Peterson: Richmond woman’s Mother’s Day event a respite from grief
PHOTO : (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)Menbere Aklilu hugs Jasiah Porter-Franklin, 3, as she greets him, Dolores Gholar, left, and Aiden Porter, 5, at her Salute e Vita Ristorante in Richmond, Calif. on Friday, May 12, 2017. Jasiah and Aiden’s mother, Rashanda Franklin, was recently killed and this lunch is for the families of victims of domestic and gun violence. Rashanda Franklin was Gholar’s niece.
No one would have blamed Barbara Harris had she sat out Mother’s Day this year. Menbere Aklilu wouldn’t hear of it.
So there was Harris on Friday morning in a light, bright dining room at Aklilu’s Salute e Vita Ristorante in Richmond, enjoying a nice lunch. And, one would pray, a brief respite from the sadness that has enveloped her since the dark day in April when her daughter Rashanda Franklin was shot dead in front of her two young sons.
“I haven’t been doing that much since all this happened,” Harris said. “Just to be out with people, it means a lot. You know, it’s hard, her not walking through the door. I’m looking out the window to see her come back, see her car pull up.”
Harris was among kindred spirits Friday, Aklilu included. The lunch, free of charge, was for victims of domestic and gun violence and their families.
“You have stories to tell,” Aklilu told her guests. “My story is similar to yours.”
When Aklilu was 10, living in her native Ethiopia, a dissatisfied customer at her mother’s restaurant pulled out his gun and fired three shots. Like Harris’ two young grandsons, she watched her mother die.
“I am those children,” she said.
She also is her guests. While nine months pregnant and living in Rome, Aklilu was forced to flee her abusive husband. She gave birth in a homeless shelter. Now she’s giving back.
“Domestic violence survivors, single mothers need a little help,” she said, explaining her motivation for the Mother’s Day event. “I’m giving a little help, because I’ve been there and been back.”
The guests began Friday’s festivities with beauty treatments, then had lunch overlooking Marina Bay. The event ended with a Mother’s Day gift.
Aklilu’s spirit of generosity permeated the room — Saturday’s plan was to serve a four-course meal to 150 mothers whose children are currently in UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland. Her hopeful message resonated as well.
“The owner, she’s just so caring and loving,” said Richmond resident Carolyn Corgile, who lost her firstborn son two days after Christmas in 2012 when he was shot and killed. “She just makes you forget about the things that we’re going through every day. For one person to gather all of us together and for just a moment to forget about that sadness in our hearts, it’s just amazing.”
Cheric Anderson, 27, said she was physically abused by her child’s father.
“To come to this and know that I’m not alone and there are other people who actually care, and that’s about victims, it’s really uplifting,” she said. “I also didn’t know the restaurant owner had been through it. So she’s motivation, definitely, because she’s been successful after going through all of that.”
Harris attended with her three sisters, her daughter and “the boys.”
“They’re doing much better than when it first happened,” she said. “They miss her. They understand that she’s not coming back. I’m just kind of keeping them busy, so they don’t have idle time to think about it. The hardest time they usually have is at night at bedtime.”
Franklin and her sons were living with her mother, so the boys are still sleeping in the same house and attending the same school. “It’s going on the best we can,” Harris said.
The best got better Friday. Addressing the gathering, Aklilu spoke of the boys, and how their mother was working multiple jobs to pay the tuition for their school. She grew emotional and could barely get out the most important part of her announcement: She would be paying for two years of tuition for the children.
“I’m blessed to be able to do it,” she said.
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Gary Peterson Gary Peterson is the metro columnist for the East Bay Times, writing three times per week about the important people, events and issues in the East Bay Area. Before becoming the East Bay metro columnist, Gary covered the criminal courts in Contra Costa County, served as a general assignment reporter, and spent 31 years as a sports columnist.
SOURCE : EAST BAYS TIMES