When Delzorah Barnett first learned that her son had been shot and was in the hospital clinging to his life, she nearly had a panic attack. When she later learned that he was shot multiple times by officers with the Atlanta Police Department and that he more than likely wouldn’t make it, it took everything in her to not die in the hospital with her first-born child.
“When I arrived (to the hospital) and began to get the details from my nephew, who was shot by the guys who caused the confusion that lead to officers showing up and killing my son, I was broken internally. I continued to pray,” said Barnett, a New Orleans native. “I did not know how to feel, so I began to get information from each witness individually and then I realized that the officers just ran up and opened fire and did not stop until my son was on the ground, and then one of them shot him again.”
Her family gathered at the hospital every day to pray for her son, 30-year-old E. Zaus Barnett, and he started to get a little better. He eventually was able to tell her what happened. Most importantly, he said he never raised a gun to the officers.
Unfortunately, her son never got well enough to leave the hospital and eventually died several weeks after the shooting. The two officers who shot him were never charged.
“That was so, so painful to the point that I really did not think I would live, but I did. I put all my hope and faith in my Father God, and he guided my path to be strong for my other children, family and friends, to stand for justice in a peaceful manner and to encourage and empower others,” Barnett said.
That tragic incident propelled Barnett, who goes by Mz. WORTHit, to turn her pain and anger into action. She now inspires women to know that they are WORTH (Women of Righteousness, Truth and Honor) it and started a nonprofit organization, Justice from A 2 Zaus. The organization stands against gun violence, excessive force and police brutality while promoting male mentorship and hosting positive response summits for young males in New Orleans, Atlanta and Fayetteville, N.C. She also wrote a book, The Darkness of the Aftermath Transformed to Light, that help restore her after the death of her son and that she is hoping will help heal the nation.
“My book was written to heal the hearts of those who have lost loved ones and (to help them) understand that revenge or retaliation is not the answer, but forgiveness, trusting God—who is the final judge—and helping others to bring about change is the answer for any of us,” Barnett said. “My book shows that life does bring pain, but we must become more connected to God, and then we can know how to fight, have peace and continue to love.”
Barnett recognizes the destruction of the relationships between law enforcement and communities across the country with the international spotlight being on the deaths of people of color at the hands of police, but says it’s not too late to change the narrative.
“I believe that we must get to the root of the problem, and that is that the justice system must be reassessed. We must make sure that justice is served across the board, regardless of status, race, title or position of a person,” she said. “We must become a society that desires life over death and holds every person accountable who does not consider saving lives. All law enforcement officers are not shooting to kill, therefore we must face the truth that there is a group of officers who apparently have a serious issue with males of color, and they use the ‘I felt my life was in danger’ (justification) when that is really not the case.”
Barnett said she believes that healing begins with forgiveness and then taking the necessary steps to bring about change. She said
even though she is pushing for peace, she is also pushing for communities to fight for what is right.
“We cannot stop marching peacefully; we cannot stop being involved with organizations that are dealing with the real problems and bringing it to the right people. We must vote, show up at city council meetings, keep teaching our children to do right, get an education and become politicians, law enforcement officers and hold positions where we can be the change.”
Her son’s untimely death thrust her into philanthropy. Justice from A 2 Zaus and her women’s group have helped countless people across the country. Her podcast “Positive Male Response and Inspirational Conversation with Mz. WORTHit” has inspired numerous young people. However, Barnett is just getting started.
She is gearing up to do even more to help the nation heal. She urges parents who have lost children due to gun violence or police brutality to never give up.
“You must call on God and heal and then fight from a place of victory that will impact and encourage others that love and peace will always overpower evil. I know they will, because I walk from a place of victory with peace, love and faith, and God has changed the lives of many through me,” she said. “He has lifted the hearts and minds of many through me, and He is changing situations through me, so if he can do it for me, he will do it for you!”
Barnett has given copies of her book to parents who have lost their children in similar ways.