Sept. 7, 2014 (San Diego) Reporting San Diego spoke with Lisa Ortiz, who lost her daughter, Marcella Peraza, and Bevelynn Bravo, who lost her son Jaime Bravo Jr, May 18, 2012. Both of their adult children were never involved in gangs, but they were victims of gang violence. Jaime was going to college and had a job. The police did tell Bravo “it was gang related.”
Bravo started the group after her son died and she was asked by a supervisor, how to stop this. What would be the message she could send to youth?
It is then that she decided to start “Mothers With a Message” with a couple other friends, who also lost children to the violence. “To save another parent, another family, from crying our tears.”
According to Ortiz what led to one of the murders was “kids getting high, cruising around and looking for a victim.”
These two women see the tragedy as not just a matter that affects their family. It also affects the families of the children who have killed somebody else. Those youth will have to go through the court system, and will be sentenced to long jail terms. Ortiz’s child killer had a mother too. She lost her child first to the legal system, but after that, the young man died in prison. For his crime he was sentenced to 85 years to life, which essentially meant he lost his future.
They also spoke of the stigma that both the families of victims and perpetrators suffer in the community. The victims are blamed for having their children out. The families of perpetrators are blamed for raising, somebody who committed murder.
These days both women, the mother of the victim and the perpetrator, are close friends. They work together to talk to youth, and their parents after the police picks up these young people curfew sweeps. Bravo also said that it is not just kids from the neighborhood who are picked up in sweeps. Some come from as far as Rancho Penasquitos and Rancho Bernardo. They come to the neighborhood to party.
They go beyond this. They talk to parents and youth on these choices at diversion classes, which help to lead them away from what might be a deadly mistake.
Regarding the violence, Bravo said these “are mistakes that can never be undone. And causing harm to other families and themselves because now they have changed their whole lives.” She added that they change also a different family, but also their own. Now they need to deal with the consequences of their actions.
Both women have also gone into prisons to talk to prisoners, some of whom are serving long sentences. They speak to them of the pain they have caused to their mothers. Prisoners at times were not aware of it. They also participate in programs where ex cons and the families of those affected talk to youth, telling them the reality of both losing a child, but also losing their youth in jail.
Since many of these young people have been touched as well, they are receptive and these programs have already saved a life. They do agree though that the lack of jobs, and other ways for young people to spend time, it makes it easier for young people to make those choices.
They are both strong women, but the pain of losing a child was almost too much to bear. Why they work with law enforcement, the Coroners Office and the District Attorney’s Diversion program, to prevent youth from adopting a gang lifestyle.