LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) — Four young children are growing up without their mother, who was murdered in January. Her family is suffering, while the killer remains free. But one local nonprofit is trying to help them find the joy in life.
April Harris’ children and relatives gathered around a table at Benihana Monday, Feb. 12, thanks to an arrangement the restaurant has with Women’s Own Worth.
“We want these children and these moms, these mothers, grandmothers, to know that they are worthy of a great life,” said Jujuan Archer, founder of Women’s Own Worth. The organization aims to support victims and survivors of violence.
April Harris was ambushed and murdered the morning of Jan.19. One of her children was shot in that attack, while the other three looked on.
“We’re still having a hard time,” April’s sister, Amber Harris, said. “Of course, our children are our main focus right now at this time. We’re trying to make sure that they’re okay, and that they’re coping well with this, you know, tragedy. It still feels unreal to all of us, but we’re trying to make sure her kids are taken care of.”
The Harrises laughed as their chef performed tricks with his cooking utensils, such as tossing an eggshell into his hat or throwing morsels into the Harrises mouths. Amber Harris said the rare moments of joy with April’s kids mean more since her death.
“You know, they bring out the happiness in us,” Amber Harris explained, “and that’s what she would want. She would want us to make her kids happy. And sometimes, we can get caught up in the moment and enjoy the time with the children, even though, at the end of the day, when you wake up, it’s still real.”
“The small, little spurts of smiles and laughter that I get to see from this family [are] just so heartwarming,” Archer said.
Amber Harris took lots of videos with her children. Archer said Harris’ desire to make and capture memories with them is one reason the family is coping as well as it is.
“They inspire me,” Archer stated, “and I want the world to see how strong their bond is.”
That strong bond is also weighed down by the fear many of them have felt in the last few weeks.
“We’re scared to leave the house because we don’t know who committed this crime,” Harris said.
“If we can get over the fact that April is gone, it’s another blow to know that she was taken from us so viciously. It’s another blow to know that she’s not going to see her children grow up. It’s another blow to know that her children had to witness this. It’s another blow to know that her children were shot, at five years old. You know? So, it’s like blow after blow after blow, every day.”
Archer takes different clients for dinner once a month to help them through their grieving process. Since it is near Valentine’s Day, she brought bouquets of flowers for each of the Harris women at the table Monday night. She has brought the families to Benihana for the last few months because the restaurant agreed to sponsor the meals.
“They are so saddened, at Benihana, by the violence that is seen in Arkansas,” Archer said. “And they want families to know that they care, and they show it by their actions. And so, we’re just so thankful for Benihana.”
The Harrises were thankful, as well. They smiled throughout their dinner, laughing at failed attempts to catch the food tossed to them by their chef, or each other’s ability to use chopsticks. And that will be the challenge for the Harrises: to remember why they are at the table together while forgetting at the same time.
“It’s nice to have the kids out of the house and all together with family and friends, doing things like this,” Harris said.