Describing gun violence in the city as a “public health problem,” Dr. Renee Sartin, a parishioner of St. Bartholomew Church, shared how her 29-year-old son was shot and killed in September 2020.
Sartin spoke to a group of about 60, including students from DeSales High School, at her parish on Buechel Bank Road Jan. 16.
The presentation in honor of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday was entitled “The Call to Action: Grief to Growth.”
“The city of Louisville reeks of gun violence. There are Black babies dying in the night and some in broad daylight right before our eyes,” said Sartin to those who’d gathered on the cold overcast day.
Sartin, a professor of social work, said the level of violence in the city has become a matter of public health.
“When a child has seen, experienced and lived in trauma, day in and day out, all of their lives, they will know nothing else, because children cannot learn if they are not safe,” she said during the presentation.
Violence in the city also has caused “mass grieving,” she said. Families are trying to function in their daily lives while dealing with grief, she said.
During her presentation, Sartin also remembered Maurice Stallard, a member of St. Bartholomew who was shot and killed at a Kroger in Jeffersontown in October of 2018.
In an interview before the Jan. 16 presentation, Sartin said the “Grief to Growth” presentation was created to help educate people about violence in the community. It also aims to educate members of the Black community about grief and the importance of seeking mental health care, she said.
The first of these presentations was held at Campbellsville University Louisville campus, where she teaches. She plans to host the program monthly. The next presentation will be held in February in Lebanon, Ky.
Seeking professional help after her son, Michael Allen Sartin, was killed was helpful, she explained.
“We need to understand we’re hurting and it’s our Black babies who are dying and killing each other. … We need to seek help. … It’s not taboo,” she said.
She also wants to empower families to talk about gun violence.
“Parents need to have the courage to ask their children, ‘Do you have an illegal gun in your possession?’ ” she said. “We can’t not do anything. We won’t get our loved ones back, but we have to do something.”
Sartin said she plans to have a mental health professional present at each event to answer questions and guide individuals to seek help. Karen Thompson, a licensed clinical social worker, was present at the St. Bartholomew event.
Sartin’s nephew Antuan Sartin also spoke at the event. He shared how gun violence has affected him and his family.
Antuan Sartin told the group that in March of 2018 he was shot six times at a local nightclub. The bullets struck him in the head and back, he said. He spent 32 days in the hospital and had to learn to walk again.
Gun violence would shatter the family again three years later when his sister Kasmira Nash was shot and killed, he said. The mother of two was shot and killed Derby Eve 2021 while working at a nightclub in Louisville.
“It was tough for my family,” said Antuan Sartin. “It took a lot of faith for me to get to where I am at today. That’s what I leaned on throughout all of this. When you lose someone close to you and you’re grieving you ask, ‘Why?’ We don’t have an answer as to why, but we try to figure out a way to move on and move forward in life.”
Antuan Sartin said his faith, spending time outdoors and his work as a fitness instructor have helped him cope with grief.
He encouraged his listeners to lean on faith to heal from grief. He also encouraged them to keep attending the “Grief to Growth” events and to share the stories they hear with others.