Winter has arrived. Christmas is a few weeks away, and a new year is knocking at the door. This is the first time in months I can remember the office and the phones being this quiet.
Behind my desk is a large round table with UCanSpeakForMe posters and flyers. All are covered with the faces of young men and women murdered during the summer months and past years. In the conference room a long table is laid out with information packets for new families that have lost teenagers to gun violence. This is not an easy calling to service in my community.
It would be easy if the pictures could whisper and tell their families who stole their lives and why. I pray for the soul of my son everyday hoping for justice. From time to time in the back of my mind I try to convince myself that I would settle for closure to answer the “why” at this point.
Truly this is not an easy calling to service because I see up close the pain of new client families that request the services of UCanSpeakForMe. The lingering deep hurt is the same even though the faces change. I know their hurt. I hear the disbelief of the nightmare that seems never ending. As I take in the silence of the office a thought came to me. “Why do our youth choose to settle their differences with death as the final conclusion to a disagreement?”
2019 will be a year to remember from the headlines across the country and in Cincinnati, Ohio. Young African American teenagers for a variety of reasons are killing one another. June was a very deadly month in our city. There was a newspaper article published in the June 28, 2019 edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer by Cameron Knight. In that article Pastor Ennis Tait commented “A challenge we face is that this is the norm for some of them”. He went on to say “but the fact is, a friend has fallen and they don’t know how to deal with it. We think they do because of where they live, but they don’t.”
He said outreach, from peers and families, is crucial not only to heal communities but also to prevent retaliation killings.
Looking at the faces on the cold case posters I have wondered about a lot of these same things. And the answer is no. I can’t make heads or tails of this way of settling differences. The article also said, “this is a real-life spirit that continues to plague our city. Vengeance is normal and retaliation is routine,” Pastor Tait remarked. "I believe in my heart that the only cure for vengeance and hate is love. We have to support these families... The only thing they have right now is the hurt and the pain. We have to give them something else.” In many ways this could be seen as a health issue not just another unsolved murder case for Detectives.
Murder is the second leading cause of death among American teenagers, after car accidents. According to a study by the National Center for Health Statistics’ Multiple Causes of Death Files from 1999 to 2017 Black children accounted for 41% of the gun-related deaths, with 86% of those among boys. Whether Black or White these are our children eliminating one another because of robbery, jealousy, or “you looked at me the wrong way”.
Vengeance may appear to be normal and retaliation should not be routine. This is a profound statement we all wish had no basis in truth. If there is any truth to this statement how many more young sons and daughters will end up on these posters and flyers? There seems to be only two ways to seek out a solution. One, work with the Public School Systems to present alternatives to children at an early age. Two, and this is the hardest, for families to close ranks around their children. Be the major influence in their lives so the information in the streets becomes neutralized.
What we do at UCanSpeakForMe is tough. We try to help client families that come to us when their grieving is fresh. It is an unproductive conversation when a mother is contemplating funeral arrangements for a child to ask her “didn’t you know how he(or she) was living their lives”. Even though the services UCanSpeakForMe offers are as a result of violent social behavior, it is not our mission to analyze what or why these events continue to persist. Law enforcement and prosecutors have the tougher jobs of determining right or wrong.
Still we all ask the question. Why? The horror and sadness that enters the lives of so many people, for the victim and perpetrator, if considered before pulling the trigger of a gun could be defined as a good argument for stopping the violence. What is not a debate it seems is that why violence becomes an alternative to kindness. Death has become the final statement for unreasonable anger in the communities where we live.
There is no crystal ball to predict the future. Explanations may be found within our deeper beliefs for the sanctity of life, and setting a better example for our children might make a good start.
It is always a good feeling when you do something that is tough and time consuming you do it simply because it’s the right thing to do.
It is an even better feeling to have those you are doing good things for acknowledge their appreciation by showing their support. The latest version of Ohio’s only Cold Case Playing Cards were unveiled to the families who lost children or family members to senseless homicides.
On February 8, 2020 family members gathered at the Higher Faith Ministry Church in Forest Park, Ohio for the official unveiling. The playing cards were unveiled to the public on February 9, 2020 during a press conference at the Hamilton County Justice Center. Dozens of family members, Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil, Assistant United States Attorney Kenneth L. Parker, and CrimeStoppers Vice Chair Gene Bishop special guests in attendance.
I designed the Cold Case Playing Cards to bring awareness to Unsolved Homicides In Hamilton, Butler, and Montgomery Counties as well as other surrounding townships. These Cold Case Playing Cards have been used as learning tools in schools Church and community forums conducted by UCanSpeakForMe. The UCanSpeakForMe Cold Case Posters, Flyers, and Book Markers have become highly publicized testaments to our commitment to the families we serve, and local Law Enforcement.
In the latest playing card edition there are two different versions. Both include victims from multiple Ohio counties, but sponsored by different law enforcement agencies. UCanSpeakForMe would like to thank Sheriff Jim Neil of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department and the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky CrimeStoppers Board for lending their support and guidance to this monumental project.
Sometimes when you are faced with controversy it is difficult to find the joy whenever the task is completed. In the end when doing the right thing to help others the journey becomes its own reward. I believe testing of one’s faith only produces perseverance.
Thank you to all the volunteers, families, and the media that gave their support. A special thank you to Mr. Kenneth Parker, Assistant United States Attorney who took time for both unveiling ceremonies to attend and give words of encouragement.
Hope Dudley, CEO
WCPO Channel 9 Reporter Jake Ryle reports on the family of murderd 16 year old demanding justice at vigil.
Reporter Jessica Schmidt of Cincinnati's FOX19 covers an emotional vigil to honor victims and families in Butler County grieving for the loss of a loved one.
The answer is yes. My son was murdered in 2007. The next answer is no. I will never forget the horror and grief my family and I have suffered these many years when I received the news that morning. The final answer is yes. Just like every family that has sought out my assistance these past years we all want justice. I discovered early on the road to justice is knowledge. How to channel my pain into action. Understanding how the justice system works, and whom does it work for. I was determined to learn what it takes to not let the memory of my son amount to no more than a statistic.
I created the “Summit Conference” because so many families like myself wanted answers. We wanted to look into the eyes of the First Responders, the Police Officers, the Detectives, the Coroner, and the County Prosectors to get their responses to our questions of why and how. The National Crime Victims’ Rights Week gave us the perfect forum to help the families in Cincinnati. This 11th Summit Conference was the most successful since its inception.
Thank you to the many families, friends, and volunteers that attended. With deepest appreciation I'd like to thank our professional expert panel members for their energy and responsiveness to the discussion and answer periods. The amazing part this year was that as I looked around the conference room all the panel members stayed after the conference ended to talk one on one with families. These are the professionals most times we never get to see because they are the ones behind the scenes.
There aren’t enough accolades and thanks to let Ms. Barbaranne Irving know how appreciative we are for traveling from Florida to be our Hostess and Commentator for this event.
A huge thank you and God’s blessings to the Hamilton County Community Action Agency for making their facility available to us, and for all that they do for the Cincinnati community. Lastly, the organization is honored to have volunteers and friends like those that gave of their time in past years and this year to set up the conference room area, and clean up at the end. Thank you is an understatement for the dedication you have shown these many years.
See something..........Say something. UCanSpeakForMe
Kenneth Parker - Assistant United States Attorney and Hope Dudley, Founder/CEO UCanSpeakForMe.
"It has become my mission to help families that have been affected by the senseless loss of a loved one to homicide. There is nothing glamorous about what we do for families. They are angry, afraid, and not ready for their journey into the justice system." Hope Dudley
UCanSpeakForMe is always trying to find new ways to connect with anyone who will listen to our message of "See Something...Say Something". Recently we made a presentation before Cincinnati's Law & Public Safety Committee.
Ms. Hope Dudley, Founder/CEO of UCanSpeakForMe with the support of Cincinnati Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman held a press conference to unveil the organization’s latest Cold Case Poster effort for Hamilton County. These newest posters feature photographs and names of victims of unsolved murdered females. In addition, the Department of Ohio Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC) received 200 hundred posters for display in all 30 State run institutions.
Families are empowered by one another's strength to publicly remember their lost of a family member. Justice will be found by keeping their memories alive.
UCanSpeakForMe's latest Cold Case Poster asks the question: "Can you help find who killed me?". This newest poster highlights the lost lives of women in Hamilton and Butler counties.
UCanSpeakForMe CEO has been in high demand to address families in Ohio counties about the need to remain proactive with local law enforcement authorities using organizational products.
UCanSpeakForMe is reaching more families by expanding into additional Ohio counties. Sergeant Rob Whitlock accepts a shipment of UCan Cold Case Posters from Ms. Dudley.
CEO Hope Dudley works overtime to deliver a fresh patch of UCanSpeakForMe Cold Case Playing Cards to the Hamilton County Justice Center. This unique design is intended to provide authorities with tips to unsolved cases.
"Tis the season to be......." For most families the upcoming holiday celebrations will take on a minus one effect. UCan will again sponsor holiday gatherings for families. Continue to check this site for updates.
Thank you to the hundreds that came out to show support for the families of these and other murder victims.
Hope Dudley's son, Daniel "Chaz" Dudley, was gunned down in a drive-by shooting on Sept. 29th, 2007. Hope started the group UCanSpeakForMe.org.
The vigil was to remember all the murder victims whose families have not gotten justice. There is a simple message for the community.
"If you see something, say something," Ms .Dudley said.
Thank you media partners for their compassionate coverage.
Price Hill needs ShotSpotter to curtail gun violence, victim's sister says. This is a story that UCanSpeakForMe has worked to support the family in their search for justice since 2012. Brian Thompson has appeared on UCan Posters and Cold Case Playing Cards.
Crime Stoppers boosts rewards hoping to help bereaved families of homicide victims. Ms. Dudley hopes the increased reward will tempt witnesses and insiders who have spent over a decade keeping secrets. Despite years of silence,
"I have peace of mind knowing that, 'One day, you're going to get caught,'" Ms. Dudley said. "'It's going to be in a time when you think you don't want to go to jail, but the statute of limitations … there's none when it comes to homicides.'"
The WLWT-TV public affairs program ISSUES has received a first place award from the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists for a program featuring UCanSpeakForMe CEO Hope Dudley.
The program won for Best Minority Issues Coverage. The award will be presented on August 25th in Cincinnati to the television station. The judges comments said: "A compelling portrait of a grieving mother who turned that grief into action and, more than 10 years after her son's unsolved murder, has created a community movement that seeks justice and heals for all.
We would like to extend our congratulations to one of our media partners for their continued support of our stop the violence message. The WLWT story can be viewed by going to our "What's New" page and clicking on the video called "The Tears You Don't See".
IN OTHER NEWS
UCanSpeakForMe has been contacted to extend it's family advocacy resources to the community of Trotwood, Ohio located in the Dayton area. A college student and a basketball player, Elmer Rucker was sitting in a car with his friend when they were both gunned down on April 18th.
"He was a good student. As far as I'm concerned, the perfect child. It's a big loss for me," Elmer Rucker Sr. said.
While the afternoon vigil in Trotwood was a time to be with loved ones, it was also a call for help with his son's murder investigation.
"It's taking some time and taking too long for me. So I needed to do something. I'm asking the public's for help," said Rucker Sr. He hopes keeping his son's name out in the public will help convince someone to come forward with information.
After the vigil, supporters like Hope Dudley, who also lost a son to gun violence, took to the streets to hand out flyers with Rucker's photograph.
"We want to keep his face out there so people would know that this young man was murdered in this location," Dudley said.
With 11 weeks since his Rucker's death and no suspects in custody, both Dudley and Rucker Sr. hope the public will speak up. "Somebody knows something and it can help," he said.
25-year-old Antonio Collins was also gunned down in the car with Rucker.
The WDTN-TV story can be viewed at https://www.wdtn.com/news/local-news/father-pleads-for-public-s-help-in-son-s-trotwood-shooting-death/1274637104
UCanSpeakForMe continues to receive requests from families throughout the southern counties of Ohio for assistance and resource information.
Hope Dudley has worked tirelessly to bring attention to unsolved homicides since her son Daniel "Chaz" Dudley was killed in a drive-by shooting in 2007 in Cincinnati. After his death, she started making bookmarks, flyers, posters, and playing cards featuring unsolved homicide cases in the hope that, by putting a face on the violence, she would encourage those with information to come forward. She distributed her creations throughout the community in churches, libraries, businesses, and prisons. Impressed with her actions, law enforcement officials unveiled a statewide pilot project in 2008 using posters based on Dudley's works.
To further her cause, Dudley started UCanSpeakForMe Inc. in 2009. the nonprofit assistance program is designed to educate victims and their families about the criminal justice system, promote an anti-violence message, and encourage cooperation between victims and the court system. the organization holds monthly support meetings for grieving families and participates in community outreach activities. For the past several years, the group has sponsored a one-day public summit during National Crime Victims' Rights Week, featuring speakers from the criminal justice system. The event unites first responders, judge, prosecutors, and victim advocates.
As part of a recent video project, Dudley worked with the victims' families to assemble a collection of interviews and images to tell stories of the grieving process. Her own testimony, The Tears You Don't See, was featured on a local TV community-affairs program. For her efforts, she was honored with an award from Crime Stoppers.
Dudley exemplifies strength, resiliency, and perservance. She has converted her grief into giving in order to help other victims of crime.
You can watch the Attorney General's awards ceremony at: https://youtu.be/LU4p4gkZiTM Congratulations Ms. Dudley for your unselfish service to grieving families from a homicide across the State of Ohio.
Ms. Dudley accepts Ohio's Special Courage Award for 2018
Random criminal acts happen all around us. We hear reports on the radio. We read it in the newspapers, and see it on television. But no one remembers the victims left behind long after the the headlines disappear. UCanSpeakForMe is a nonprofit organization focused on families needing assistance after the violent loss of a child or family member.
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