Three Lives. Two Cities. One Message.

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The Brother. David Norris Hawkins was the eldest of three children and the first grandchild on his maternal side. David was the star of his family. His spirit defined him. To those who knew and loved him he was described as tall, attractive, with a zest for life. He inherited his mother’s outspoken and vibrant personality and infectious laughter. A self-starter and “go- getter” that looked to Denver to pursue his educational and career endeavors in engineering. He loved the game of basketball. David was a proud man. It was reflected in the way he spoke, dressed, his attention to detail and strong work ethic. He was obsessed with cleanliness, apparently since childhood. His aunt Cynthia noted that she had never witnessed any other child his age who kept their toys and belongings so organized without prompting. His mother reflected that when she visited his Denver apartment it was so immaculate, that other than a lasagna pan soaking in the sink, everything else was in order as if it were a model apartment. What most people comment on about him now when they see his photo is how strongly he resembles 44th President Barack Obama, though he didn’t live long enough for those bragging rights. He was raised to put his best foot forward and did that until his footsteps were shortened by tragedy.

The Mother. Dorothy Hawkins Gray, a native Washingtonian, affectionately known as “MamaDot” was a community organizer, gun violence activist, homicide victim advocate, art therapist, and champion for peace. She loved Jesus Christ, church, family, and her Washington Redskins. She spent her life serving and advocating for the poor. Beyond her talented hands, which created oil paintings that put her in the history books, she used her paintbrush to amplify the voice of every mother that suffered the trauma of losing a child to violence. Already a community leader and accomplished artist, Aurora broadened her stroke. She lobbied for systemic change to gun laws to promote public safety and kept a photo of her slain son which hangs in Art That Speaks Life Galleries, with an anti-gun sticker badge in his memory. She pioneered ART IN THE DARK, a flagship program based in Prince George’s County, Maryland, teaching art to at-risk youth afterschool. Working with children was the joy of her life. Fearless in her movement around some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in this country, particularly her hometown of Washington, DC. When “MamaDot” could no longer walk due to being confined to a wheelchair, she rolled around the entire DMV region spreading a message of nonviolence. People were mesmerized at how quickly she could get around in her motorized wheelchair and how passionate she was about combating gun violence. The moral of her story: KEEP MOVING, KEEP FIGHTING and she did that until the day she departed this life on December 7, 2018.

The Anchor Leg in the Race! Cynthia Edwards, daughter of Dorothy Hawkins Gray, and youngest sibling of David Hawkins is determined to finish strong every plan her brother and mother set forth in motion. Like the last leg in a race, she is propelled by the vision of her mother and carries the torch of justice for her brother all the way to the finish line 1,661 miles. David urged their mother to come out to the Rocky Mountains and paint. They had plans to open an art gallery in Colorado before his untimely death. The nation’s first of-its-kind private art gallery created for and by the families of homicide victims, Art That Speaks Life Galleries, opened on September 25, 2021, National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims. The gallery features the unique exhibition of “Painting for Peace, The Legacy of Dorothy Hawkins Gray and David Hawkins.” Plans to open a second gallery in Colorado are underway. Their dream lives on, Cynthia made sure of it.

Cynthia had spoken to her mother the day she started Cynbad4Real and boy was her mother proud. Her mother would design the artwork for the fashion apparel that would make a statement against gun violence. While her mother was congratulating, Cynthia didn’t know it was the last time she’d speak to her. Just one day after the company began, Cynthia’s mother was rushed to the hospital and placed in intensive care. Two days later, her mother passed—and in that moment it felt like the voice that inspired the company was gone. Cynthia considered her mother the personification of the strong African American woman. So, Cynbad4Real became the embodiment of all her mother instilled in her. All her life’s work would be thrust into the “Look Good, Feel Good, Do Good” movement, one that rises above pain, finds redemption in tragedy, and catalyzes to uplift the human spirit. As the current President of Today’s Dream Tomorrow’s Future, with over 15 years of experience in the non-profit and government sector her expertise lies in training and consulting for national non-profits— specializing in program development, capacity building, planning, and evaluation on a federal level. She launched several campaigns to promote economic advancement, disease prevention, and eliminate health disparities. She lives to serve and considers the 1,661 Miles Project the greatest journey of her life, because it starts where her brother’s life ended.

David's mother lived long enough to meet some of the most powerful and influential people in the world. Sadly, she did not live long enough to see her son's killer brought to justice.