Mom’s memory wall would remember shooting victims
By Judy Masterson email@example.com April 4, 2013 7:10PM
Sudie Gordon of North Chicago, with her grandchild Storm Marshall, 5, holds a list of victims that were murdered in North Chicago. The list includes the name of her son, Emmanuel Johnson. | Thomas Delany Jr~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 4, 2013 2:33AM
Wherever she goes, Sudie Gordon of North Chicago carries sheets of notebook paper upon which she writes the names of men, women and children who have died by violence on her city’s sidewalks, streets and sometimes, in the sanctuary of their own homes.
As of Thursday, April 4, Sudie’s list included nearly 50 names that have come to her from a hard exercise of her own memory, from Facebook, from family, friends and neighbors. Many of the murders have never been solved. Many of the names need no recalling.
“They’re in here,” Gordon said, stabbing at her chest.
Gordon, 57, who moved to North Chicago from Mississippi 40 years ago, began the list two weeks ago after learning of the city’s plan to install honorary street signs as a memorial for Janay McFarlane, the 18-year-old Chicago woman who was shot and killed in an alley off Jackson Street on Feb. 15. In her second appearance before the City Council on April 1, Gordon held up her list and asked if the city would consider street signs for every victim of violence, many whom, unlike McFarlane, were born and raised in the city where they died.
But Gordon does not want street signs, not even for her own son, Emmanuel Johnson, who is number four on her list. Emmanuel, a kid who always smiled, “even on a bad day,” was 23 when he was shot 12 times in a driveway near 13th and Lincoln streets one June night in 2009. No arrest has been made in the case.
“He wasn’t splashed across TV,” Gordon told members of the council. “What about us? We need these murders solved.”
Gordon argues that a better way to memorialize victims of murder in the city would be through a memory wall — an idea suggested by 3rd Ward Ald. Valerie DeVost — that she said could help jog memories and inspire witnesses, who may have changed and matured, to come forward — even on cold cases.
“We can’t just sit back and blame the police,” Gordon said. “It’s up to the citizens to step up and give information, too.”
Gordon’s list also includes a nephew, Remorrian Gordon, who was shot to death in 2004, a case that is only now nearing trial. It includes Darian Shellie, an 11-year-old girl, who was shot in a still-unsolved 2006 drive-by while playing Nintendo in the basement of her father’s home. And it includes unarmed men who were shot and killed during arrests by police.
Gordon has another interest in the Janay McFarlane murder, which happened just a few blocks from her son’s. Her nephew, Jim McPherson, 21, of North Chicago, is the accused shooter.
Gordon said she introduced herself to Herb McFarlane, Janay’s father, at a recent court hearing.
“I told him my family is broken up about his daughter’s death,” Gordon said. “I told him that my sister raised him (McPherson) in church; that if he is guilty, he deserves to go to jail.”
McFarlane, a former resident of North Chicago who, like Gordon, is caring for the child of his dead child, spoke to the council after Gordon. He said he pushed for the street sign as a powerful reminder to the community.
“I want the street sign so walking down ‘Janay Way’ I can show her baby: ‘Your mom was somebody.’ We talk about gun laws, but we should be preaching self-control. Yes. I’m in Beach Park. You can tear the sign down. I don’t care. I’ll put another one up.”
Gordon, who said she insisted on seeing the pre-embalmed body of her son, who was shot seven times in the back and five times in the head, insists that parents of murdered children “walk in the same shoes,” walk around in bodies “with our hearts torn out.”
“A street sign is not going to bring your baby back,” she told McFarlane. ’“I don’t want a street named after Emmanuel. How do I answer my granddaughter when she asks ‘Why is that street named after my daddy?’ There’s only answer: ‘‘Because he was murdered there.’”
“It will be a wall of not pain, but memory,” said DeVost, whose sister Shirley was shot to death in 1975, shortly after moving to Waukegan’s South Side. And maybe it will open up a door for families and people affected by this kind of loss to get the help and the closure they need.”
Ernest Fisher, alderman of the First Ward, where many shooting deaths, including McFarlane’s and Johnson’s, have occurred, offered tentative support for the idea of a memorial wall.
“It makes good sense,” Fisher said. “But we have to have criteria to go with it and a committee to get it done.
“We have to work together,” said Fisher, who suggested that both Gordon and McFarlane join in the effort.
For more information on Sudie Gordon’s list of North Chicago murder victims, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org