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MAX Transit, Birmingham Moms Unveil Black History Month Bus Wrap

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BJCTA/MAX, joined by mothers of murdered sons and daughters, rolled out its annual Black History Month bus, this year advocating for nonviolence. (Joe Songer, For The Birmingham Times)

By Nicole S. Daniel

The Birmingham Times

This is another installment in The Birmingham Times/AL.com joint series “Beyond the Violence: What can be done to address Birmingham’s rising homicide rate.” Sign up for the newsletter here.

After battling with “major depression” for the past three months, Felicia Morgan got a much-welcomed lift on Tuesday, she said.

Morgan, whose 20-year-old Sanquez Morgan was killed in May 2019, joined nearly a dozen other mothers as a new Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority/MAX bus featuring the faces of those whose children have been murdered was unveiled on Tuesday afternoon.

Each February, MAX unveils a bus wrap design in honor of Black History Month.

The 2023 bus design depicts the heartbroken mothers with hands extended, revealing a red painted palm with a heart in its center – a symbolic gesture urging the public to stop the violence in the name of love.

“Today’s event was very touching and powerful for me because I had been in major depression for three months,” said Morgan, member of What About Us, a Birmingham-based nonprofit organization that provides support services for those who have experienced the loss of a child.

“To get here and see all of the faces to support this cause lifted me up tremendously,” Morgan said. “No one really cares how much you know until they know how much you care. The city showed that today,”

Charlotte Shaw, executive director and CEO of the BJCTA, said she wanted to make a statement with the bus that might awaken the community.

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“Our MAX buses pass through Jefferson County and each of our 99 neighborhoods,” said Shaw. “Appealing for non-violence and love on one of our buses in the month of February felt like the perfect gesture.”

Many of the mothers who came to the unveiling were members of “What About Us”, founded by Sheree Kennon, whose son Detraio Whorton was killed on Feb. 25, 2021. Another mother in the group, Wytangy Peake-Finney’s son Calvin Arthur Foster, was killed on August 9, 2016. Peake-Finney is Senior Director of Planning at the BJCTA.

“It meant a lot to us to have one of our own who has been through this situation and that made it even more important to our director Charlotte Shaw,” Sam South, communications director for BJCTA told CBS42. “She came to us and said this is the perfect time with the recent issue and the recent deaths. This is the time to raise our hands and just say stop.”

Last year, Birmingham had 142 homicides, the most since 1933, when the city recorded 148 slayings.

Mothers in attendance at Tuesday’s unveiling included Morgan, Kennon, Peake-Finley, Catrina Carey, Frieda Truss, Pamela Davis, Rose Johnson, Kimyatta Henry, Theta Johnson, and Connie Dismukes.

The mothers dressed in red for the unveiling of the bus.

“We’re out here fighting for our kids’ lives,” Kennon told AL.com. “We’re tired of burying our kids. We should be able to give each other love and respect. It’s just a tragedy that we have to deal with this every single day.”

Darryl Cunningham Sr. Director of BJCTA/MAX, said, the bus wrap “is a way to publicly and visibly allow people to see a soft message, but a loud message . . . that is part of the healing process.”

“[The mothers] benefited from it greater than anyone because some of the mothers suffer in silence,” he said. “They feel that they are all alone, or that their loved ones have been forgotten. So to see a group like that today, honor them, make them aware of the people are still grieving, and supporting and praying for them. They really needed that,” he said.

As the bus rolls through the city, Cunningham hopes it catches the attention of young people. “That’s the whole objective, to make them aware that what has happened is not new, [gun violence] destroys people’s lives and they [young people] can be a part of the healing process and prevention … To have that bus with that message on it, with their [mother’s] hands and a heart is powerful.”

Updated at 7:35 a.m. on 2/8/2023 to clarify a quote.

For more information or to participate visit maxtransit.org/stoptheviolence.

For more on this story visit AL.com here

Previous installments of the series:

As Homicides Escalate, Birmingham Times, AL.com Launch Joint Series on Gun Violence | The Birmingham Times

Retired Birmingham Police Weigh In on City’s Growing Homicides | The Birmingham Times

Police Chief Weighs in on Causes and Solutions as Birmingham Homicides Reach Tragic Highs | The Birmingham Times

John Archibald: Ignoring Murders of Black Males Won’t Make it Disappear | The Birmingham Times

How One Birmingham Area Partnered with Police to Curb Crime; While Others Live in Fear | The Birmingham Times

Why Some Birmingham Residents Call Felicia Mearon Before They Call The Police | The Birmingham Times

Some Birmingham City Councilors Not Immune to Gun Violence | The Birmingham Times

As Gunshot Wounds Increase in Birmingham, UAB Adds Surgeons to Handle the Surge | The Birmingham Times

How Preventing Domestic Violence Can Reduce Historic Homicide Toll in Birmingham AL | The Birmingham Times