A Grieving Mother Finds Purpose Over Pain

Members of "Purpose Over Pain" gather outside of St. Sabina for the 2021 Summer Peace March.
By Samantha Latson

Genell Taylor marched through South Side streets with members and supporters of the Faith Community of St. Sabina, chanting and clutching a portrait of her 14-year-old son. Taylor, 56, had only recently lost her son Tyrese Taylor to gun violence. 

Despite her grief, or perhaps partly to help her deal with it, she found it important to plant her feet on Chicago’s streets, comforted by other mothers present who know what it means to walk in her shoes. 

“I just want to honor my baby because he was murdered,” Taylor said, standing outside the rectory at St. Sabina on a summer night in June after a Peace march.

Taylor’s son was murdered just days earlier, according to police, fatally shot on June 10, outside their North Lawndale home on the city’s West Side.  

She said that as a mother she had strived to do what any good parent hopes to achieve: To raise her son and to shield him from hurt, harm and danger. 

Genell Taylor, who lost a son to homicide, holds a portrait of her son at a Peace March.

That was her motivation in planning to leave the menacing streets of her West Side neighborhood and move her family to the suburbs, where she believed they would have a better life in a safe community. 

On the day of their planned move, a U-Haul van was outside their home and the family had begun loading their belongings. According to police, Tyrese was shot multiple times on the sidewalk in the 1100 block of South Karlov Avenue. He was taken to Mt. Sinai Hospital where he was pronounced dead, according to police.

During St. Sabina’s march against violence attended by Taylor, the grassroots group Purpose over Pain was among the march’s chief supporters. The group consists of mothers whose children were slain. At the march, they joined together, raising pictures and signs of young Black children who had once walked Chicago’s streets. 

For mothers like Taylor and Delphine Cherry, another member of Purpose Over Pain who lost a son and a daughter to murder, the summer marches are an outlet for those who have become members of a sorority that no mother wants to be eligible to join.

The organization is a 501c3 founded in 2007 by “several Chicago-area parents who lost their children to gun violence.”

“These and other parents who were affected by violence now have a purpose to be effective in preventing gun violence over merely living with the pain,” according to the group’s published self-description.

“Purpose over pain speaks for itself,” said Cherry in an interview. “You put your purpose over your pain. Out of all the groups, they are still standing.

“I can say Father Pfleger genuinely cares about grieving parents, not just the women, but men too,” Cherry added. “He makes sure he looks after us.”

For Taylor, it is a new and peculiar journey. But she said she looks forward to standing shoulder to shoulder with women who bear similar wounds. 

“I love this, this is something I can look forward to,” Taylor said. “I just want to be with ladies who are going through like me and get support because I know I’m going to need it. 

“I’ve never been through anything like this,” she added. “But I want to be a strong woman where I can just talk about my baby.”

Email: Samanthalatson22@gmail.com