Queen of Hearts
After her son was murdered, Barry alumna Queen Brown decided to take to the airwaves to help other victims of gun violence
By Jasmine Kripalani
When her youngest son was murdered in October, Queen Brown ’99, BPS, wiped away her tears and, instead of grieving alone, found the strength to talk about it on AM radio.
“Anger is normal,” Brown said of her feelings after her son’s death became Miami-Dade’s 200th homicide in 2006. “The trick is knowing how to manage and control it. It’s okay to say, ‘I’m angry and I need to talk about it.’”
Eviton Brown, 24, was a student at Florida A&M University and a member of state Sen. Frederica Wilson’s 5,000 Role Models of Excellence, a dropout intervention program for minority at-risk boys ages 9 to 19 in Miami-Dade County. He was looking forward to a future with his young daughter.
But in late October, Eviton’s life was abruptly and violently cut short. At the time of the incident he was driving with his cousin who had been involved in a business dispute. Eviton was not the intended target, according to The Miami Herald. He was later found dead near a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Northwest Miami-Dade.
Three months later, Brown and her surviving children decided to fund their own radio show. Brown's full-time job as a Miami-Dade Transit bus shelter enforcement specialist helped to pay for the air time. She and her children, Elizabeth, 29, Ewana “Monique,” 25, and Ewan, 27, contributed $250 for a half-hour time slot.
During the show, the Brown family interviews guests ranging from police officers to public defenders and informs listeners of victims’ rights. Other times, they simply listen to callers tell of how their lives have been dramatically changed by gun violence.
Standing strong in the face of adversity and overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges is nothing new for the 47-year-old Miami native. She raised four children alone as a teenage mother and high-school dropout. She has accomplished many of her goals, including going from welfare to work to obtaining an education. She received a bachelor of professional studies degree from Barry in 1999.
Brown’s ability to bring about something positive in the face of tragedy was recognized by a wider audience when she was named a CNN hero.
The two-minute news feature spotlights ordinary people who act courageously. A segment featuring Brown recently aired on “Headline News,” “American Morning” and “Paula Zahn Now.”
“As we were researching stories, Queen Brown drew us in by her unique choice to handle her grief by speaking out. Taking to the airwaves is an empowering, cathartic act that takes courage and we recognized her strength in making that choice,’’ said Kelly Flynn, executive producer of CNN Heroes. “Also, the fact that she and her children initially paid for the program themselves interested us. They were willing to personally sacrifice to help change their community. It is a level of civic responsibility that is not common. And also, when we spoke to her, we found her very engaging, genuine and powerful, a great spirit.”
The radio show, which originally aired on Sundays from 3 to 4 p.m. on 1080 AM WTPS, begins the same way each afternoon, with Brown playing the opening lyrics of the Marvin Gaye song “What’s Going On.”
Mother, mother, there's too many of you crying; Brother, brother, brother, there's far too many of you dying.
In July, however, Brown was approached by a station representative from 940 WINZ, and after a few guest appearances, the manager offered Brown a free hour-long radio slot from 2 to 3 p.m. on Sundays.
“We’re just elated,” she said.
During the show, Brown often provides victims and their families with community resources and practical information such as how the county helps homicide victims’ families pay for a funeral. Her first radio guest was Miami Police spokesman Delrish Moss, whom she met through a mutual friend.
“I’ve spent a number of years as a homicide investigator,” Moss said, “and I have never before seen people take their grief and turn it into something other than a personal thing. But Queen sees a larger picture. She asks herself, ‘What can I do to make it a better society for other parents [who] go through this?’”
Before his death, Brown says, Eviton had a second chance to make the right choices and was headed in the right direction.
At 13, he had found a mentor and friend in Alonzo Boykin whom he met at the Miami Gardens alternative school, Jann Mann Opportunity. He had been sent to the school for six weeks to help him with his disciplinary problems.
After Boykin counseled Eviton, he changed the course of his life, Brown said. He set goals and was determined to go to college. By the time he graduated from Norland Senior High, Eviton had received a full football scholarship to Albany State University and Florida A&M University. He chose to go to Tallahassee where he studied engineering.
But he returned to Miami-Dade in June of 2006 after his longtime girlfriend gave birth to their daughter, Saidah. He had gotten his commercial driver’s license and was working as a dump truck driver.
He really wanted to get to know his daughter, his mother said.
But a bullet allegedly fated for someone else robbed him of the chance.
“All I know is that someone got so angry, angry enough about something – I don’t even know what – that they had to kill,” Brown said. “And they took Elizabeth’s brother and Saidah’s father.”
Brown has also taken that message to the students at Miami Carol City Senior High School. Last year, the school had three incidents in which students were found in possession of a weapon, including a firearm, according to Ed Torrens, officer for the Miami-Dade Schools Police. As of December of 2006, four students had been shot and killed in gun-related incidents, The Miami Herald reported.
“Many don’t know how to deal with anger,” Brown said. “I talk to kids about their emotions. I always work for the greater cause. I want to know why they are killing.”
Simple misunderstandings among students often lead to senseless slayings, Brown says. So during her periodic visits she encourages them to talk about their anger instead of turning to violence to solve problems.
She usually ends her chats with her own tragic reality: “I never thought I’d be burying my child because of a homicide.”