Mothers Against Gun Violence organized an event Friday to bring attention to the importance of life insurance.
I believe I can fly… I believe I can touch the sky…
Debra Fifer raised her right hand in praise as Marshé Whaley belted into the microphone…
I think about it every night and day… spread my wings and fly away… I believe I can soar… see me running through that open door…
On Friday night, songs of praise echoed against the walls of City Hall. It was an event three months in the making. Fifer gathered musicians, social support organizations, and politicians downtown to bring attention to the importance of life insurance.
“I wanted to come today to say it’s important for us to think about our futures, to think about our families,” Wisconsin Senator Lena Taylor told the crowd. She said it’s important “to think about [final expenses] early when it doesn’t cost as much… to think about it now so somebody doesn’t have to put it on Facebook later.” She was referring to the crowdfunding campaigns that will often spring up to help a family cover the cost of a funeral.
The Senator thanked Fifer for her work. Fifer is the founder of Mothers Against Gun Violence – a Milwaukee-based nonprofit. She started the organization in 2003 after her son Kirk Bickham Jr. was shot and killed.
He was home from college, out celebrating his new job with a couple of friends, when the group was gunned down. The man who killed her son had a felony on his record; so Fifer started Mothers Against Gun Violence to push for stronger background check legislation.
Years earlier, Fifer had taken out a life insurance policy on Bickham. She said her mom did that for her, so Fifer figured she’d take one out on her son.
Unfortunately, after his death, Fifer discovered that the policy had lapsed. So her family had to scramble to cover her son’s final expenses. That logistical burden, in the midst of so much emotional pain, is what she’s trying to save other families from now. Fifer reflected: “I knew how it felt to go through the loss of your child and also trying to figure out how are you going to pay for their burial?”
Plus, she added, “there’s so much information about insurance that our community has no clue about.” For instance, she mentioned, life insurance can be used to pay for retirement or for disability. So it’s a living benefit, too.
Reggie Moore, head of the Office of Violence Prevention, spoke of tough reality: that this has been another violent summer for Milwaukee. Eighty-one people have been killed overall this year; most of those are shooting deaths. “Unfortunately when we don’t plan and we don’t prepare we oftentimes, at the last minute, try to find resources to bury the person that we love,” Moore said.
He added, “we value our cars, we value our house – we insure those things. If we value our lives and loved ones we have to insure them as well.”
Fifer partnered with Bara Legacies, a local insurance agency, to throw Friday’s event. September is Life Insurance Awareness month. Bara Legacies CEO Omorinsola Summers said now is the time for people to think about what they want to leave behind for their families. “Everyone has a legacy but not everyone leaves a legacy,” she said, repeating the company’s catchphrase. “I’ve run into so many adults who don’t think about the future, they think about being in the present. And it really hurts my heart.”
Summers founded Bara Legacies with her husband about a year ago, after almost a decade in the insurance industry. They target African Americans, getting most of their clients through facebook, referrals, and events.
Summers noted that planning for the future doesn’t just mean life insurance – Bara Legacies also offers health insurance, retirement accounts, and college planning services. A grandfather who planned ahead paid for Summers’s college education; she wants more African Americans to have that ability to care for their families.
On Friday, adults were eligible for a free $5,000 Accidental Death Certificate, good for one year. It’s a way of introducing people to insurance. At the end of a year, Bara Legacies hopes to help a new group of people move into a fuller spectrum of coverage. Twenty-one people signed up for certificates.
Friday’s event at City Hall didn’t draw as large of a crowd as Fifer hoped – only 40 or so people came by. Still, she recognized, that's more people who understand the importance of life insurance now, than understood before.
Race & Ethnicity reporting supported by The Dohmen Company.