Remembering loved ones lost to violence: Mothers Against Violence hosts annual victims walk

The Des Moines-based community organization wants the violence happening in communities across the state to end, vows to continue memorializing the victims.

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Calvetta Harris, founder of Mothers Against Violence based in Des Moines, carried a hammer and signs with printed photos of the victims of violence. She hammered the signs into the ground at Good Park in Des Moines. The faces of mostly Black victims fluttered in the wind during the annual event.

"I keep doing it because a lot of these people you see: We forget them," she said.

Mothers Against Violence Founder Calvetta Harris. Photo by Black Iowa News.

But Harris won't let them be forgotten. She wants the community to remember how the loss of so many lives ripples throughout the lives of those left behind, how it ripples through neighborhoods, cities and the state. How the families will never be the same. She stands with them as a person whose family has experienced violence and as someone who has lost a friend to gun violence. She started the organization in 2013 after her friend Marion Harris was shot to death in Des Moines.

People who attended the event pointed at people they recognized among the signs. Many knew more than one person. The earliest victims were from 1980s. Not all of the crimes have been solved, Harris said.

Calvetta Harris, during the annual victims walk. In the background, Jodi Bruce-Hart. Photo by Black Iowa News.

Not everyone represented in the memorial died of gun violence, but many did, she said. She pointed to photos of a father and son who had been killed in separate acts of violence.

According to the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), the U.S. in 2022, 502 mass shootings have occurred in 37 states and the District of Columbia. The organization defines mass shootings as having a minimum of four victims shot, either injured or killed, not including any shooter who may also have been killed or injured in the incident.

According to GVA, gun violence has affected Iowans of all ages. Here is the latest gun violence data for Iowa, as of Sept. 25:

  • 64 murders
  • Two mass shootings
  • Three children under the age of 11 have been killed
  • Two teens age 12-17 have been killed
  • 22 teens age 12-17 have been injured
  • 9 unintentional shootings have occurred

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Sep 15, 2022 ·

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The event also featured free food and music and culminated in the walk for the victims. After the signs were posted, Harris and those who gathered, many wearing white T-shirts with Mothers Against Violence Annual Victim Walk emblazoned on the front, walked in the neighborhood near Good Park. They came to a stop along University Avenue by the Good Park sign. There, Sylvia Jefferson, Jaylen Cavil and Luana Nelson-Brown, executive director, of Iowa Coalition for Collective Change read aloud the names of about 150 victims and the year they died.

Harris said she will keep holding the event, for the victims, their families and the community, but mostly, she wants an end to the violence.

"Who wants to keep making these," Harris said last Saturday, standing amid the memorial for victims. "But the reality is, we're still going to be making these. That's sad in our community."


Meet and Greet: The Des Moines Metro Area Interest Group of the National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI)

Time: 10 a.m.-11 a.m.

Date: Oct. 1, 2022

Place: Hoover High School, Library, 4800 NW Aurora Ave, Des Moines

Contact: Anita Fleming-Rife at

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