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Linda Jay, activist and author of her book, “I Was There." As a mother, Jay’s message is simple: “I want my message out to other mothers to have faith, pray and believe—don't settle for anything. Stay strong and hold on, justice will come for you too. That is my mother's day wish to all of the mother's who have lost a child through gang violence or violence period but have not gotten justice.”
A teen activist in the making: A teenage Britany stands with her back-pack at one of the many events she attended with her mother. Jay says about her daughter, “She was very smart and talented.”
Linda Jay never stopped fighting for her daughter
It’s a different kind of Mother’s day story but one, which many mothers across the country can understand. Linda Jay was a mother doing her best to raise her children in South Los Angeles. A gang member gunned down her youngest daughter, Britany, in 2007. Jay has always held on knowing justice would come for her one day.
Originally from Louisiana, Jay move to Los Angeles, California at the end of the ‘Black Flight,” which took place in the late 60s.
“All that killing was going on with civil rights,” said Jay. “Martin Luther King, Jr. got killed that year…it was a lot going on in the 60s.”
Jay has worked as a court clerk for a number of years and as a result developed an affinity for court cases. She has followed just about every major court case most notably Rodney King, O.J. Simpson and Conrad Murray. While most watched on television, Jay was there in person.
“When [Rodney] King got beaten down…and they showed that video and had the trial—I was there,” said Jay. “I was in the courtroom.” Jay said she, her mother, sister and daughter were some of the few African Americans to be in the courtroom.
“We didn’t have a mapquest that day but we found Simi Valley.”
Growing up in an atmosphere that was very involved in civil rights played a part in Jay being civic-minded.
“I’m very passionate about my people,” said Jay, “about civil rights and justice.”
Britany holding cocaine and the CIA: Britany's mother says, “Britany was a soldier and a rebel too. She loved to attend major marches, protests and boycotts, fighting along side her mom and comrades. I often tell people that she put me in the mind of Tupac sometimes when I read up on his life.”
Jay had three children, Maya, Ty and Britany. In photos from these high profile court cases, one thing was always a constant, besides press and media, was her daughter Britany. Jay’s daughter was usually by her side at the many trials she would attend. As Britany got older, she would begin to fall in with a bad crowd.
“She got active in a gang in the neighborhood,” said Jay. “When I found out about it, I basically was very, very strict on her.”
Jay continued, “I guess she was vulnerable too; she loved people just like I do. She loved everybody. My other kids were teenagers when she was born [and] she felt like she was an only child.
She just had a need to be amongst people.”
Britany would eventually turn her situation around and set positive goals for herself. Jay recalls her daughter trying to turn her situation around by finishing high school and looking towards the future.
“She was doing really good in school, making straight As,” said Jay.
Britany was soon to be a senior in high school when tragedy struck in the form of a bullet. She was on her way to a local doughnut shop when she was gunned down by local gang members. She was just 16-years old.
“She was walking up there with some of her friends,” said Jay. “She hadn’t even been there 10 minutes… and [gang members] came through there and started shooting.”
Jay never imagined she would lay her daughter to rest in 2007 but she knew she would have justice. Her history and experience in fighting for what’s right would drive her to find it.
The court process of bringing Britany’s murderer to light would take years. Jay used that time to bring awareness to other victims and especially mothers who had lost their children to gang violence. She also started a $500 scholarship fund in honor of her daughter.
Justice would arrive for Britany May 2013 when a surprise witness took the stand confirming the identity of Britanty’s murderer. A Detective Hammond was working on the case and kept his trump card until the time was right.
“Detective Hammond…he kept that from us,” said Jay.
All this stuff they say is ‘snitching’—they got it twisted. ‘Snitching’ isn’t about losing your neighbors, friends, family members and schoolmates. This [person] was an eye witness [and] wasn’t afraid.”
The witness testified against the defendant accused of shooting Brtiany and as a result, Jay’s peace is now in clear sight. Jay attributes her strength in God as being what has held steady through the years.
“My faith in God, my faith in God has really sustained me,” said Jay. “You can put on a front and be smiling with friends and telling people you’re alright but when you’re there alone, by yourself and you look on TV and you see every little thing that comes on TV…kids getting killed, Newtown—it just opens up wounds.”
Jay today is an activist and author who has taken it upon herself to help the community any way she can. Jay says it’s important for parents to be aware of their children on all levels. She expressed how Britany was drawn to gang activity because of the camaraderie and “family” aspect that it seems to possess. Jay says it’s important to know your child.
“You have to be aware of what kind of child you have,” said Jay. “Because some kids have a longing to be around folks.”
Jay kept the fight going for Britany because that’s all she ever knew to do when the chips were down—fight. That’s the message she has for all the other mothers who are looking for justice.
“I’m telling [mothers] not to give up,” said Jay. “It’s a new day now.”
Britany stands holding a camcorder on the cover of a program of a play dedicated in her memory. Jay also started a scholarship fund in her daughter’s memory.