In July of 2020, in the midst of the global pandemic with its ravaging economic impact, Cora’s third child, Shamar, just 30 years old, was gunned down and killed on her block for $25 and a pack of cigarettes. He left behind a precious baby boy.
Sometimes you meet someone who changes your life and shows you that you actually can make a difference. Last summer at a time when gun violence in major American cities had increased considerably, especially in Philadelphia where I live, I came face to face with its devastating consequences in ways I never expected. It was not dramatic, it was human. It was Cora.
Having survived challenge after challenge, the final straw for Cora occurred as the result of something we hear all too often—senseless GUN VIOLENCE.
$50,000 would radically rewrite this family’s story. It won’t erase their loss, but it will provide the opportunity for Cora to move to a neighborhood where her family feels more safe -- Cora's grandkids can walk safely to school, it can pay for school supplies, or help with food and clothing, and maybe even allow Cora to enroll in a local community college one day. No donation is too small! $5 or $25 works! 100% of funds raised will go exclusively to this wonderful family.
If you have the time, please read on to know more about an extraordinary woman who could really use our help.
Cora and I seem to have little in common, but the day we met, we shared the frustration of standing next to each other masked and in line at the South Philly Parking Authority car impoundment because we each had our cars towed. But for me it was just that, an aggravation. For Cora, it meant no work, no food, and no one to care for her children, grandchildren, and her elderly ‘Momma’ who had squeezed herself into the sliver of shade on the curb several feet from the line that would claim more than three hours of our lives that blistering August day.
I could not help overhearing Cora yelling into her cell phone: “They wrongly towed me, again! I have no money to pay, and Momma is overheating.” She was so upset. Attempting to be respectful, I pretended not to notice. Our proximity, shared indignity and especially her tears compelled me to ask “Any kids? Whereabouts do you live?”
Tears soaked her mask, and I froze as she answered, “I had five kids. Three have died. My Shamar was murdered last month.” I didn’t know what to say. I asked if I could hug her, despite the pandemic, and she said, “Please…”.
Cora told me a lot about her life that day in line. She was born in a rough Philly neighborhood with 6 fingers on each hand and red hair to a mother struggling with addiction and a father who left home when she was tiny. “Black kids aren’t born with red hair! I was an easy target for brutal school bullies. It was so bad at school that I came to hate it and did everything I could to not be there.”
At 11 years old, Cora's mom left her and her siblings to raise themselves. “The only one who checked in on us was my grandma who lived down the street and brought one breakfast for three of us every morning.”
Still a child herself, at 17, Cora became pregnant. “There was no way I was going to give up that child.” Four children later, though life got harder, caring for her children gave her a reason to live and to work. Caring and working became one as she funneled her passion to help others into her work of over twenty years as a direct caregiver for elderly and disabled clients. That loving care has only ever offered Cora at most $10 an hour, plus benefits. A college education would enable her to increase her salary, and maybe even open her own business one day. But first, she longs for a new home, in a better neighborhood, where her grandkids can play outside and walk to school with no fear of gun violence.
College and home ownership have always been her dream, but as we know, dreams can get derailed.
When Cora was 41, her son Jamari died suddenly at age 24 of an accidental drug overdose, leaving behind a son. Four years later, her beautiful, ambitious daughter and best friend, Tamika, died at age 32 after struggling with an autoimmune disease, leaving behind three kids. Then, as if things couldn’t get worse, in the midst of the pandemic, her beloved Shamar was gunned down.
Unstoppable, Cora continues to work 50 hours a week, while housing and caring for her daughter, four grandkids, and her mother. Fearing more gun violence – a drive-by shooting, a stray bullet, losing another child--the entire family rarely leaves their cramped Section 8 apartment, except for Cora, the provider.
After learning about one another for three hours in line, my turn to retrieve my car finally arrived. Cora broke down once again when she realized that I had paid for her car too. She squeezed me so tightly I could feel for myself the love she shares with her family and her clients. I told her, “It’s the very least I could do. You deserve so much more.”
In the last year, our friendship has deepened. Cora is one of the strongest, most loving and courageous women I have ever met. Her determination to give her kids and grandkids a better life than she had is her sole purpose today. Despite her crippling grief, every time I ask Cora how she is doing, she says, ‘I am pretty good, Deb, thanks. I am blessed to have God, my family, and I’m certain something better is coming.”
While our country grapples with systemic change, WE can help Cora change her plotline. Every American should be able to live, work, and play in their community free from the threat of gun violence. All kinds of systems need to change so that children are given the resources and support they need to flourish, but it is never too late to for Cora to get the support every human being deserves to come into their own.
Will you please join me in helping this wonderful family move to a safer neighborhood? No donation is too small. $5, $25, any amount of giving WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE! 100% of funds will go exclusively to this family.
Cora is now a part of my story and I am so grateful to have her and her family in my life. She is also a part of an American narrative that cries for simple connections that reveal our common humanity.
Thank you for your time. Thank you for believing that anything is possible!
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