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Moms Demand Action

Supporting Grieving Families in Memory of Obi Henderson

I started volunteering with Moms Demand Action after my son, Tymel, was shot and killed in 2014. A few weeks after he died, I received a text message asking if I wanted to take action. The message invited me to join Moms Demand Action volunteers and others in West Virginia who wanted to take action at the state capitol. 

As a survivor of gun violence, I’m ready to shake everybody in this world until we get this right. We have to end senseless gun violence, and we need people to contribute their time, talent, and money to this cause. I don’t want other families to experience the same pain that mine has after losing Tymel. It is important to me to support all grieving community members, no matter what type of loss they have experienced. Carrying on this work is a large part of why I became a Moms Demand Action chapter leader in West Virginia in 2023. 

My work has also been inspired by advocate and youth mentor Obi Henderson. In March 2017, his sudden death grieved my community in West Virginia. Obi relocated from Chicago to Charleston, West Virginia after receiving a scholarship. After arriving in West Virginia, he lost his scholarship, which led to him experiencing homelessness.

Because of this experience, he became a community advocate and created an organization called Dream Chasers. Although he experienced many difficulties in this work, he served many children and adults in our community. 

After he died in a car crash in March 2017, it was hard for me to accept that someone who cared so much for the community and the people in it was gone. I didn’t want people to forget about him, so I made it my mission to keep his name alive. 

One way I do so is by hosting a community dinner in Obi’s name to honor survivors and victims of gun violence. On March 17, 2024, my family and I organized the 2nd Annual Obi Henderson Community Service Awards Banquet Dinner.

At the dinner this year, we had seats for 120 people. Four of my family members and I didn’t sleep for almost 48 hours as we worked to pull this event together. I cooked the meal and made salmon, roast beef, jerk chicken, cabbage, salad, dinner rolls, chocolate-covered strawberries, and even cake for a survivor’s birthday. Volunteers from my chapter of Moms Demand Action came to the dinner to help serve the meal. 

The evening itself was very emotional. Everybody got in a circle, held hands, and made an oath to support each other and better serve our community in honor of Obi. An honoree at the dinner—a mother who had lost her child—sang a very touching song. One grieving mother told me that, in the wake of her loss, “You were the only person who reached out to me.” There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

It was hard for me to hear that some families didn’t find support in the thick of their grief. It made me want to work even harder to help these families heal. Some people at the dinner had loved ones who were killed by gun violence; others were mothers of the people who had perpetrated the violence. Both sides of this spectrum need love and support. As a community, it is our responsibility to take care of each other. 

I appreciate the people who showed up at this dinner, and I’m grateful that they trusted me with their stories. I’m already planning the next gathering to bring those same families back together. I want to keep the momentum going so these families don’t have a chance to forget the moment they opened up and found new support. 

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