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Mother of Shooting Victim Forges Life of Anti-Violence Activism

Monica Boyd determined to give back to families affected by violence

When 15-year-old Al-Aziz Stewartin Newark's South Ward, Monica Boyd, a 51-year-old city resident and peace activist, lent comfort to the victim's mother and the rest of the family at an anti-violence rally.

Boyd knows keenly what they have been through; her own 15-year-old son, Shafe Idres Boyd Cruz, was killed in 2006.

A distraught Boyd reeled from the death and railed against God. But Boyd eventually recovered, found renewed faith in the world, beat down a drug addiction, and forged a new life of activism by helping other mothers whose children have died in violent circumstance.

"It's way of trying to give back," Boyd said.

Street smart, maternal and warm-hearted, Boyd is always a steady presence at anti-violence rallies, protests, and even court appearances where the families of shooting victims often see the first time the alleged murderers of their loved ones.

"Monica is a treasure in our community because she is helping parents deal with the unfortunate, tragic loss of losing their loved one, a child, of life," said Bashir Akinyele, a prominent anti-violence activist in Newark. "She's great in terms of organizing against the violence and genocide that's plaguing the African-American community."

It was a long road to Boyd's current state in life.

Boyd grew up in the Weequahic section of Newark where she was raised by her mother along with a twin brother, two twin sisters, and an older brother, Boyd said.

But life was turbulent at home. She was taken away at the age of five and placed in foster care because her mother had mental illness.

"Was in foster home after foster home," she said, recalling that some foster parents were abusive.

When she was 17, Boyd said she started smoking weed in order to feel like she belonged with her peers who were also doing drugs.

"I felt rejected," she said about the root cause of her drug use which eventually turned to coke addiction over the years. "I had no self-esteem."

She would use drugs on and off for the next 37 years with the addiction growing worse as she grew older.

During that time, Boyd had four kids including Shafe. Even with her growing addiction, Boyd said she made sure her children were well taken care of by holding a series of jobs - good jobs she called them - like working in the office of a podiatrist.

But the money was not coming fast enough. Boyd then sold drugs for a short amount of time. She even began to drive people around as a "transportation lady." She would take people around the city to buy drugs and run other errands in order to get quick cash.

"I did my thing against all of society’s rules," she said.

At one point, she had a brush with death when two men, high on narcotics, got in her car and shot out her driver's side window, with the bullet grazing the back of her neck.

But the biggest turning point of her life was when her son Shafe was killed at a BBQ party in Irvington on May 27, 2006. The murder remains unsolved. Boyd keeps a large picture of him, lying serenely in his coffin, in her apartment.

"I was angry with God, angry with society," Boyd said about her feelings at the time. "There is no book on how to recover from the violent death of a child."

But Boyd has recovered. She has been free of drugs since Feb. 5, 2009. Boyd prefers the word recovery from drugs rather than clean from drugs.

"There's no cure for the disease of addiction. I am recovering everyday," she said.

Boyd now marches in anti-violence protests and comforts the mothers left behind like herself. She gets calls at all hours of the night from them, many of whom are scared or angry. Boyd said she also wants to eventually form a collective group of mothers in order to influence legislation on crime and mental health issues.

It's a way to make something positive out of so much tragedy, Boyd said about her work.

"It's a healing process for myself for the loss of my son," she said about her activism. "I would never let my son's death go into vain."

sistateacher August 09, 2011 at 12:25 PM
This is something our community goes through much too often and it's mothers like Monica who aid in the process of healing.
Kimberly Boyd April 27, 2012 at 12:22 AM
Keep doing the right thing...reading your story there are alot of issues that I can share with u that have been familiar

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