PRAYING FOR OUR FUTURE—Shirley Jones Douglas speaks about her Citywide Day of Prayer for Our Youth initiative to be held on May 17 in Homewood. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

Shirley Jones Douglas has dealt with pain that a mother only faces in their darkest nightmares. In 1981, Douglas’ oldest son, Jansen Blake Humphrey, then 11 years old, was killed during a horrific accident when he was hit by a truck while riding his bike. Then on Jan. 16, 2014, 33 years later, her other son, Frederick Douglas Jr., was found shot to death in the 7100 block of Kedron Street inHomewood. He had gunshot wounds to his stomach and his leg.

While many would find this hand dealt to them in the card game of life a reason to fold, Douglas is finding a way to turn it into a winning hand, by saving the souls of Pittsburgh’s youth.

On Saturday, May 17, Douglas, along with many others, will gather from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. for the first annual Citywide Day of Prayer for Our Youth, to be held at the corners of Homewood and Frankstown Avenues, in Homewood.

“I wanted to do this for years, but it never happened. But when I lost Freddy I knew (it was time). My oldest son was accidently hit by a car while riding his bike, but someone intentionally meant to take (Freddy’s life) for evil. But God is turning it into something beautiful,” said Douglas. “Things have to change. This is an opportunity for youth to give their hearts to the Lord and for the community to pray over and anoint them…It’s a spiritual battle over our youth, and for our society as a whole. Our youth are our future. We’ve tried everything else–the only way to eradicate it (violence), is to pray together as a whole.”

Douglas said the answer to stopping the violence and getting back our youth begins with the Lord and parents and grandparents taking their children to church.

“I am asking for parents to be invested in their children’s spiritual life. Pray with them and over them. Say to them, ‘Jesus loves you and so do I.’ Children need to know that they are loved and these kids don’t know that,” she said. She also said that parents need to realize there is a relationship between what kids hear and see.

“Any educator will tell you that if you want people to learn anything, you put it in their ears and in front of their eyes.” Douglas explained that youth have become desensitized to violence in the Black community because of the negative music and the negative acts and images found in movies, video games and on the computer.

Douglas said the Citywide Day of Prayer will include singers, dancers, guest speakers, along with personal testimonies from parents who have lost their children to violence. Also, at 1 p.m., there will be shofars, trumpets and horns blown signaling for the praying to begin.

“We just want everyone to send up words of prayer in unison for our youth.” While she said she knows not everyone will be able to make it to the Homewood location, Douglas is asking for community leaders and residents from all over the city to urge their neighborhood churches to open their doors and participate.

Along with the Day or Prayer taking place locally, Douglas said she is working on making it a national event as well. She said she also would like to hold prayer walks around the communities too.

In conjunction with the Day of Prayer, there are also community meetings being held on Monday evenings at 6 p.m. at East Liberty Presbyterian Church, in East Liberty, led by Oliver Dent and Jack Serra, for those “who are invested in changing our communities,” Douglas said. “Come and learn how to change our communities through prayer.”

Frederick Douglas Jr.’s killer has yet to be charged. Douglas said, as a mother, she pleads for the killer to turn himself in and also seek forgiveness from the Lord.

While nothing can ease a mother’s pain of losing a child, let alone two, Douglas said since Frederick’s death, she has grown closer to God and finds comfort in knowing that she was able to spend her son’s last day on earth with him. “I thank my God I was able to laugh with him and hear him say one more time, ‘I love you.’”

(For more information or to participate in the Citywide Day of Prayer, call Shirley Jones Douglas at 412-969-7299 or email



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