Youth Murders in Detroit

Case Study: Save Our Sons and Daughters (SOSAD)

Creating a community that protects children and supports families

“Beyond mourning the death of my son, I started planting seeds—seeds for peace.”

– Clementine Barfield


During the 1980’s violence was prevalent on the streets of Detroit.  In 1985 Detroit had 636 homicides; and 646 in 1986, with 43 of those deaths being children under the age of 16, and another 365 youth victims of non-fatal gun violence.  In 1986 in Detroit, 16 year-old Derrick Barfield was shot and killed.  His mother, Clementine Barfield looked for a support group for other parents of murdered children.  “But there was none,” she stated.  “So I went out and started one.”  The organization she created was Save Our Sons And Daughters (SOSAD).  The first meetings were with mothers of other murdered children. SOSAD offered a fertile site for uncovering discussions about state responses to youth violence and Black motherhood.  SOSAD crystallized concepts of justice, fairness, state responsibility, and the obligations of the judicial system within the context of a movement centered on children and led by mothers.

Barfield wanted to ensure SOSAD was taken seriously.  Their work was organized and professional, including its newsletters, presentations and materials. It became the model for organizations addressing how to end violence among youth, support families of victims and perpetrators, and an integral weapon in the war on drugs.  A blueprint for safe neighborhoods was needed.  

SOSAD’s mission was accomplished through the various youth and family support and drug and violence prevention programs conducted with Detroit Public Schools, the Detroit Police Department and Recreation Centers.  SOSAD also worked with communities to clear overgrown lots and abandoned homes to eliminate opportunities for drug deals and hidden victims.

There is no record of SOSAD existing after 2002.  They have filed no non-profit IRS forms since that time.

“…people are looking to us for answers.”  [Barfield] reported that people are constantly asking SOSAD, “Why aren’t you doing something?”  They do not “seem to realize,” she wrote, “that we are mothers who have lost our children, that we are victims too – and that much is already being done because we have overcome despair and are trying to reach out and help others.”

Getting Started

A questionnaire was distributed at the first meeting that asked attendees that asked the following questions:

Goals of the organization

City and Community Challenges

Outcomes — Ways SOSAD Worked Toward their Vision

The Court Watch Program provided support to families during legal proceedings, and helped navigate the challenges of sitting through a lengthy trial and listening to evidence.  Mothers wanted to see justice up close, and influence the court’s view of their children.

Government Department Resources that supported initiatives and outcomes

At first, Barfield was deeply immersed in the emotions of the issue, but after a time she became more interested in concrete fixes for the conditions that led  to the suffering.  SOSAD partnered with researchers at universities in its search for solutions to  the problems the organization had been working on for years.

To Barfield, the group’s greatest impact is inspiring people throughout the country to mobilize against urban violence. Save Our Sons and Daughters has chapters in Washington, D.C., and Fresno, Calif., but its emphasis has been on helping people to create their own organizations, “…to start their own movements,” as Barfield says, “and do what is needed in their own communities. To me, changes need to come from the bottom up anyway.”


  1. Why do organizations like SOSAD get started?
  2. What kind of community did SOSAD want to live in?
  3. How could local government address the challenges SOSAD was concerned about?