MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - When tragedies like the Parkland, Florida shooting get national attention, gun violence survivor, Rachael Joseph, remembers why she’s advocated for tighter gun laws since 2003.
“I think all survivors relive their own personal trauma every time they see this happen to another family,” Rachael nodded.
“Shelley was the heart of my family,” she began. “Every dinner, every holiday was at her house. She cannot ever be replaced to us.”
Rachael’s aunt, Shelley Joseph-Kordell, was murdered in 2003 after a woman who’d stalked and harassed Shelley, lured her along with her attorney and friend Rick Hendrickson to the Hennepin County Government Center, through frivolous legal action.
“They were essentially walking into an ambush,” Rachael shared.
Even after requesting a security guard to escort them on the 17th floor of the Government Center where their court hearing was held, the stalker managed to shoot both Rick and Shelley.
“She died in an emergency surgery at Hennepin County Medical Center,” Rachael said.
The loss has since placed both Rachael and Rick on a mission to snuff out the crime.
“I’ve been screaming this for years and years,” she said.
That very sentiment also sensed from North Minneapolis leaders including the principal of Lucy Laney Elementary, Mauri Friestleben.
“There are hundreds of children of color that die from gun violence every year and I don’t get the same sense of outcry and I wonder if as a society, or as a culture, we think somehow they deserve it and that these children in Parkland didn’t? It’s just an interesting dichotomy to me,” Friestleben reflected.
The stark dichotomy is one Minneapolis artist Nikki McComb also touches on with her #Enough campaign—an artistic effort she launched in 2016 to end gun crimes.
“Our kids of color are not walking up in school and doing this… this happens in a suburban uppity area. It matters. Levont’e King. A baby? It didn’t matter as much as this matters. Still children. Young people. But Levont’e was a baby. Two years old,” McComb recalled of the child that was shot and killed in Minneapolis after a senseless drive-by in 2016.
“Why would this not be a national cause to provoke something different with lawmakers?” McComb asked.
Rachael, Mauri and Nikki--each has long clamored more needs to be done. And all three women still have the same questions. How much longer will they have to wait for an end to gun violence to matter everywhere equally?
“Even how much applause these students are getting in Florida, and I don't begrudge them that, but I just think imagine if those were all black teenagers. Would we have as many people saying, good for you? I stand for you. I don't see that,” Friestleben said shaking her head.
Meanwhile, the women will continue the work they say is far from over.
Rachael told Fox 9 she may soon run for office and supports voting for gun violence survivors to become lawmakers.
Nikki will host an exhibit called “Art is my Weapon: MN Creatively Addressing Violence” on March 9th from 6-9 p.m. at Homewood Studios, 2100 Plymouth Avenue North in Minneapolis.
Mauri plans to continue to find ways to show the world the safety of her students deserves priority, too.