August 27, 2014

We Must Hear More from Ferguson’s Mothers

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aby hand(WOMENSENEWS)– The view of the protests following the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., seems one-sided and that side is mostly male.

We’ve seen the male president, the male governor and male church leaders all on our TVs giving their take. What I’d like to see is more of the mothers. What are they thinking everyone should do next?

As much as tragedies like these hurt so many people around the world, it will never hurt anyone as much as the mother who lost her child.

It is unfortunate that we have so many of examples of mothers making a difference after a tragedy, but we do.

In the wake of the uproar in Missouri Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, wrote a touching letter to Lesley McSpadden, Brown’s mother. She talked about how McSpadden will have to go through the continuous pain of hearing people target her son’s character but she encouraged her to honor her son’s life as she knew him and to surround herself with a good support system.

Fulton founded the Trayvon Martin Foundation after her 17-year-old son was fatally shot by George Zimmerman in Florida. The foundation’s mission is to create awareness of how violent crimes impact the families of the victims and to provide support for those families.

Wanda Johnson is a national speaker who makes appearances on television programs, at universities and at public forums to speak about what happened to her son Oscar Grant, who was fatally shot by a BART police officer in Oakland, Calif. She continuously works hard to improve the criminal justice system and comfort other grieving families. She’s also the head of the Oscar Grant Foundation.

Constance Malcolm‘s son, Ramarley Graham, was unarmed in 2012 when he was shot in their Bronx residence by a member of the New York Police Department. The case was dismissed by a judge over a technicality. Malcolm gave the Department of Justice 32,000 signatures on Aug. 20, demanding that they reopen her son’s case.

Mothers’ Gathering Needed

As a black girl I’m way more interested in how theses mothers, grandmothers and sisters think we can achieve justice, rather than hearing from hot-headed politicians. Maybe the solution to the protests, to the anger and to the distrust in Ferguson can be found in bringing together the mothers in the community and giving them the space to problem solve together.

Black women shouldn’t have to fear for the lives of their children daily, but many do. Behind every black male who is targeted, there’s likely a terrified mother who doesn’t know how she can protect her children anymore. The truth is the mothers may be more scared than anyone. But they also might have the answers.

The rapper Childish Gambino tweeted a poem about his thoughts on the police brutality. In his final tweet he talks about how his mom told him, “When it’s your turn, please listen.”

So please remember not only the names of Rodney King, Eric Garner, Mike Brown and Ramarley Graham, but also the names of Odessa King, Wanda Johnson, Gwen Carr, Lesley McSpadden, Constance Malcolm and all the other mothers and sons who have had police brutality change their lives.

When tragedies like this happen, our first instinct is to look to the people in power for the solutions, but the mothers of the victims could have helped them all along.

Yes, the mothers are scared and heartbroken, but they’re also indignant and determined. They’re smart and creative. Most important, in the midst of all the chaos, they are peaceful.

A version of this piece appeared in Huffington Post.

Kyler Sumter, 17, is a senior at Lindblom Math and Science Academy in Chicago and part of Youth Narrating Our World through The OpEd Project.

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