August 4, 1979 – October 28, 2008
Darlene Cain is always in motion. If you want to find her at one of the many summer festivals held in honor of young men killed in Baltimore, head to the dance floor. If you want to identify her in a peace march, look for the woman dancing behind the marching band. She is the embodiment of action. It’s little wonder that she named the organization she created in honor of her son Mothers on the Move, Inc (MOM).
Darlene’s son Dale Graham was born August 4, 1979. Darlene knew from an early age that her little boy was exceptionally bright, and Dale quickly distinguished himself as an academic once he entered school. He won a scholarship to Loyola Blake field, a prestigious private school in Baltimore. He graduated and attended Salisbury University. He continued to excel in college. He was on the university’s debate club and the president of the Salisbury NAACP chapter. Dale embraced his leadership role in the NAACP, setting a tone for inclusiveness in the organization by encouraging students of all ethnic and racial backgrounds to join. He organized one of this first parades at Salisbury University complete with the Baltimore Westsiders Marching Band, horses to direct traffic, and multiple convertibles. Darlene remembers proudly how Dale and his oldest daughter rode in one of the cars and waved to the crowds congregated on the sidewalk.
After college, Dale worked for the local NAACP Baltimore branch. Dale soon caught the attention of Kwiese Mfume, President of the NAACP. Darlene remembers that Mr. Mfume was “a mentor and a father figure to Dale.” Shortly before his death, Dale wrote “The NAACP Prison Project Resource Guide.” The book educated formally incarcerated men and women on how to reinstate their voting rights. In addition, and was a field officer for John Sarbanes’s Congressional Campaign. These positions satisfied his intellectual curiosity and satiated his passion. Dale also spent ten years working as a caddy at a local Country Club, a job he loved. However, his dream was to become an attorney.
Dale enrolled at The University of Baltimore Law School. During the day, he worked at one of his many job. At night, he attended classes, joined study groups and worked on class assignments. he clerked at The William J. Kolodnar Law Firm. He loved the law and was excited about what the future held.
His other great loves were his children. Darlene remembers, “He was a family person and loved his two little girls. Sometimes he took them to school with him when he studied. Unfortunately, he will never be able to attend their graduation or see them go to their prom.”
The details of the events on October 28, 2008, are disputed by all who were present that day. This much we know is true: The police responded to an alleged domestic dispute between Dale and his children’s mother and in the end, Dale was shot and killed by a police officer, “they didn’t have to kill him. Dale’s death was justified without my day in court. I want to see other mothers have their day in court. People don’t need to die for something that requires a ticket or jail time. A police officer cannot be the judge, jury and executioner. All I ask is the act of fairness, my day in court.”
Domestic violence is a serious allegation and needs to be treated carefully and considerately. Domestic violence should never be negated nor ignored. Darlene becomes emotional, “His but his fate should have been decided by a judge or a jury, not a lone officer holding a gun. I don’t know the truth of what happened that day. But I would rather visit him in jail than at his grave.” Darlene does not want to rely upon the media’s coverage of her child’s death. She wants her day, Dale’s day, in court. She wants to know what happened that truly day.
In spite of all the trauma, pain and hardship, Darlene remains a vibrant and active voice advocating for better police training and community policing. “We cannot allow the system to continue go by media and police reports only. Lawmakers can’t put on blinders and deaf ears when we are talking about laws being changed. Even when there is proof on videos and police officer cameras record our loved ones being beaten and killed begging for their lives. I will continue to be Dale’s voice and encourage mothers, fathers and families all across country to take a stand and be the ‘voice.’ I will fight for laws to get changed. Become a change maker. We can’t get our loved one back, but we can prevent this from happening to another family by getting accountability. We have the power to create change.” Darlene is determined. Google her name and you will find articles about her trip to the White House to call upon the Obama Administration to confront and respond to a number of high profile police shootings, photographs of her with Reverend Al Sharpton decrying police brutality, television footage of her hanging ornaments in memory of people killed on a Christmas tree in Baltimore City Hall.
If she has to walk in every peace march, meet with every civil rights leader, travel to the White House every day, speak to every police officer in Baltimore City, attend every peace vigil, she will. This mother will do anything to make sure that no other mother has to endure the pain she has suffered. Darlene reflects on one of the many great memories she holds of her son. He is smiling, “a big proud grin” and says to her “Education is the Key.” Darlene continues, “I am grateful that he instilled the importance of education in his children. They are both excelling in school.” Yet, she doesn’t want Dale’s message to end with her granddaughter’s. She is committed to spreading Dale’s mission of pulling people out of poverty and giving them the tools to succeed. Darlene had dedicated her life to ensuringis Dale’s death will not be in vain.