No justice, no peace has been National Action Network’s (NAN) mantra for some time now. Coined by Rev. Al Sharpton, the phrase has been chanted by many throughout rallies and protests around the country – and even beyond. But what do those very words actually mean? How many of us truly understand the weight of that expression? Fighting for justice means more than just reacting when an outrageous atrocity occurs – it means taking proactive steps to prevent a tragedy from happening in the first place. It’s a tough, grueling process, but we owe it to the mothers of people like Sean Bell, Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant and others to take action before it’s too late. And we owe it to ourselves to literally create the change we would like to see in the world. The time is now.
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This Sunday is Mother’s Day. It’s a time when we honor the ones who brought us into this world, and when mothers everywhere enjoy that little bit of extra time with their children. But for some, like Kadiatou Diallo, Valerie Bell, Sybrina Fulton, Constance Malcolm, Laverne Dobbinson and countless others, it is a bittersweet moment. Each has a son who is now dead. Amadou Diallo, shot 41 times by police for reaching for his wallet, Sean Bell, shot 50+ times by the NYPD the night before his wedding, Trayvon Martin, shot by a self-proclaimed neighborhood watchman, Ramarley Graham, shot in his grandmother’s home by cops and Tamon Robinson, struck down by a police cruiser. For the mothers of these men, every day is a battle and every day is an internal struggle because all of these deaths were preventable. NAN fought alongside Diallo’s family and Bell’s family to seek justice, and we are now doing the same for Trayvon, Ramarley, and Tamon. But we can all do more to thwart another injustice.
On this Mother’s Day, our thoughts are also with people like Nicole Paultre Bell, fiancé of Sean Bell, who is a mother herself and now raising their two daughters alone. And our hearts are with people like Marissa Alexander, a mother who is now facing 20 years in the state of Florida for firing what she said was a warning shot towards her abusive husband. She invoked ‘Stand Your Ground’ in her defense, but was unsuccessful. Marissa was arrested and convicted, meanwhile a national outcry from NAN and others was necessary to have George Zimmerman arrested weeks after the shooting death of unarmed Trayvon Martin. But while there is obvious disparity in the way in which this ‘Stand Your Ground’ rule can be applied, the power of mobilizing and organizing cannot be denied. And that’s exactly why we need to multiply our actions immediately.
Right now, on the books, there are nearly 20 states with similar ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws. So if you live in places like Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, you must do something to reverse this detrimental legislation and not wait for another tragedy like that of Trayvon to take place where you live. Call or email your state council member, State Senators and Congressional members, and tell them you want the law repealed immediately. Do your research, know the facts and then teach others. Start speaking out against these laws, write to your local papers and bring awareness to the issue. Most of us didn’t even know that ‘Stand Your Ground’ existed until the death of young Trayvon. Please make sure that he is the last victim of this atrocious legislation.
While ‘Stand Your Ground’ requires urgent activism, it is sadly not the only item that should be on our radar. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, in 2011, 18 states introduced legislation to allow concealed weapons on college campuses. There are bills, like the National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011, that would allow residents from one state who have a license to carry concealed weapons to carry their weapons to another state, regardless of the state’s licensing standards.
And on the flipside, there is progressive regulation out there that we must rally around. The End Racial Profiling Act of 2012, which will prohibit law enforcement agencies from engaging in racial profiling is a great example. While we fight against all of the dangerous laws, let’s fight for things like ERPA. In the same fashion, call and email your representatives, inform others and organize ways to make this bill a reality.
For those who think activism doesn’t yield results, just take a look at NAN’s fight to institute racial profiling laws in the state of NJ after four basketball players were shot by state police. I bet their mothers are grateful that activists stood up for them. We worked to bring about change here, and we’ve worked tirelessly through the years to continue to do so – and you can do the same. BUT WE NEED YOUR HELP!
On this Mother’s Day, remember the pain of these women and let’s work together to create the world we want to raise our own children in.