Mothers of Murdered Children: Moving from Grief to Action

Mothers of Murdered Children: Moving from Grief to Action

Session Type(s): Panel

Starts: Thursday, Jul. 17 10:30 AM (Eastern)

Ends: Thursday, Jul. 17 11:45 AM (Eastern)

We know the names of Trayvon Martin, Hadiya Pendleton, and Jordan Davis, but what of the thousand of children murdered every day in America’s cities and towns? This session will bring to life how Detroit mothers who’ve lost children to violence are channeling their grief to propose policy changes, increased funding, and attention from mayors, school board officials, and others to make a difference—and make sure other families don’t face these same tragedies. In addition to families with first-hand experience, attendees will hear from policy staffers on how to advocate most effectively with city and county municipalities.


Dana Vickers Shelley

Dana Vickers Shelley

Using strategic communications and leadership, Dana Vickers Shelley guides business executives, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and community officials in connecting strategy to passion to meet desired results.

Her management of dynamic teams has been integral to: increasing exposure of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s litigation to combat hate and extremism; advocating for improved child well-being policies for the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT project; and helping U.S. business meet corporate objectives through trade missions to Africa, Asia, Europe, South America and the Middle East, among others.

She has presented to the Fulbright Scholars Program, Independent Sector, Yale Law School’s Arthur Liman Public Interest Program, and the National Association of Black Journalists on civil rights, leadership development, and policy advocacy.

Dana holds a Master of Public Administration degree from American University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Brenda Hill


Born in Alabama and raised in New York and Detroit, Brenda used her degrees in biology and psychology to pursue a corporate career in medical industry. After her son Brandan was killed on April 9, 2009, Brenda walked away from her job. She hoped to find the murderers of her son, as well as justice and peace of mind.

Brandan was 22 year-old computer engineering student at Wayne State University in Detroit when he, and his friend Melynda Goodwin were killed. Ruled as a carjacking by the police (though nothing was stolen from either victim), the murders remain unsolved after four years.

Brenda is the mother of a daughter, grandmother of two and now describes herself as a “Community Actionist.” Brenda serves on the board and is a member of several community organizations, including Mothers of Murdered Children (MOMC). She is also the founder and chair of, “The Women’s Delegation of Peace and Change.”

Natalie Motyka


Natalia “Natalie” Motyka came to Detroit as a small child with her parents, after surviving a German prisoner of war camp after World War II. She and her husband will celebrate their 48th wedding anniversary in September 2014.

Natalie raised three children, John, Michele and Moe while working as a teller at Liberty State Bank, and later as the owner of hair salons in the Detroit area. She has been a longtime advocate and volunteer, helping homeless people in her community.

When her son Moe was murdered on October 6, 2011, Natalie says her life changed drastically, and she became an advocate for Mothers of Murdered Children (MOMC). Within months of her son’s death, Natalie organized a fundraiser to support the work of Crimestoppers. Two years later, she committed to raising funds for the homeless, which was also one of her son’s passions. As a member of MOMC, Natalie helps and counsel other mothers by letting them know they aren’t alone in their grief.

Andrea Perkins Clark


Andrea Clark is a grassroots community activist whose work takes her into the community on many occasions for many reasons. In April of 2011 she lost her only son Darnell to murder, and three months later founded the nonprofit Mothers of Murdered Chidren (MOMC) as a way to help channel her grief. The mission of MOMC is to prevent violence through education and proactive intervention with children, young adults, families and community organizations. The organization’s mission is realized through collaborative partnerships with the school districts, youth and faith-based community organizations, and governmental organizations, while providing grief support to families affected by violence.

Andrea along with other grieving mothers sought to find ways to heal while living in grief. They meet monthly to support each other as well as have events to give back to the community all while trying to change the culture of violence in the city. Andrea and the other mothers has turned Grief to Action with MOMC by holding workshops, candlelight vigils, group meetings for youths on Conflict Resolution, Behavior Modification and Anger Management.

Through her work with Mothers of Murdered Children, she began to realize that violent acts are often being committed by angry teenagers and young adults who are unable to cope with their own pain and anger, so they began to lash out in their communities. She began to work with juveniles, some of them who are incarcerated for murder. Realizing one day these young men and women will be released back into society, she began to work with this population with a cognitive skills curriculum, “Thinking for a Change”. The program addresses the development of pro-social and proper decision making skills, violence prevention and preparation for re-entry back into society.

Catherine Phillips


In 1980 Catherine began her career at the City of Detroit, assigned to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. It was then that she became a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union, Local 2920. After less than four months on the job, AFSCME went on Strike against the City of Detroit and Catherine was on the Picket Line every day.

Bitten by the “Union Bug,” Catherine entered the Wayne State University Labor School and received a Certificate in Labor Studies. As a member of Local 2920, Catherine served in several capacities; Alternate Steward, Chief Steward, Water Unit Secretary, Recording Secretary, President of Local 2920 and Michigan AFSCME Council 25 Executive Board Member.

In 2002, Catherine accepted a position with Council 25 as an Organizer. Four months later Catherine was promoted to Staff Representative and continues to serve in that position today. As a Staff Representative, Catherine has serviced AFSCME members in Oakland and Macomb Counties, and the City of Detroit.

In 1994, Catherine was called to the Ministry and ordained by Pastor Miriam E. Phillips of El Shaddai Christian Ministries, as an Evangelist. Catherine’s strong Spiritual belief sustains her and ministers to others in her current position at AFSCME.

“All that we are suffering through in the City of Detroit and Michigan, is nothing more and nothing less, than Spiritual Warfare and we must treat it as such. We must STAND against the evil that has infiltrated our City and State. We cannot be afraid to speak Truth to Power, because fear does not come from God but, rather Love, Power and a Sound Mind!”