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.”|
A questionnaire was distributed at the first meeting that asked attendees that asked the following questions:
- How were you affected by teen violence?
- What are some ideas for possible solutions?
- What activities should this organization focus on?
Goals of the organization
- To support parents of murdered kids and parents of kids who murdered.
- To bring awareness to the epidemic of youth violence.
- To activate/organize communities to create change to decrease youth violence.
City and Community Challenges
- Lack of jobs due to the auto industry downturn.
- Diminishing school quality due to loss of tax base.
- White flight and resulting loss of population in city.
- Increase of community drug use.
- Feelings of hopelessness among community members.
- Availability of weapons in the community.
Outcomes — Ways SOSAD Worked Toward their Vision
- Created and distributed a newsletter with resources for community members.
- Helped establish multiple youth programs, family workshops and grief counseling, servicing more than 500 residents.
- Created CEASE FIRE, a gun control and violence disrupter initiative.
- Created a Court Watch Program to assist and support families going through the criminal justice system.
- Introduced the urbanUrban farm Hope Garden for the community to work in.
- Raised public awareness exposing the epidemicexposing epidemic of youth violence through events and information sharing.
|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
- Detroit Public Schools held Stop the Violencestop the violence assemblies for students.
- City of Detroit Recreation Centers offered youth programs, art classes, family grief counseling.
- Detroit Police Department Task Force on Youth Violence included SOSAD which served as a pivotal member of the task force.
- DPW worked to clearclearing overgrown lots and alleys at the requestat request of SOSAD.
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.”
- Why do organizations like SOSAD get started?
- What kind of community did SOSAD want to live in?
- How could local government address the challenges SOSAD was concerned about?