By ANNA CLAIRE O’CAIN
The story of Grant Me Justice begins with a tragedy that no mother would ever dream of having to endure: the loss of a child. Felecia Marshall, Prentiss native and mother of the late Alexia Krushét Buckhalter, shares how God turned her mourning into dancing through her work with her nonprofit organization — which provides grief counseling, legal help, and a platform for mothers to share the stories of children taken too soon.
“Grant Me Justice was started (after) my daughter was murdered in March of 2017,” Felecia says. “Through that process, it took three years for me to get man’s justice in regard to my daughter.
“Once that process was complete, I felt — and I use this term all the time — I felt like I had been raped. I felt like a virgin that had been raped. I felt like I did not have a voice. I was not familiar with the criminal justice system (and) I had not even been in court before. … I felt like there was no one that could speak for me — no one that would listen, no one that cared to even listen.
“Through that process, I said, ‘You know what? Number one, I am going to write this story. I’m going to tell this story.’ Number two was, ‘I know I am not the only mother that feels this way.’”
As Felecia started writing out her story, she thought about Jesus’ parable in Luke 18 about the persistent widow going before the unjust judge and saying, “Grant me justice.” That’s where the name of her organization came from — and it’s also the name of her book, which should be out in March of this year.
“The scripture actually talks about persistent prayer, but the reality of it is that we all need Jesus. The only justice that we can get — really get — is the justice that God gives,” Felecia says. “My hope then became not what I got here, but what God would do.”
Another thing that happened as Felecia went through the legal proceedings: “I was moved with compassion for the mother on the other side,” she says.
“I embraced one of the mothers (of the killers) — we wept together because none of us asked to be there. Then I had to come to the realization that God’s grace and mercy and what Christ did on the cross was for all of us, even for the murderers of my daughter.”
As Felecia shared her story and ministered to others after Alexia’s death, she realized she probably needed to form an official ministry. So, Grant Me Justice, the organization, was born.
“I have been a believer for over 20 years now, and I have always wondered what my purpose was here on this earth,” Felecia says. “I tell you I’m not celebrating the loss of my daughter, but it took that in order for me to get into the perfect will of God. I know without a shadow of a doubt this is my purpose.”
Listening, counseling and sharing the gospel
“When I initially started Grant Me Justice, my desire was number one to tell the story, because most people think a homicide is just a number,” Felecia says. “For my baby, she was number 14 (murdered in Jackson that year). You know, we are numbers.
“What happens most of the time is once the funeral is over, everyone else goes back to their lives … and we are left with this big void in our hearts,” she says. “I wanted mothers to have the opportunity to tell the world about their child. What was his favorite color? Was he athletic? What was his favorite food?
“And I wanted it to be professionally done. I would interview, I would go to different homes, I would travel all over the state and take a videographer with me, and we would interview mothers. We would edit it down to a two- to three-minute video just for people to be able to see and to be able to look into the lives of these faces and these names and these numbers so people can know who they are,” she says. “That helped with my grieving process with me being able to tell my story.”
Another crucial service offered by Grant Me Justice is counseling.
“(Counseling) is very, very important to the healing process,” Felecia says. “In the African American community there is a big stigma about counseling, but it is so needed. When you have witnessed your child with two gunshot wounds to the head, you need (counseling). When you’ve seen a child’s body, when you’ve only seen the bones — you have mothers that the only thing they have to grasp onto is the baby’s bones — you need counseling.”
The third service offered by Grant Me Justice is legal counsel, meaning “someone to help navigate through the criminal legal system to tell us what we have to accept and what we don’t,” Felecia says, “to walk us through the process, for our voices to be heard, for prosecutors to know that we don’t want to accept 15 years (for the killer), we don’t want to accept five years.
“Because I tell you, if you’ve never been in the criminal legal system, everything about it is scary. You are grieving as you are going through the process, and you don’t know what your rights are.
Over the past five years, Grant Me Justice has given Felecia an even more powerful opportunity: to share the gospel with grieving mothers.
“Most of the mothers that I come in contact with do not know Jesus. So a lot of it is discipleship and being able to walk alongside these mothers, to build their trust enough for me to be able to share the gospel,” she says. “A big part of it is that and being able to provide tangible resources.
For instance, “if you are a person that does not know Jesus, then that probably means that you do not have a church family … So if you’ve lost your child, then that means that you don’t have a group of people around you that is loving you and caring for you … You don’t have a place to bury your child. You don’t have a place to even have a funeral.”
On the other end of the spectrum, “some (mothers) just need to know how to get on Zoom,” she chuckles.
“Then there are others like today. One called today needing some help with completing her victim’s compensation packet and she needed a CPA. Then there are others that now they’re raising their grandchildren and they need to get their legal documents to adopt their grandchildren.”
No ministry can provide all these services without help, and Grant Me Justice has been blessed to partner with Jackson Leadership Foundation and Redeemer Church. “The Lord has just blown my mind with these partners,” she says excitedly.
“This past December we were able to give gift baskets to moms. We were able to serve 20 mothers, which is amazing to me. We gave them gift cards and we gave them gift baskets and we gave them Bibles. It’s just beautiful to see. (Redeemer) helped us with the gift baskets, and they are helping supplement some of the fees associated with counseling.”
Jackson Leadership Foundation is helping via leadership support, capacity-building services, and an online platform providing connections to potential donors and volunteers.
Turning mourning into dancing
“It’s beautiful to see how God can take mourning and turn it into dancing,” Felecia says. “Grant Me Justice is God’s thing. It really is. God blows my mind.
“It doesn’t mean that I don’t miss my baby, because I do. I miss her a lot. But it gives me great joy to be able to have a mother on the other end of the phone upset and about to tear the world upside down, and I’m able to tell her my story and tell her what God has done through my life.
“And for her to be calm when I tell her to breathe, and I can just hear her on the phone taking a deep breath (when I’m) allowing her to breathe, then sharing with her about the goodness of the Lord and about the peace only God can give.”
Felecia offers the following words of encouragement to grieving mothers and family members: “The one thing that sticks out in my mind that helped me was, laugh when you can laugh; cry when you need to cry. Because there are going to be a lot of days that you are going to cry. So when you get those opportunities to laugh, it’s important to laugh. … The other thing is, if you are a believer, don’t grieve as one who does not have hope. It’s important for us to grieve as if we have hope.”
For more information about Grant Me Justice, call 601.249.8694 or visit grant-me-justice.org.