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Mom: Victims of gun violence need voice

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Seven years ago, Ryann Brown was shot in the head while sitting in a car on the city's South Side.

"On the night that I got shot, all I remember was ringing in my ears. I don't remember a thing," Brown, 25, said. She now uses a cane to walk, and hospital visits are a way of life.

Brown's mother, Kimberly Johnson, remembers it all. She said, "Ryann couldn't walk, talk, chew, swallow, anything."

Two years ago, violence struck again when Johnson's son, Rick, 30, was shot and killed as he left for work.

"All I see is my son laying on the ground, a sheet over him. No ambulance. I knew it," Johnson said.

"Why did God leave me and take my brother? He was my best friend," Brown said.

Another family member, Johnson's 15-year-old nephew, has been shot twice. He has a bullet lodged in his arm.

Johnson has been speaking out against gun violence for years.

"I wrote 30 letters to all kinds of influential people in the city of Chicago, and I only got two responses," Johnson said.

Johnson said many of the people she wrote that ignored her are the same ones who attended the funeral for 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot to death at a South Side park in January. Pendleton's murder has drawn national attention. President Barack Obama will be in Chicago on Friday, and is expected to talk about gun violence.

"I would tell him that we need to no look for differences, we need to look for similarities. That all human life is valuable," Johnson said.

Johnson says it is time for politicians, the police department and the media to stop labeling some shootings as gang-related. Johnson believes lives are devalued and dismissed when the word gangs are mentioned.

Brown believes violence will only stop when her own community decides that shootings are no longer the norm.

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