Today is bittersweet for Alice Thomas-Norris and her family. On this date in 1993, her 14-year-old daughter, Rolanda Lakesia Marshall was killed in a drive-by shooting at the Beefee Restaurant in North Austin. At least 14 bullets were fired into the window, and a single bullet to the head struck and killed her. Family held out hope she would survive, but it was not to be. After eight days, she was removed from life support.
Aug. 28 is also marks the 49th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech. And on this day in 1955, Chicagoan Emmett Till, also age 14, was killed in Mississippi while visiting relatives.
Thomas-Norris said in a press release her daughter is the reason she will stand by members of the Chicago Clergy Coalition today with families of Chicagoans killed by gun violence in support of a petition to reinstate the assault weapons ban and the passage of HB 5831, which promotes firearm identification and handgun registration.
I want to stand with the Clergy because they are saying and doing something, Thomas-Norris said in her release. “I believe that assault weapons should be banned and we should have common sense gun laws.”
The coalition of 100 diverse religious leaders said in their separate release that family of Emmett Till is also expected to speak at an 11 a.m. press conference following a 9:30 a.m. breakfast meeting today at the New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, 4301 W. Washington Blvd., to launch their 100,000 signature petition drive.
“That will speak loud and clear that the people are serious about ending this violence. Nobody should be vulnerable to AK 47 and machine guns because ordinary citizens can get them so easily,” the Rev. Ira Acree, a spokesperson for the Leaders network and pastor of Austin’s Greater St. John Bible Church said in the release.
“People are fed up with this violence,” he said.
Acree said today is significant given the anniversary of Dr. King’s deliverance of a “message of hope for America.”
“His dream was that we all unite regardless of our race, ethnicity or creed so that we all have the right and access to the pursuit of happiness. It’s amazing that 49-years later we are uniting behind his vision for peace,” he said.
Acree said those who died on this date “only serve as reminders of the urgency of this matter of getting sensible gun laws passed.”
Click here to read more about the Chicago Clergy Coalition’s recent efforts.