For those who are grieving the loss of loved ones, Thanksgiving and the coming holiday season may not be the happiest of times.
Add to the mix, life in the throes of a COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns and economic devastation for families and many businesses, and Thanksgiving 2020 doesn’t look like other Thanksgivings celebrations in past years.
This is notably true for Marsha Robinson, a Memphis mother who suffered the loss of a child.
That child’s name was Vincent Delaney Jones, a 23-year-old who was just hanging out at the Westwood Community Center on July 29, 2018.
“Vincent was a young man with an old soul,” said Robinson. “He had a great sense of humor, and I taught him never to lie, to always tell the truth. Vincent would tell other young men, ‘Get your education. Don’t be a statistic.’”
Jones graduated from Millington High School in 2013. He wanted to finish high school there because his father’s people live in Tipton County.
Beyond the anger of losing Vincent at the hand of another young man, Robinson has moved to effective activism against gun violence on the streets of Memphis.
While the family is staying in this Thanksgiving, Robinson is posting electronic billboards, two of them, along Interstate 240.
“This year was my first year taking part in the Unity Walk against gun violence a couple of weeks ago,” said Robinson. “It was really something to be out there with other families who have also lost children and other loved ones to gun violence. I just know that I’ve got to do that every year.”
Robinson also set up a fund to honor Vincent at Regions Bank called, “Vincent’s Charity Fund.” Young people seeking to further their education have been awarded financial gifts and scholarships.
“The charity fund is a wonderful way to honor Vincent, who was always telling teenagers not to be involved with gangs,” said Robinson.
Jones worked for the Grizzlies. He obtained his license to serve liquor and, for him, it was great getting the opportunity to see the stars up close at every home game.
“Vincent was continuing his education at Post University in Waterbury, Connecticut,” said Robinson. “He came to me one day and said there was something coming in September. I said, ‘It better not be a baby.’ It was actually his induction into the National Honor Society.”
Since Vincent’s violent and untimely death, the family hasn’t been the same.
Robinson recalls details of that fateful day over and over, the pain of being told her son was dead still fresh, almost like the day he died.
“I went over to my mother’s house, and we were cleaning, just pulling things out of the closet,” said Robinson. “My sister was there, and she kept asking about every hour, ‘Where is Vincent?’ I had told my son days earlier that someone he was hanging out with wasn’t loyal.”
Returning home, Robinson passed by the community center. Children were playing outside. Older boys were on the basketball court. Some were swimming in the pool. It was just an ordinary day. The weather was beautiful, Robinson recalled.
Robinson was in the house when she heard 12 gunshots ring out. Like her neighbors, she came outside to see what was going on.
“We were just talking about how tired we were of people shooting in Westwood,” Robinson said. “We were looking down the street toward the community center. Girls were screaming over near the basketball court.”
But Robinson said it was a “young man on a bike” who rode down the street and told her Vincent had just been shot.
“He said, ‘Are you Vincent’s mother?’ I told him I was, and he said, ‘I just came to tell you Vincent just got shot.’”
After that, the day blurs into Robinson going down to the community center. She first woke her husband up. Vincent had fallen, dead on the scene at 6:58 p.m.
“They wouldn’t let me on the basketball court, but I looked down and saw those legs and them crooked feet,” said Robinson. “I knew that was my baby.”
Robinson doesn’t remember crying or running at the scene, but she was trying to talk to detectives to find out what happened.
“I blamed myself,” said Robinson. “I should have taken my child with me.”
The family will stay home on Thanksgiving Day, like so many other families cocooning from the COVID-19 spread.
“I am grateful for my life. I’m grateful for my family,” said Robinson. “But life without Vincent changed our family forever. We still have each other. That is something we can be thankful for.”