MINNEAPOLIS – Kimberly Handy-Jones knew she wanted to create something to honor the memory of her son Cordale, who was killed in 2017 in a confrontation with St. Paul police. But it wasn't until she was visiting the North Chicago cemetery where both her son and late husband were put to rest that she was struck with an idea.
"I was crying and cleaning the gravestone and God just said, 'Here it is,'" Handy-Jones said.
Handy-Jones founded the Cordale Q. Handy In Remembrance of Me Foundation, an organization that provides headstones and financial grants for families across the country who have lost loved ones to police and community violence. While monetary assistance has been a welcome relief to families, it has been Handy-Jones' emotional support to a sisterhood of grieving mothers and family members that advocates say has set her apart.
This week, four years after her son's death, Handy-Jones was on the east side of St. Paul near the site where he was fatally shot to host a rally and short march surrounded by about 100 supporters and activists from Black Lives Matter Minnesota and other groups.
As the trial of former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin continues over the next several weeks, Handy-Jones encouraged others to "keep their boots on the ground," a motto for her organization, and continue to fight and speak out against police brutality and systemic racism.
"God said, 'I'm going to take your hurt and turn it into purpose,'" Handy-Jones said to the crowd.
Family member after family member, often with tears in their eyes, spoke of how Handy-Jones reached out to them after a loved one was killed, offering late-night phone conversations and other support.
"For those of you all that don't understand what that's like [to lose someone], let me just say it is very difficult," said Del Shea Perry, mother of Hardel Sherrell, who died in the Beltrami County jail in 2018 and whose death is being investigated."Kim not only puts her boots on the ground, but my God she be running in them."
As they embraced in front of a mural of Cordale Handy painted on the side of the Mañana restaurant near where he was killed, Perry presented Handy-Jones with a pair of Timberland boots in Handy's favorite color — red — with his picture attached.
Handy, 29, was killed early in the morning on March 15, 2017, after police responded to 911 calls about him firing gunshots in an apartment during a dispute with his girlfriend, according to an investigation by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.