Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- A woman who endured the killing of her son began an initiative to “to honor and heal every person affected by crime, even the perpetrators,” even her son’s killer.
Lisa Daniels did not move past her son’s death; she passed through.
“When Darren died, I always knew that there was something that I needed to do with it, I just didn’t know what,” Ms. Daniels told eNews Park Forest, “and it took me three years to get beyond the shame and the stigma that was attached to the loss of his life and the experience surrounding it, but I always knew that it needed to be acknowledged. It needed to be recognized, and it needed to be used for the value that was embedded in it in order for other people to benefit, and other people had to benefit.”
“Even though he lost his life, he was not just going to die,” she said.
Darren B. Easterling was murdered in Park Forest in July 2012.
Ms. Daniels’ transformative story begins anew this month with the launch of the Darren B. Easterling Center for Restorative Justice Practices. The foundation, named in honor of her son, will hold its inaugural event on Saturday, July 22, in Chicago. Ms. Daniels has become an advocate for criminal justice reform. “She established the Darren B. Easterling Center for Restorative Practices (The Center), a foundation working with individuals who have been affected by crime and seeks to end the cycle of violence in the City of Chicago,” a media release regarding the event says.
Ms. Daniels spoke late last week with eNews Park Forest. She speaks here of her healing efforts “to redefine Darren’s legacy and the legacies of so many young men who live and die like him every day.”
eNews Park Forest: First, I am sorry for your loss.
Lisa Daniels: Thank you very much.
eNews Park Forest: Can you describe the process that you went through to start this kind of a venture?
Lisa Daniels: Do you mean the organization?
eNews Park Forest: The organization, right.
Lisa Daniels: I got to a point– When Darren died, I always knew that there was something that I needed to do with it, I just didn’t know what, and it took me three years to get beyond the shame and the stigma that was attached to the loss of his life and the experience surrounding it, but I always knew that it needed to be acknowledged. It needed to be recognized, and it needed to be used for the value that was embedded in it in order for other people to benefit, and other people had to benefit.
Even though he lost his life, he was not just going to die.
eNews Park Forest: How did you get to a point where you asked for leniency?
Lisa Daniels: Well, I don’t know if that was a point that I– there was no choice. That was where I always was, Gary. I always felt like that young man was no different than my son. They were both in a bad place in their lives where they had both lost hope. They were both making poor decisions, and it was unfortunate that because of a bad decision, Darren lost his life. And there was nothing that could be done to change that, but what I believe was that there was something that could be done to change it for Michael Reed, and if he were given the opportunity, I believe that he could do something different.
I don’t believe that you have to kill, I don’t believe that he meant for Darren to die that day. I never believed that. And I don’t believe that Darren was meant to die that day. I don’t believe that he went with the belief that this was going to be the end of his life. It was unfortunate, and I believe that there are so many out there, so many scenarios exactly like that, that are happening across this country, where people are meeting one another or coming across one another or finding themselves in situations where they cannot get beyond the moment. And they have no idea the thing that happens is what could possibly happen. They’re just thinking in their moments by themselves, and I think that was the situation with my son and Michael Reed that day. And I believe that they both deserve another chance.
That’s, it in a nutshell, I just believe that they both deserve another chance, which is why this organization is being founded in their honor to rewrite the narratives for his life and to redefine the legacy. And the request for leniency was to give Michael Reed another opportunity to do the same thing.
I believe that starting this organization for the reasons that I have started it hold me to a standard for the way that I live the rest of my life, and it would be hypocritical of me to start an organization to honor my son and say that his life deserves a legacy to be left and not feel the same way about Michael Reed. My son deserves a new narrative, and a new opportunity, to live, so to speak, and Michael Reed doesn’t? That is not fair.
eNews Park Forest: Have you spoken to Michael Reed?
Lisa Daniels: We have communicated via U.S. mail and letters. One of the things that he said to me was he didn’t mean for that to happen, he did not mean for my son to die. And I believe him. I believed him. And I did share with him that one of the services the programs that this organization is set to establish, or is implementing, rather, is re-entry services for young men. And I promised him we would help him with his re-entry process when he is released.
eNews Park Forest: This is kind of incredible what you are doing. Who will the organization work with? Who is going to head all of this up and get in touch with people in situations– Your attempt is to intervene before something tragic happens, correct?
Lisa Daniels: No, not for the young men. The objective is to provide service after incarceration, to serve in the re-entry process, and aiding in reducing the recidivism rate.
eNews Park Forest: Absolutely.
Lisa Daniels: We are also forming programs, we have established a mothers–well not specifically mothers–but for women. A women’s program. So, women who have lost an immediate loved one, either to the streets or to the system, and the objective of that program is to serve them beyond their pain, basically, and in the system, in becoming productive, being able to live and have relationships with their children that remain, and to be able to continue their lives, and not get lost in the grief of having lost that loved one, but help them move beyond the burden of that loss.
eNews Park Forest: Absolutely.
Lisa Daniels: There is also a children’s group, for children 17 and under. They are left as children behind ages three to five at the time, their actual behaviors and they are almost 10 now. Serving them to deal with the undesired emotions that are often associated and often way too often left untreated when children experience the trauma of this magnitude in their lives and what we are striving is that is where cycle continues, the cycle of violence and repeat offenders begins when there are children who are left with unresolved emotions of having lost a loved one to the system or to the streets.
So, the organization actually services or is built to serve the three demographics of people who were most affected by Darren’s loss and that is his mother his children and themselves.
eNews Park Forest: Is there anything else that you would like the public of Park Forest?
Lisa Daniels: Darren was killed in Park Forest and the Daily Southtown wrote an article the day after he was murdered and the headline read “Man shot to death in Park Forest had drug and felony convictions.” Had I been someone else, that headline could have destroyed me, but I chose to take that and use it to show my son humanity. I guess what I would like to say is, I would just ask that we would all take an opportunity to see each other’s humanity.
People of Park Forest were not very kind to me in the loss of my son through their comments on the Internet, their publication that was online, the online article. They were not very kind to me and it’s easy to make a decision about someone when you don’t know anything about them or where they come from. I would just ask that those who read, read this story, and read other stories about people who lose their lives in tragic situations, be it they an offender, or a victim, because Darren was both a perpetrator and a victim in the experience that took his life.
But he was a human being.
He was my son.
And he was a father.
And he was a lot more than the sum total of the day the incident that took his life.
I guess I would just ask if we would just try to remember that, not just Park Forest, but anybody who reads. Just try to remember that there are people attached to the people that lose their lives, the people that commit crimes. They have people that love them and are hurt, maybe just as devastated by that experience as the family or of the person that loses their life.
Just stop and think and remember that we are all human, and because of the fact that we are all human, we are all connected.
eNews Park Forest: Listen, I don’t know what to say. I will definitely put something out and the majority of the story will be what you said, and I wish you luck. And if there is anything I can do to help tell your story, or the story of your organization down the road, please let me know.
Lisa Daniels: Gary, I will hold you to that. Thank you just so very much. Thank you for this opportunity.
eNews Park Forest: Yes ma’am, thank you.
Lisa Daniels: Alright, thank you. Have a great afternoon.