Ivan Simmons, 17
Kisha Bivines hated the makeshift memorial to her son Ivan.
So she hauled away the stuffed animals. Then, as a passerby gave her "the nastiest look ever," she spray-painted over her son's name and wrote in its place: "Peace."
"I don't want to see no more teddy bears and no more T-shirts and no more tattoos," she says. "I don't need another sidewalk memorial. I need for you to stop shooting!"
Bivines, 33, prefers harsher images, like the autopsy picture of Ivan she plans to hang on every corner of her Nicetown neighborhood. He died in the hospital Dec. 12, nearly two weeks after at least five bullets hit him at 17th and Cayuga. "You can't sugarcoat it for people," she says. "This is becoming normal for us, and we're accepting it... . We went from buying clothes to buying coffins."
When Bivines, a single mother who works full time at a health-insurance company, caught her sons smoking marijuana, she put them in drug rehab. "I've always felt like the streets were against me," she says, "so I'd always seek help." When Ivan began to get into trouble, Bivines moved him from Gratz to Northeast High.
But the turf war between "crews" in Nicetown was fierce. Last fall, says Bivines, police questioned Ivan as a possible witness to a shooting death.
But word on the street, she says, is that her son had killed the other young man, and that the attack on Ivan was retaliation.
She says she saw neighborhood kids rejoicing after Ivan's shooting, "like it was a happy occasion."
She may never know whether the rumors are true. Nor whether there will be an arrest in Ivan's murder. Though he raised two fingers to show his mother the number of assailants, a ventilator made it impossible to speak, and his hands were too swollen to write their names.
"The part that hurt the most is that he couldn't tell me who shot him, but he knew," says Bivines, who is angriest at the men in neighborhoods like hers who supply kids with guns and drugs.
"This is a community that watches children do wrong and does nothing... . I want to know: What happened to the village?"
Contact staff photographer April Saul at 215-854-2872 or firstname.lastname@example.org.