another homicide victim, told the San Francisco Examiner, “Had I not met Lorrain, I probably would have committed suicide. I didn’t know how to cope…Lorrain is teaching me how to cope.”
Smith also shared with the Examiner that during her grieving process, Lorain came by consistently for weeks, bringing food and praying with her.
In addition to offering support to victim-survivors, Lorrain participates with San Quentin’s Restore to Justice Program where she speaks with long term prisoners who are up for parole, sharing with them her experience and how violence has affected her life.
When asked how she can face prisoners who have been convicted of committing violent acts against other, Taylor says the experience is bittersweet.
“It’s bitter in that I know that they have hurt a lot of people,” said Taylor. “A lot of people were affected by their decision.
“The sweet part is that I am well enough to hopefully go in and help them become better people, knowing how violence has impacted me.”
Taylor says that she tries to reach the inmates not just through words, but also through song.
Taylor is a talented gospel singer who recently recorded her third album, “Gumbo For My Soul.” She writes her own lyrics, and her album includes the song “Take a Stand,” written in memory of her sons.
Taylor credits singing as one of the ways in which she has found healing, and hopes that her music and lyrics can touch others as well.
Another source of strength for Taylor is her surviving son Greg.
“He has been a big, big part of my healing,” she said.
“When you’re grieving, you don’t really think,” continued Taylor. “You have to fight the battle. And while you’re fighting the battle, you’re kinda tuning everyone out. You’re trying to survive, and Greg really hung in there.
“I am just so thankful for that.”
After his brothers were killed, Taylor pushed Greg to move out of the area for his safety. He moved to Houston, where he graduated from Texas Southern University with a degree in business. He has since started his own bookstore near the TSU campus, where he sells new and used textbooks.
As for Lorrain Taylor and 1,000 Mothers to Prevent Violence, there are more lives to be touched. The organization will be introducing a new project in 2011.
Project SMART will focus on mothers and grandmothers who are raising children who lost their fathers to gun violence, and provide support services for youths up to 18 years old.
Kids in the program will receive training and support that includes martial arts workshops and grief therapy.
Taylor says that when a family is touched by violence, often the children in the family don’t receive the same amount of support that the adults do, and that children suffer in areas that parents are not aware.
“We grieve in different ways,” said Taylor. “Part of that is denial that children are impacted.”
Lorrain hopes that Project SMART will encourage kids to feel okay discussing their feelings of grief, and prevent emotional fallout, such as acting out in school.
“We need to focus on what’s going on with our children if we’re going to be successful at preventing more violence,” said Taylor.
Many people regard Taylor as a hero, and praise her for her strength in being able to overcome her own tragedy and lend herself to others who are hurting, but she is simply content knowing that she is helping people and honoring her sons’ memory.
“I think that my sons Albade and Obadiah would rejoice more knowing that I’m out of my house working in the community,” she said. “And if I can just help that one person, that one family, then I know that my sons did not die in vain.”
This entry was published in The Pioneer Online on Thursday, February 10th, 2011 at 1:36 pm.