I had the chance this week to speak with Andre Gray’s mother, Victoria, as we acknowledged the four-month anniversary of his disappearance on October 23, 2014. She is very strong and praying to find some conclusive answers. She also took some time to tell me a few lovely stories about Andre (she calls him Pok’ie) including how he developed his love of dogs and some of their family rituals, like Andre and his brothers competing to be the first one to call her on her birthday.
Those moments resonate and help me to feel like I really know this man even though we’ve never met. I’ve had some feedback over the past few weeks, people telling me that it doesn’t matter that he’s gay or black or young – we should care about his disappearance because he’s another human being. And while that’s true, it is also not realistic. When something strikes close to home, you respond as a community. When our neighbor’s father died, we sent flowers and a card and help sort out parking and asked about other needs. When a member of the LGBTQ community experiences a violent crime, the entire LGBTQ community should feel that spark of concern and hopefully, a desire to get involved.
This week, the New PIttsburgh Courier published a very nice piece about Andre.
For four months now, Victoria Gray-Tillman has been in agony since her 34-year-old son André Gray disappeared last October from his Lawrenceville apartment. She and her family continue to search for him with hopes that they will find him and receive closure.
“It’s been the most exhausting, miserable, depressing, heartbreaking experience I’ve ever encountered in my life,” Gray-Tillman said of the whole ordeal. “Andre wasn’t involved in anything negative. Nothing can take away the pain that my son is gone. I just want closure; I’m staying prayerful. The only way to get closure is to see his hand.” She said Gray’s hand bears his first tattoo—her name.
That was followed by a post on the Pittsburgh City Paper website.
Gray was out to his friends and family, and was set to start a job at Project Silk, a local organization that does outreach predominantly among minorities in the local LGBT community. “He was very much like a father figure to lot of people,” says Nayck Feliz, a volunteer and former associate director of Silk. “He wanted to help out even if he wasn’t paid.”
The other news to share is that the crowdfundraiser has raised more than $1,000 so far – the goal is $5,000 so every modest donation does matter. Victoria and other members of Andre’s family are reading the comments you’ve shared – they have repeatedly told me that it really matters.