The killing has to stop. That was the theme of Darrius Townsend's 18th birthday celebration Saturday.
He was killed last year on the street, shot for nothing, says his mother, LaRonda Townsend.
"They just killed him," she said. "Shot him in the back."
That's why she is working to found MASK, Mothers Against Senseless Killing, in Chattanooga.
She and others blocked off a section of Duncan Avenue on Saturday for what should have been a party filled with celebration and anticipation of what Darrius' adult life would hold.
"I started [MASK] because when my son got killed, I realized it was something we need to do: come together," Townsend said.
Kimberly Walker is going in with Townsend to make an attempt at curbing the violence. Her son also was killed in street violence that she says was not gang-related.
Walker said the problem -- and the answer -- is jobs. Young black men in Chattanooga get an arrest on their record and are "cursed" because no one will hire them.
"When they get turned down at an interview, they feel like they have to go out in the street and take something," Townsend said.
The group hopes eventually to have enough money to help pay off funerals when financially strapped families face a child's sudden death.
Townsend's aunt, Pearl Pearson, said on top of the trauma of losing a son, mothers shouldn't have to worry about funeral costs.
"I think it's time people step up and help these kids," she said. She said MASK is appropriate, because at the root of the violence "there's something going on that we don't see."
Contact staff writer Alex Green at 423-757-6731 or firstname.lastname@example.org.