Harlem Mom Loses Sons To Guns, Becomes Anti-Violence Crusader

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This Black History Month, we honor the GAME CHANGERS: Everyday heroes whose actions make life better for the people around them. SEE ALL OUR GAME CHANGERS HERE

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Jackie Rowe-Adams

Place of Residence: New York, N.Y.

Why she is a local hero: Rowe-Adams co-founded  Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E. with Jean Corbett-Covington.

When Rowe-Adams tells a group of parents gathered at the headquarters for Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E. (a counseling center for parents who have lost their children to violent deaths) that she understands their pain, it’s coming from the heart.

Rowe-Adams lost two of her sons to horrible acts of gun violence. Her 17-year-old son was killed in 1981, when two men murdered him for supposedly staring them down. A second 28-year-old son was murdered in 1998 in Baltimore, when a 13-year-old robbed him outside of his apartment.

“It still hurts sometimes,” said Rowe-Adams. “But I knew I had to do something about it.”


Today, Rowe-Adams spends her time trying to get help for families of murdered children. She makes sure they get grief counseling and financial help, and she also works to stop gun violence. Her group is trying to locate the ports where the guns are coming in to Harlem and is pushing for tougher gun laws. She’s also educating parents on ways to keep their kids from carrying and firing guns.

Her well-known expression: “If you see something, say something.”

“You need to tell it,” continues Rowe-Adams. “You need to pay attention to where these guns are hidden. They are in the buildings, they are in the bodegas. They all around you. Check your kids bag look under the mattress. You, the parents have the kids in your hand. This is your community, take charge of your community. Stop smoking weed with your kids, Rowe-Adams said this summer after a nationally ranked girls high school basketball star was murdered in Harlem.”

Rowe-Adams said she is concerned about the level of violence she is seeing from kids today.

“What I’m seeing is kids shooting just to shoot,” Rowe-Adams said. “They want a reputation. They want to put it on Facebook. They want to laugh at something that is not funny.”

After years of advocating, Rowe-Adams and Corbett-Covington were able to receive a permanent rent-free headquarters in Harlem with the help of local politicians.  They are in the process of expanding their programming with an aim toward being proactive.

Now they are working on concrete plans to assist parents who find that a child is hiding a gun in their home, for example. A parent could make an anonymous call and have a lawyer and law enforcement officer come out and retrieve the illegal weapon. The child could get counseling.

“Some of the parents are scared of their kids because they talk back to them,” says Rowe-Adams. “And then you have young mothers trying to be friends with their children. Finally, you have grandparents taking care of kids after they’ve already raised a family and they don’t have the energy. They think the kids are in their room and they are outside. They say they are at John’s house, but you don’t know who John is or who his parents are. If you are scared of your child or need help, tell somebody. Let somebody help you.”


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