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Mothers of teens lost to gun violence come together to say 'This is our city and we have to take it back'
  • 5 min to read

RACINE — From the outside, the recent spate of shootings in and around Racine looks like an increase in violent crime.

From inside, however, it looks like broken families, troubled teens, and a fractured community with too many living in poverty.

The mothers

On Thursday, Restoration Ministries held a citywide “Stop the Violence” prayer vigil and rally that included a call to action and the rebuilding of a healthy community.

Dee Holzel / DEE HÖLZEL, 

Pam Harris, Monika Driver, Tanya Wooden, and Lovey Nesbitt-Morgan — all mothers whose children have been killed — attended the citywide prayer vigil and call to action to "Stop the Violence" held on Thursday. Nesbitt-Morgan told the those gathered: “We have to get together ... We have to stop this.”

Lovey Nesbitt-Morgan’s family lived in Atlanta and New Orleans, two cities notorious for gun violence. But it was in Racine that one of her children — 17-year-old Dontrell Bush — was murdered in May, around the corner from their house.

Attending the rally were mothers whose children were the victims of street violence, including Nesbitt-Morgan and Monika Driver, whose 17-year-old son Jayden Cronin was shot and killed Sept. 3, reportedly as he walked home from a football game. With the rally being held just six days after Cronin was killed, the grief still raw on his mother’s face.

Joining them were Tanya Wooden, whose son, Harry Canady Jr., was a victim of gun violence in 2017; and Pam Harris, whose daughter had died many years before, stepping forward to support the others.

Journal Times graphic 

1. Becky Rannow shot and killed inside her home on the 1600 block of Edgewood Avenue Aug. 14. No one has been charged with the killing. 2. 21-year-old Joseph Griffin was later arrested and charged after he allegedly shot at an occupied vehicle near his home on the 1700 block of Chatham Street Aug. 20. 3. A woman was non-fatally shot near Marquette Park Aug. 22. 4. 44-year-old Musa Musa was shot and killed near the intersection of LaSalle Avenue and Racine Street Aug. 24. No one has been charged in the killing and no suspects have been publicly identified by police. 5. Andre Sandoval was shot and killed outside Angel's Beauty Salon on Durand Avenue in Mount Pleasant after he allegedly didn't pay for his haircut. Police said that the barber, Tamir Lenard Williams, admitted to the killing. 6. 17-year-old Jayden Cronin was shot and killed near the intersection of North Memorial Drive and Woodrow Avenue as he walked home from a football game. No charges have been filed in the killing. 7. A woman was non-fatally shot on Park Avenue near 11th Street. 8. Three people, identified by police as males aged 17, 18 and 21, were shot minutes after midnight on the 1200 block of Racine Street on Monday, Sept. 6, which was Labor Day. All three survived, although one of the three was listed as being in a critical condition the day after the shooting. Again, law enforcement have not publicly identified any suspects and no one has been charged in the triple shooting.

The women did not know each other before they lost their children to violent crime, but the prayer vigil was an opportunity for them to connect, and to find strength together moving forward.

“We have to get together,” Nesbitt-Morgan said. “We have to stop this ... This is our city and we have to take it back.”

Kelly Scroggins-Powell of Restoration Ministries, a local faith-based organization, gave the opening prayer Thursday.

She prayed to God: “We bring the City of Racine to your attention, we bring our youth to your attention, we bring our families to your attention, and we ask that you would restore peace, love, and unity to this community.”

Throughout the evening, participants prayed for guidance, wisdom, and the strength needed to rebuild the community.

Scroggins-Powell, who is a co-founder of Racine Women for Racial Justice, said: “When we are done praying, there is work for us to do.”

We must do better

Bishop James Ford called on the community to do better for the children.

“One of the things we have to understand in this season is how much pain our children are in,” he said. “They may play it off and not say anything, but it comes out in other ways.”

They do not need people yelling at them all the time, he continued. They need to be heard and understood.

He called for the presence of more black men in schools, to speak up and addressing issues.

“We in this season have to start doing better, as parents, as fathers, as community leaders,” Ford said. “We have to do better.”

He said they had to do better as a community, as well. They would have to work together to stop the violence: stop hating, stop judging, stop condemning each other, and learn to work together.

Alderman John Tate II, president of the City Council and a licensed therapist who’s worked with troubled teenagers for almost a decade, advised parents with trauma to seek therapy so they could be the kind of parents their children needed.

In his work, Tate has seen parents who were not able to deal with the trauma in their lives — with abuse and/or sexual abuse — and therefore could not help their children.

“The hurt is real. The anger is real. The trauma is real,” he said.

1994 Crime Bill

It has been 27 years since the passage of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which sent black men to prison at unprecedented rates and left women largely to shoulder the burdens of family.

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law published a report on the 25th anniversary of the legislation that noted the 1994 Crime Bill “helped fuel a prison construction boom. The number of state and federal adult correctional facilities rose 43 percent from 1990 to 2005.”

Simultaneously, as USA Today reported last year, “In 1993, according to the BJS (the Bureau of Justice Statistics), the incarceration rate of Black people at the state and federal levels was seven times that of whites. At the end of 1993, there were 1,471 black inmates per 100,000 black U.S. residents, compared to 207 white inmates per 100,000 white residents. In 2011, the proportions were roughly the same, with 478 white males in prison for every 100,000 white males in the general population, and 3,023 black males in prison for every 100,000 black males in the population.”

Dee Holzel / DEE HÖLZEL 

Corey Prince spoke in defense of single mothers and the importance of the black community keeping itself accountable for the children. “We have to love each other,” he said. “We’re family and these are our kids.”

Multiple speakers brought up the crime bill, itself a response to a cycle of violence, and the part it played in the dismantling of the structure of the black community.

In Wisconsin, African Americans are 2.7 times more likely to die by firearm than the average Wisconsinite, and 3.2 time more likely to die by the gun than white Wisconsinites, according to data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

One of those who addressed it was community activist Corey Prince, who said he went to prison five times before reforming himself.

Prince said he did did not blame anyone for his incarceration and takes responsibility for his own actions. He did seek to help people understand there were consequences to locking up so many members of the black community.

He said the result of the high rates of incarceration of black men was that young black men were left to govern themselves. When they themselves were sent to prison, as Prince was, the next generation was left to govern themselves in an ongoing cycle.

Prince spoke out in defense of single mothers, sometimes working two jobs to try and provide for the family.

“They have to work twice, three times as hard just to make it,” he said, quoting figures that show the significant disparity in median incomes between black families and their white counterparts. A 2020 report from 24/7 Wall St. found that the median income for black households in the Racine metro area is $26,512, less than half the median income for white households, which is about $66,446.

As a result, more black children are left in daycare or with people other than their parents for long hours.

He referenced comments on social media that blamed hard-working parents for their unruly children. The blaming and finger-pointing has to stop, he said.

“We have to love each other,” he said. “We’re family and these are our kids.”

Restoration and healing

Scroggins-Powell concluded by saying the restoration and healing of the community will take everyone doing their part, including the government, the school district, the families, and organizations.

“Change is going to come when we do the work,” she said.

Dee Holzel / DEE HÖLZEL, 

Tanya Wooden, whose lost her son Harry Canady Jr. to gun violence in 2017, joins in on a prayer at the vigil held Thursday to address gun violence. Her shirt quotes from Proverbs 22:6: "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it." 

While the community worked on re-establishing ties, she called on local government to reinstate programs that were either reduced or eliminated due to budget constraints, such as:

  • The full-time opening of youth centers so young people have a safe place to go immediately after school.
  • Programs for youth social services, youth violence prevention programs, and youth recreation programs.
  • She asked that people from the neighborhoods be hired for these efforts, the people who know the kids and their parents
  • She called for RUSD adopt a conflict resolution curriculum.

Scroggins-Powell also called on members of the black community to become engaged in local government.

“We don’t show up for common council meetings,” she said. “We don’t show up for County Board meetings.”

She urged the black community to start showing up and using their voices because that needed to be done for change to occur.

Burlington newspaper publisher and civic figure Nancy Branen dead at 91

BURLINGTON — Longtime Burlington business and civic leader Nancy Branen has died at age 91.

Branen had, from 1988 to 2001, been the chairman of the board for the media group which published the Burlington Standard Press newspaper, and she was active in local politics and civic affairs.

Family members posted on Branen’s Facebook page that she died peacefully at her home on Friday.

“She was a pillar in the community and will be greatly missed,” the family posted.

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Branen’s husband, William Branen, was a newspaper publisher in Burlington from 1954 until his death from cancer in 1988. Nancy Branen and her sons, Robert and Shad, ran the media group until selling it in 2001 to a group which included current Standard Press President/Publisher Jack Cruger.

Nancy Branen’s death is bringing an outpouring of tributes and remembrances.

Burlington Mayor Jeannie Hefty issued a statement calling Branen “a woman of grace,” noting that she had known Branen since Hefty was in junior high school. They reconnected later in life, and Branen was there to offer congratulations when Hefty was elected in 1992 as Burlington’s first woman mayor.

“God bless you, Nan. You made many friends in our community displaying the dignity you carried,” Hefty wrote. “You will never be forgotten.”

Shad Branen, who owns movie theaters in Burlington and Lake Geneva, was elected this year to the Burlington City Council.

Other tributes came from many people posting messages on Branen’s Facebook page.

“She was a beautiful soul,” wrote Philip Molitor.

“She was such a vital lady, full of passion and joy,” added Jennifer Eisenbart.

The family is being assisted by Daniels Family Funeral Home & Crematory in Burlington. The family plans a celebration of life at a future date.

Mark Hertzberg, Journal Times file photo 

Popcorn at the ready, Nan Branen, left, and Martha Schroeder stand for the playing of the National Anthem as they watch the broadcast of the Wisconsin-Oregon Rose Bowl game on a movie screen at the Plaza Theater, 448 Milwaukee Ave., Burlington, Monday, Jan. 2, 2012. Admission to the theater was free, and the concession stand was open for purchases of snacks and drinks. About 50 people watched the game at the movie theater.

UPDATE: Racine County clerk said she never got email from Wisconsin's election investigator to retain records

MADISON — The leader of a Republican-ordered investigation into the 2020 presidential election in Wisconsin on Monday sent county clerks an email asking them to retain all records related to the election and notify him if any had been destroyed.

However, Racine County’s clerk said Monday she never received the email. Racine County is one of the swing areas of the state that some conservatives have claimed, without evidence, was where fraud occurred.



The message from former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, who is leading the probe, comes after he initially asked the Wisconsin Election Commission for the data. But elections are run locally and all of the ballots, voting machines and other data are maintained by county and municipal officials.

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Gableman said in the Monday email that he also intends to contact every municipal clerk once he obtains the emails from the state election commission. In the meantime, he asks the county clerks to forward his request to retain the records — he reportedly has not asked to receive the records as of yet; he’s solely asked clerks to not get rid of the records.

State law already requires clerks to save records related to voting for 22 months after an election. The language of the law specifically includes memory devices but says nothing about voting equipment itself or the software that supports it.

Gableman said his request covers “otherwise routine software updates to election systems that might have in the past or will in the future corrupt or erase and/or otherwise compromise relevant records, or which might obstruct examination and investigation.”


At 3:28 p.m. Monday, Racine County Clerk Wendy Christensen, who is a Republican, said in an email to The Journal Times: “At this time, I have not received any email(s) from Michael Gablemen related to holding onto election materials.”

Regarding the request from Gableman, Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell, a Democrat, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel “This is where he (Gableman) doesn’t understand how any of this works ... the machines are dumb machines. This is what these people don’t understand — there’s nothing on that machine. Right now it’s blank. And that’s how it’s supposed to be and that’s how it’s always been. The machines are just dumb terminals.”

Added Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson, a Democrat, to the Journal Sentinel: “To me it’s painfully obvious that he doesn’t understand how our elections work. That really scares me considering he’s considered, I don’t know, an expert by some others in the Republican Party on this matter.”


President Joe Biden defeated former President Donald Trump by just over 20,000 votes in Wisconsin. The results withstood recounts in Milwaukee and Dane counties and numerous court challenges, but some Republicans are pushing for broader reviews of how the election was run.

Republican lawmakers have said their intention is not to overturn Biden’s win, but to look for ways to make future elections more secure. Democrats, and some Republicans, have said the lawmakers are trying to undermine faith in elections, which evidence has repeatedly shown were fair and accurate.

Republican lawmakers ordered a review, which is ongoing, by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau. Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, under pressure from Trump and those who believe the election was stolen, ordered a separate investigation led by Gableman.

On Friday, about 100 people who don’t trust the audit bureau or Gableman to do fair investigations, called on Vos and other legislative Republican leaders to get behind a “full forensic physical and cyber audit.”

Calls for election reviews come as prosecutors in Wisconsin have brought election fraud charges against just two people out of about 3.3 million who voted.