While some might turn a blind eye to violence in the community, Jackie Rowe-Adams is taking it head-on. After losing two sons to gun violence, she is turning tragedy into action.
Rowe-Adams is best known as the unapologetic, outspoken co-founder of the community organization Harlem Mothers SAVE (Stop Another Violent End). The organization, which started in 2006, not only supports families of victims of gun violence, but also serves as a beacon in the fight to keep streets safe.
Born in Harlem, Rowe-Adams lost her 13-year-old son to a senseless shooting and later her 28-year-old son to a shooting during a robbery. She said that while she joined a support group to get her through the pain of her loss, that pain turned into outrage.
“There was one day when there were so many shootings, I got up in the middle of the night and I said, ‘Who’s giving these guns to these kids? I can’t take it anymore. Someone has to do something because nobody is doing anything,’” said Rowe-Adams.
Rowe-Adams worked with the New York City Parks Department for almost 30 years. She previously worked as the citywide music specialist for the department, teaching the elderly how to sing. With the nickname “Nightingale,” Rowe-Adams has sung at major city venues, including Shea Stadium and Gracie Mansion.
She currently works as a recreation manager for the Parks Department. One of her largest and most successful projects was cleaning up and transforming Morningside Park. She also served for seven years as president of Harlem’s District 5. The position allowed her to see the needs of kids.
However, her passion lies in trying to improve the community through her efforts. Harlem Mothers SAVE has now grown to over 50 families, most of whom are in a club that, as Rowe-Adams says, they were never asked to be a part of, but they now have a responsibility to the community.
“We were sick and tired of being sick and tired,” she said. “We needed a real family support group. It’s not just a crying group, but about putting stuff into legislation so can we make change and educate parents and kids.”
And when it comes to educating parents, Rowe-Adams advocates for them to be involved in their children’s lives and know what’s going on, even if it means looking in a book bag or going into their child’s room.
As for the youth, Rowe-Adams speaks to them often as well, telling them to speak up when they know about violence or about someone who has committed a violent act. She said it takes everyone getting involved to cut down on gun violence.
“It strengthens me,” she said. “Mentally it’s draining, but you are dealing with crime and the family is hurting. I find my strength in helping somebody. It really keeps me going to see the level of people getting involved and caring. If we don’t keep it going, they are going to let it go.”