Every Murder Is Real founder Victoria Greene took time this week to recall the 15th anniversary of the murder of her son, Emir Greene.
Greene and her eldest daughter, Chantay Love, typically take the day off, which was Monday, to honor the memory of the man for whom their organization gets its acronym, EMIR.
Upon arriving at their Victim Assistance Center on the 5200 block of Germantown Avenue for our interview, Love, co-founder and program director of the organization, received a call from a client about a navigating the legal system. Healing a community with a high rate of homicides is a never-ending battle for Greene and Love’s organization.
Emir was 20 when he was murdered on March 26, 1997, on the 5200 Block of Rubicam Street in Germantown.
Greene said she felt suicidal and later homicidal toward her son’s murderer. She credited the now-defunct Grief Assistance Program through the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office with saving her life. She has modeled her non-profit organization’s programs on her experience. (Read Greene’s account on page 33 of Writing On The Healing Walls.)
“Every week that I attended the group, I saw more and more parents come in who had lost their children to homicide,” Greene said. “That’s when I realized that in this city of Philadelphia, almost every day someone is murdered.”
Greene said sharing stories with the group made her realize “the importance of co-victims of having support to get them through one of the worst things that could happen to someone.”
Greene first held a major conference on drug-related homicide in 1999 at Rosemont College. She invited people who assisted her family, including the district attorney and the judge who worked on her son’s case. The panel also included homicide detectives, crime-scene specialists and grief counselors to answer questions about the aftermath of a homicide. Greene held another conference at Temple University in 2001.
A retired drug-and-alcohol counselor for the Philadelphia County prison system, Greene created her non-profit counseling center in 2008 to educate and assist her community in understanding and healing the trauma associated with losing a loved one or community member.
The assistance center provides free services such as grief support groups for all ages and conflict resolution. Greene’s experience has informed education about the criminal justice system, navigation through the legal system and assistance with crime victims’ compensation forms.
To help others coping with grief, Greene said it is important not to judge victims.
“Every Murder Is Real is the name of the organization,” Greene said. “We do not get into what your loved one was — what was his lifestyle when he was murdered or any of that. The fact is, we believe that all life is valuable.”
After her son’s murder, Greene learned he was dealing drugs. Love said her brother should be remembered for more than his death.
Love said he was an artist who loved to draw and to help people. Senior citizens told her mother after his death that he visited them in their nursing home. Love recalled Emir bringing boys with no father to the barbershop. She said although she feels guilty about doing more to prevent her brother from becoming susceptible to the peer pressure of the streets, she “was not the one who pulled the trigger.”
Greene said a common misconception about murder is that once the perpetrator is brought to trial and found guilty that the issue is over.
“The person has been murdered. You can’t bring them back.”
“You caught the perpetrator, now they’re in prison, most of the time for the rest of their lives. It’s over,” Greene said. “But it’s not over for the family, it’s not over for the friends and it’s not over for the community. These people are traumatized. They’re grieving and for the most part, they don’t get the assistance that they need to heal.”
Greene said that “untreated trauma perpetuates violence.” After a homicide, people experience pain, depression, lack of sleep, flashbacks and other symptoms. Greene said educating the community and victims is important because “if they don’t know why and what it is then they can’t handle it.”
She said one of the most difficult aspects of counseling is “there still is a stigma around counseling, that counseling is for crazy people.” Her organization proposes healthy ways to address the symptoms, providing an alternative to the drug and alcohol use she witnessed in the prison system.
Greene said she is fortunate to have the ability to separate her feelings about what happened with her son when she is working with a family. “Otherwise, I couldn’t be effective. I’m just able to do that,” she said. “It’s a God-given talent that I am able to do that.”
Greene said she is conscious of taking care of herself physically and emotionally. “It is painful work. I am sitting with people and their pain and witnessing their pain, being there with them while they’re in pain, but I call it a privilege to be able to do that because it’s healing.”