Moms around the world were being feted by their children on Sunday to celebrate Mother’s Day. But there were also a growing number of childless mothers who were continuing to mourn the deaths of their sons from senseless violence. They have comprised what has become the Mothers of the Movement, women who were robbed of their motherhood because of killings by figures in law enforcement.
While those deaths have ranged from the recent to occurring more than a decade ago, the growing influence of the Mothers of the Movement now stretches from the hallowed hallways of Capitol Hill to the grassroots level from which the efforts to effect change in the nation’s gun laws and biased criminal justice system remain.
Just in April, the Rev. Al Sharpton hosted Mothers of the Movement at his annual National Action Network convention in New York City. Civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump explained to the audience how the group of courageous women were leading the charge to make sure every officer in each and all police departments across the country can be equipped with a body camera to bring full transparency to law enforcement-involved shootings that many times result in cover-ups to protect cops.
The names of those we have lost still reverberate in conversations having to do with social justice, or the lack thereof: Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, for starters. Sadly, a handful of new names continue to be added to the list as law enforcement appears undaunted in how they treat Black suspects versus their white counterparts.
We’ve seen that in just the past year alone everywhere from Pittsburgh to Sacramento to Dallas to most recently in Oklahoma, where a police officer shot Lorenzo Clerkley Jr., a 14-year-old Black child, two times through a fence in less than a second after giving a command. Amazingly, Clerkley survived the barrage of bullets. But many of his predecessors who found themselves similarly targeted by law enforcement were not as lucky to live to tell their stories.
Instead, those narratives have been left to be told and retold by their families, including and especially their mothers, many of whom have led tireless plights to create change centered on how this world and country view young Black males.
Scroll down to see what some of the Mothers of the Movement have been up to recently to understand what motivates them to keep on keeping on.
1. Gwen Carr
Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, has seen justice deferred in the police killing of her son in New York City in 2014. Garner died after police tried to arrest him for the nonviolent misdemeanor of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes in public. On May 10, an NYPD judge finally ruled that proceedings can move forward with disciplining Officer Daniel Pantaleo, nearly five years after he choked Garner to death.
2. Sybrina Fulton
Sybrina Fulton’s son, Trayvon Martin, was killed in south Florida in 2012 after a neighborhood watch volunteer mistook the teenager for a criminal, ignored orders from 911 to stay away and shot him to death. In turn, Fulton has dedicated her life to making sure something like that never happens again by bringing attention to Trayvon’s tragic story.
3. Maria Hamilton
Maria Hamilton’s son, Dontre Hamilton, was killed in Milwaukee in 2014 after a Starbucks employee called the police on him for sleeping in a public park. Dontrae, who was unarmed, was shot 14 times.
4. Wanda Johnson
Wanda Johnson is the mother of Oscar Grant, who was killed after being shot while handcuffed by police in Oakland on New Year’s Day in 2009. It was only recently reported that the officer who killed Grant was not trying to de-escalate a situation when he fired those fatal shots, contradicting the cop’s statement. She saw the latest development as vindication, but not justice.
5. Lucy McBath
Lucy McBath — the newly elected congresswomen in Georgia whose son, Jordan Davis, was shot and killed in 2012 because a white man was angry at loud music being played in the car the teenager was in — was recently the target of the NRA’s new president, who said she was only elected because her son was killed.
“Hi NRA! It’s time we clear something up,” McBath tweeted at the NRA on May 6. “I won this race because – after my son was senselessly murdered in 2012 – I stood up to do something about it. I knew it was time to fight back.”
6. Lesley McSpadden
7. April Pipkins
8. Geneva Reed-Veal
Sandra Bland’s mother.
9. Samara Rice
Tamir Rice’s mom