Their stories were different, but their message was the same: stop the violence.
Relatives and friends of murdered children gathered at Turners Station Park in Dundalk Sunday for Tariq's Memorial Cookout, an event launched four years ago by two Edgewood women who had both lost sons to violence.
With the cookout staying busy each year – about 200 to 300 people filled the pavilion Sunday – Daphne Alston, one of the organizers, said she is ready to move on from Tariq Alston's 2008 deadly shooting during a party at the Joppa-Magnolia Fire Hall and make some real changes.
"I freed myself from Tariq just this year and put my madness into action," Alston said, explaining she has stopped calling law enforcement agencies about her son's case, which remains unsolved.
Alston said the case that was presented to the Harford County State's Attorney's office determined the evidence to be circumstantial and no one has ever been charged.
"We want to change what our children are doing because we know we won't get that help," Alston said. "You have to give kids first what they are supposed to have."
Alston and Mildred Samy, whose son Samuel Horne II was killed in 2007, founded the group M.O.M.S. (Mothers of Murdered Sons) and have since added mothers of murdered daughters to the group.
Alston said she wants to work with the Boys and Girls Clubs, as well as churches and other groups, to reach younger children and help put them on a path where they hopefully will not be exposed to violence on the streets.
"We are going to start with littles," she said.
One of the families attending the cookout was that of Phylicia Barnes, a North Carolina native who disappeared while visiting Baltimore and whose body was found on the Susquehanna River in April of last year. Ms. Barnes was murdered.
Her aunt, Bonnie Brisco of Baltimore, teared up as she urged the crowd not to walk around with bitterness in their hearts and to forgive their relatives' murderer.
"Your family wants you to continue on, forgive that person," Brisco said, talking about Barnes' suspected killer. "I am praying that his soul will be saved by the almighty God."
Others were more grim about their situations.
Robin Gore, of Edgewood, is the mother of 21-year-old Alishia Dorsey, who was killed last month, allegedly by her boyfriend, as they drove to pick up their 13-month-old son in South Carolina, according to the Associated Press.
"I think every day I get angrier," Gore said. "I am trying not to hold on to it, but I got kids to raise."
Without Alston and Samy's group, Gore said she would not have been able to communicate with other parents.
"I hope it can stop the violence," she said. "Young kids have no regard for human life whatsoever."
Gore said young people watch too much TV and think murder is just fantasy.
"It's real life," she said. "Somebody needs to teach them a better way."
"I think about that a lot every day. I don't know what would make them stop killing each other," she continued. "Alishia worked every day, she paid the bills, she was a good person, so no one can get away from violence."