By Dawn Scotland
The Truth Reporter
Sisters 4 Unity, a Toledo-based group of mothers whose sons have been victims of gun violence, recently held their first march Saturday, August 26 at Smith Park with an overwhelming turnout.
The group first met at the Coalition for Peaceful Toledo Neighborhoods that the four former Toledo mayors organized and decided to form their own group, Sisters 4 Unity, last December. The group includes mothers Aviance Hill, LaShawnda Kinnebrew, Abena Rowland and Yolanda Dawn Tisdale-Waller.
“We don’t want our children’s legacy to be politics as usual”, said Rowland, member of the group, whose son Jo’Von DeDe Porter was murdered March 3, 2021, “We wanted unity. That has been our focus and that will always be our focus. We just wanted it to be about community, love and support.” The group led the march of hundreds of political leaders, community supporters and residents including the four mayors of Toledo and current Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz.
The aim of the march last month was to bring awareness to the issue of gun violence to people of all walks of life.
“No one can any longer have a deaf ear or turn a blind eye,” said Tisdale-Waller, advocate and liaison of the group. “Violence doesn’t have a preference, it comes to whomever it yields itself… we’re more alike than we are not alike… it is time for us to get out and do this together.”
She stressed the importance of having a united front against the issue.” We need to see the entire community [white and Black] come together to make a community effort to make a change. “
The work of these women isn’t just confined to four walls. They cite their success in the work they have done as foot soldiers across the city. “Even though we’re always in the church, we do street ministry,” said Hill, mother of Issac Michael Carpenter who was murdered on July 2, 2022. “We’re speaking to their spirits and their souls. We didn’t just go to churches, whatever table we were invited to [in the community] we went to… until we built our own table. “
“There were a couple of mothers that [told us] that they won’t even come out of the house and can’t get out of the bed because of losing their children and they got themselves up that morning and joined us, “commented Rowland. The group believes that their efforts are the key part in the reduction of gun violence the city has experienced this year.
Sisters 4 Unity has grown into a movement over the last eight months with plans to get the heart of the issue in the community. The group has future projects in the works to tackle the roots of gun violence and aid in continued healing for all those affected. Sisters 4 Unity’s next plan is to host an event for children of parents who were slain by gun violence and provide them with workshops and resources.
The women also want to go to the jails to speak with perpetrators of the crimes so they can see the mothers faces.
“I honestly think if we go in there and we talk to them like human beings”, commented Kinnebrew, whose son Christopher Kinnebrew was slain July, 3, 2021 at the age of 27 and is still unsolved. “And they can see our hearts and the genuineness in our faces… I’m not saying it will change all of them but it will change [a few].”
The four women lead busy lives combating gun violence individually and now have come together to further advocate on behalf of their children, their children’s legacies, and the future of the city. The leaders of Sisters 4 Unity are:
Aviance Hill is a mother who started at local chapter of the NWO Parents of Murdered Children in honor of her son Issac. She is a City of Toledo Ambassador, on the Utility Appeals Board member, Human Relations Committee City of Toledo, serving as a liaison between the City and the Stop the Violence Committee. Hill is a single mother with five surviving children. Her son, Issac Michael Carpenter was 21 when he was murdered on July 2, 2022. His murder is still unsolved.
Yolanda Dawn Tisdale-Waller serves as an advocate and liaison for the group. Two of her sons were shot twice and survived. She also has a 12-year-old son. Tisdale-Waller recently earned her Doctor of Theology and is a motivational and public speaker using her voice in the community. She is a board member of the executive board of Favor One Studio in Maryland. She has family and friends who have lost their children to gun violence.
LaShawnda Kinnebrew works at Chrysler and also works in the mental health field. She is in the process of starting a GED program for youth and “Steps to Success for Our Youth” where she works with children whose parents are dealing with substance abuse and teaches the children life-skills. She sells ‘Community Against Gun Violence” t-shirts that proceeds raise funds to assist with burials costs for victims’ families. Her son Christopher Kinnebrew was slain July, 3, 2021 at the age of 27 and is still unsolved. She’s a Navy mom, and her surviving son has been in the army for 11 years and she has a daughter that works in healthcare.
Abena Rowland is a widow with two surviving children and a stepchild. She is a licensed minister, chemical dependency counselor and CEO and founder of a Unique Impact Mental Health Facility and founder or Uniquely Saving Our Sons that she started prior to her son’s murder. The organizations helps with trauma and grief surrounding loss. Her son Jo’Von DeDe Porter was murdered March 3, 2021 at the age of 29 and his murder is still unsolved. Her son was an organ donor and is giving life to families.