At 1:30 in the morning in May of 2012, Bevelynn Bravo was woken by a knock on the door. Two detectives had come to tell her that her son was dead. Her 21-year-old son, Jaime Bravo Jr., was stabbed and left to die as he walked out of friend’s house in City Heights.
As a volunteer first responder for the San Diego Compassion Project since 2010, Bravo had become accustomed to dealing with tragedy at a crime scene. She offered emotional and administrative support to the families of homicide victims, never expecting to one day be stricken by the same grief she helped ease in others.
Just as she had helped grieving mothers before becoming one herself, Bravo used her own tragic story to effect change. Together with other moms of murdered sons and daughters, she formed a group called Mothers with a Message.
The women took their grief into the community, hoping to divert youth before more murders took place. But they alway wanted to reach out to men who had already gone down that path - and ended up in the correctional system. And that is where Dennis Martinez knew their message would be taken most to heart.
Together, Dennis and Mothers with a Message created a curriculum of rehabilitation which they then brought inside the walls of California state prisons.
For many offenders it takes years, even decades in prison, before they can humanize their victim. Martinez says through the Mothers with a Message workshop, the inmates hear redemption and forgiveness.
Just as they do every Monday morning, in the early morning of March 11th, Martinez and Mothers with a Message rode a convoy of vehicles to Centinela State Prison, located in Imperial County. It is a level 3 (high) and level 4 (maximum) security prison, housing high-risk offenders serving longer sentences. Today’s group includes four moms - Bevelynn Bravo, Lisa Ortiz, Alejandra Sambrano, and Elizabeth Munoz. Together, they teach a 16-week worksop that helps inmates take responsibility for their crimes, in turn preparing them for the potential to face their victims’ families in parole hearings.
Bevelynn Bravo still responds to homicides across San Diego County for UPAC - Alliance For Community Empowerment. For her, Mothers with a Message has transcended its original purpose of changing the hearts and minds of murderers.
To read more of Maya Trabulsi's article, please click here.