Marie Sturdivant, Founder of Mothers Against Senseless Killings (M.A.S.K.), Honored
By Darlene L. Williams, Contributing Writer
Bakersfield, Calif.- A celebration was held Sunday November 18, 2018 at Stockdale County Club to honor Marie Louise Sturdivant, founder of M.A.S.K. (Mother’s Against Senseless Killings) and to commemorate her tireless acts of selfless love to women in the Bakersfield Community. Approximately 100 well-wishers attended the joyous occasion hosted by her three children: Mrs. DeAnna Lewis, Mrs. Janene Shears, and Mr. Charles Southall.
Sturdivant, affectionately known as “Mickey”, was presented a Certificate of Congratulations by Bakersfield Mayor, Karen Goh,” in recognition of leadership and outstanding work as Founder of Mothers Against Senseless Killings and as President of the Friese Recovery Home for Women.”
Sturdivant, who will officially celebrate her 69th birthday on Tuesday, November 27, was also presented with a California Senate Certificate of Recognition from California Senator, Andy Vidak, thanking her for “making Kern County a better place to live”, and early birthday wishes.
Life for Sturdivant has not always been a time of celebration, but instead a life was once filled with pain, anger, and 24 years of addiction to prescription drugs, acid, heroin and crack cocaine. But somewhere in her small frame, Mickey had a heart larger than life and genuine love for others that would not only motivate her change her own destiny, but to also change the destinies of other women, who just like her, were hurting, angry and addicted.
Daughter, DeAnna Lewis, recalled an incident in her mother’s life where,” she literally had to run for her life when a local gang member put a contract out on her for non-payment of a drug deal.”
“I didn’t even look in the mirror or run a comb through my hair for years, it didn’t matter. I only weighed 79 pounds, you could see my ribs”, Sturdivant recalled.
In a telephone interview with Sturdivants’ daughter, Janene Shears shared history of her mother’s journey, “ In the early 90’s when gang shootings and killings were a weekly event in Bakersfield, my mother became so concerned that she got a few other concerned mothers together to comfort and assist the families of victims with food, money, and funeral arrangements.
Soon thereafter, she began to get the attention of the Bakersfield Community by forming marches throughout the city to protest the killings, hosting candlelight vigils and even showing up for court proceedings for the victims and their families. M.A.S.K. was birthed from these events. Shears said. My mom is so full of compassion; she would give you the shirt off her back.”
In 1992, Sturdivant says,” the Lord gave her a vision to go back to the places where she had used drugs and to the women she left behind and give them an opportunity to allow God to change them.”
While working as a waitress, Mickey opened up her spare bedroom to a woman who had been recently released from prison, homeless and with no shoes. She shared the story with her boss, and a few days later, when Mickey returned to work, her boss met her at the door with a box containing 27 pair of women shoes in various sizes. “That moment gave vision to her ministry”.
“My mom would even go into the delivery room with the women while they had their babies, Shears said, as well as attend court proceedings with many of the women who had been court ordered to be released to her private home.”
In 1995, the owner of Friese Inn, an old abandoned maternity hospital on 8th and P Streets in “Bakersfield, donated the property to her cause, a non-profit Restoration Community Project, the umbrella organization for Exodus House Ministries. In 2002, Mickey became the founder and program director of the twenty-room home which featured six bathrooms, two kitchens and a family shelter for 30 women and 15 children. Over 300 women passed through her home, The Exodus House at the Friese Inn.
In 2012 Mickey suffered a stroke and retired from her career and ministry.
Also joining in the celebration for Sturdivant were her six grandchildren, loving sister and caregiver, Beverly Nichols Daniel.