Manage episode 261725145 series 2674080
The day after Mother’s Day in 1988, Charlotte's only daughter, Ja’Mee, was murdered at the age of 13 in a case of mistaken identity by five gang members. Then again in 1996, Charlotte’s 25 year-old son Corey was also killed by gang members who thought his blue work uniform represented a rival gang’s colors.
Indeed Charlotte was dealt poison but made medicine going on a mission to first ensure that Ja’Mee’s killers met justice, then working through all levels of government to change criminal justice laws, notably being the catalyst and driver for the Victim’s Impact Statement which humanizes a victim at sentencing and California’s Three-Strikes Law.
Charlotte has been a beacon of hope and love for her community, providing direct support and care to mothers who had lost children due to homicide; and hundreds of children consider her their mother, too.
Charlotte addressed the root of the problem by creating a jobs programs for young at-risk youth to get off the streets and find meaningful work in the community.
- Our story begins in Los Angeles in 1988
- Charlotte was a single mom to five children; four boys and one daughter
- Charlotte worked hard to make sure the family had dinner together every Sunday and maintaining a strong foundation for them as a single mom
- It was the day after Mother's Day in 1988 when Ja'Mee was killed
- Charlotte was preparing food for her youngest children when she heard multiple gunshots
- Physically she felt something drop from her - she believes it was Ja’Mee’s life leaving her body
- Ja'Mee and her friend Nikki had been killed by 5 gang members who had thought the two girls were the sister of a rival drug dealer that had duped them earlier
- Ja’Mee was hit 15 times with bullets including one through her head
- At the time, “drive by shootings” wasn’t a legal offense so the five murderers were being charged under a lesser misdemeanor crime that had a likely sentence of 18-months
- The death of Ja’Mee triggered a series of changes including having to find new homes for her foster children, fearing black men in her community, and losing her job; Charlotte’s life became a mission to represent her daughter and get justice
- In 1996, her son Corey was killed by gang members that thought he was wearing rival gang colors; Corey was wearing his work uniform
- In court, Charlotte’s daughter was referred to not by her name, but as her ‘toe tag’ which is assigned in the morgue; there was also no ‘victims impact statement’ where Charlotte could tell the jury who her daughter was, what her dreams were
- Charlotte is the catalyst and driver of several major criminal justice laws that are common today, including: Victims Impact Statement and Three Strikes Law
- Through loss she gained so much from the community - but she still misses her babies
“So I built a strong foundation for [my children], even though I was single."
“I got up and I went to the stove and I started preparing, warming up the meal that I had already prepared for the babies. And I heard all of this gunfire. And while I was standing at the stove, it was like a really strange feeling, like I had dropped something. And I always say it was her soul. It was like something fell for me. And I started looking for it to see what that was. at the funeral home, they said Ja'Mee had defensive wounds, and I didn't know what that was. They needed gloves. And the defensive wounds just because she saw them, and she put her hands up for protection. But that day was a horrible, horrible day for me. My only daughter. I had dreams, I was preparing for her to be a young woman, 18, the debutante balls, the classes, wanting her to be groomed, all of those things, and the life that I did not experience, I wanted to help her to be able to experience those things. And they cheated me. They cheated me. You know, it's 30 years, and it gets better, but it doesn't go away. I still miss my daughter.”
“Laws, we did not have any laws on the books that talked about drive-by shooting, not even assault rifles. They purchased those assault rifles earlier that day, fully armed and ready with ammunition to fire, and that was not... there was nothing in place to stop anyone from walking in to a hardware store that sold... or a surplus store that sold ammunition and guns to buy them, fully loaded and ready to go. The law... I think they were prosecuted under a... It was a misdemeanor, which that meant they would get 18 months for a murder as a drive-by. Carjacking. No, we didn't... We had horse stealing laws, if you stole somebody's horse, but they had any... they, stealing the car, but not shooting people from a moving car. That wasn't even a law.”
“I was paralyzed when I go in the house at eight o'clock at night. But I knew I had to do something to change the situation. Not... my children were gone, but I needed to protect the other children.”
“In court, we're going to court, and they're trying to call her by her toe tag, which is the day you were murdered, the month you were murdered, the day you were murdered and the time. That's not her name. She had a name. She had a family. She had people who loved her. I was not able to speak to the jurors before they did a verdict to tell them. We changed it to speak before the jurors before this... they go out for deliberation. But I was able to do it when my son died. There is no Martin Luther King. There is no Captain Save-a-Person. There's only me.”
“That's why I was talking to Governor Wilson about the Three Strikes Law. We're like, playing baseball here. If my kid can make it to home plate, we got a home run, but you got criminals on every base. We need to take them off those bases to give our kids a clean shot at getting home safe.”
“It was times where I felt very depressed. I didn't want to be here anymore, but I had other children, and I had other things, and I had to focus on those things. And I took that poison that they gave me. And I used it for the betterment or medicine for my community. Holding rallies, bringing food to people, mothers on drugs, talking to them in the comfort of their home and helping them get off of those drugs. Going to AA meetings with them, talking to the young men in my community, showing them there is a better path. Giving people jobs, you know, not just sitting around talking about it, but be about it, 'bout it, be about it, 'bout it. Doing what I am supposed to do to help. Not myself. It's about others.”
“If you can get in a car and drive there, it's one community. We have to build a strong community and it takes a commitment from all of us.”
“It's kind of a double edged thing. Yes, I lost. I... that was my own child. And that was the most precious gift God could have gave me. But guess what? When I opened my school and I opened my community center and I opened up my house, I got that back. Chris Darden says, "That damn Charlotte, wants to be everybody's mom." You know, I got two hundred children, 200 girls that I deal with daily. Right? That I can pass those etiquettes to, those, how to dress, the fun things that Moms do. And that's how I treat them, like I'm their Mom. The boys, the same way. I lost Corey, but I gained hundreds of boys. And I don't feel like I was cheated out of the fact that those were my children. God gave them to me. And no one should have harmed them. But I also take great satisfaction in the fact that I was able, or am able to love many other children.”
“I am a servant first and foremost. And if I can help, that's what I do. I'm not a chicken, I don't run. Somebody told me I was a firefighter. You know, a firefighter runs to the fire, and everybody else run out, but I run towards the fire, whatever the issue is, whether... I'm heading straight to confront it.”
Connect with Charlotte Austin-Jordan
Charlotte has asked that I share her contact directly in case you have lost a child and would like to talk about it. She is also available to publicly speak at your events.
- (323) 303-7574
- charlotteaustin.jordan (at) gmail (dot) com
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