A Brave Space to Move Women Forward




By Karlyn Boens

(PBMR staff and coordinator of the young women’s initiative)

Moving forward is hard. It is especially hard for women who have lost children to incarceration or gun violence and it continues to be a burden to the daughters who face the neighborhood traumas. The truth is, if our mothers are able to muster the courage to move forward, their daughters will be able to move with them.

Last week, grandmothers, mothers and daughters met at the Mother Brunner House as vital voices of the PBMR community. Their wishes were clear; how do we use our strengths to help one another to move forward? These are women from Communities and Relatives of Illinois Incarcerated Children (CRIIC), Women’s Healing Circle and Young Women’s Initiative. For this group of women, moving forward means to find resiliency in hardship and lost. To an outsider looking in, their stories are all different and there is no logical reason for them to be interconnected. To PBMR, their stories all point to the same need: hope, healing and radical hospitality.

“So what are your strengths?” I asked the women and their responses were in agreement. Janice, who recently lost her grandson, Brandon, to gun violence responded by saying “faith… we are strong because we have faith in our Creator and we have a place like the Mother Brunner House where we can pray and uplift each other. Diamond, a young mother of two from Back of the Yards, responded by saying “support…the struggles I face are real but with PBMR’s support, I feel like I can make it”. Cynthia, who has one son incarcerated and one who was taken by gun violence, responded by saying, “we are strong because we have learned how to advocate…we have learned the power of our voice”.

Taking steps forward seems a little bit easier when women are given a space to share their hardship and lost. They are able to glean from one another’s faith, support and voice to begin the healing work that is needed to move forward. 

It takes a brave space. It is not uncommon for women, who are newcomers of PBMR’s Women Forward movement, to feel burdened, guilty and ashamed of their hardship and lost. They feel like no one understands what it means to lose a child to gun violence and/or incarceration or what it means to live in a neighborhood plagued by violence. But when they come into PBMR and join in circle with women who face similar unsurmountable circumstances, bravery takes over and it becomes a space for all women to move forward.