On Saturday, Dr. Nicole Clavo, the mother of the fallen Grant Union High School football player JJ, hosted a breakfast and support session for other mothers and family members who have lost a loved one to gun violence.
Those who were there included mothers who lost their children nearly ten years ago to one mother who lost her son just earlier this week. For the first time, the group also had a father join in. Other family members and loved ones were also welcome.
"I thought it was important [to have this breakfast because we] check in with one another on bad days, good days, [on] wonderful days," said Dr. Clavo. "Just to encourage motivate and keep strengthening one another. We've become [each other's backbones]...a unique group of mothers being we experienced death."
Mothers came from all over Northern California, from Sacramento to Oakland. Each one had a chance to share their pain in what was called a "judgment free zone."
One Oakland mother opened up for the first time since losing her two sons to gun violence in very difference ways. Her oldest son was shot and killed. Her youngest son was sent to jail for being involved in a shooting that led to multiple deaths.
"This is a conversation I want to have with my son's murderer's mom," said Dr. Clavo of the unique perspective. "I have said more than one times, both sides suffer."
It's not just feelings of pain and heartbreak bringing the group together, but it's also the determination to make a difference.
Dr. Clavo added the importance of raising awareness on the dangers of gun violence as early as elementary school.
"Be it through mentors or be it through self esteem, [we need] something to give these kids the sense of love, appreciation and support that they may be lacking, causing them to want to pick up a gun and shoot another peer," said Dr. Clavo. "[We need to teach] our kids to stand up to peer pressure, be a leader, and not a follower...Find a different way to channel the negative energy, the anger. So many things need to be taught to our youth to help them fight or balance against so much of the evil out there lurking in these streets.
Musical artist and spoken word poet Karega Bailey also attended, sharing his own personal experience of loss to gun violence and giving words of wisdom and comfort to the group.
Everyone who attended received T-shirts and booklets that paid tribute to the young lives taken way too soon.