Wilma Galathe, a 72-year-old grandmother, is leading an anti-gang violence campaign in Los Angeles after her grandson was killed by a gang member who asked, “where you from?”
Galathe’s 15-year-old grandson Mark Leroy Tyree Jr. was not from any gangs, and was fatally shot in June 2016 for simply replying, “nowhere, the L.A. Times reports.
The grieving grandmother teamed up with Clear Channel Outdoor, an international advertising company, to launch the anti-gang billboard #IAintFromNowhere campaign that placed big, bold billboards across the city with messaging that addresses gang violence, an urban scourge across the country.
“The killings have got to stop,” she said.
“I couldn’t understand, how?” she told the Times. “My grandchild was killed, how am I going to triumph? I kept saying it over in my head.”
“What she wants to do is really drive attention to the problem,” Layne Lawson, Clear Channel’s vice president of public affairs, told the news outlet. “It’s not something that’s in front of everybody’s mind, there’s still gang issues and there are problems.
Galathe also launched a non-profit organization, the Mark L. Tyree II Movement for Positive Change and Unity. She wants the billboards to not only shed a light on gang violence but force people to pay attention to a persistent problem plaguing communities. An issue that she was somewhat unaware of until her grandson’s untimely death.
“I don’t know, maybe I got used to my surroundings,” she said. “You hear about shootings, car accidents, robbery, and you relate to it to some degree, but you remove yourself when you go about living your own life.”
Gang members intentionally roam neighborhoods and ask unsuspecting youths the life-threatening question.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Det. Dominick Recchia said witnesses heard the front passenger of a gray Chevy Camaro ask Mark where he was from, when he was shot after giving the fatal answer.
“They didn’t like the answer, so they shot him,” Recchia told the news outlet. “If people don’t know, there’s really no right or wrong answer to that kind of question. If someone answers and if you’re from the wrong gang it’s going to lead to violence, but if you’re asked that question and say you’re from nowhere, they may not like that answer, either.”
Sadly, after Mark’s death, his father was shot and killed just three months later after an argument outside a restaurant, not far from where his son was gunned down.
Galathe soon learned that gang violence was an epidemic in the city.
“It’s not just a South L.A. issue…. It’s a national issue. I see this turning into a national campaign,” Lawson told the Times.