S. E. Williams | Voice Executive Editor
Like most everyone this Mother’s Day, I reflected on the continuing impact my own mother and foremothers have in how I walk my path even at this stage of my life.
Also, on Mother’s Day 2021, after having navigated a year in the storm of COVID-19, coupled with the gravitation pull George Floyd’s murder had on our moral compass as individuals and a nation, I am moved by Black mothers who continue to stand out among those leading this 21st-century movement for justice, equity, and a reimaging of local policing—the mothers of those killed by representatives of the very system we are working to change.
Somewhere I read how as a youth, we live for ourselves; in our middle years, we live for our children; and in our later years, we have an unwritten higher purpose, to “live for the world.”
These mothers are demonstrating what it means to live for the world.
Each appears to manifest a sense of proprietorship in seeking justice for their own child, yet, what we also bear witness to is their sense of higher purpose, a broader responsibility to work for change on behalf of all Blacks and other minorities who suffer under the current system of policing. They advocate unyieldingly, for justice. But, even more than that, they reach out with open hearts to comfort others going through a similar loss.
There was something about George Floyd’s calls for “mama” that awakened not only mothers, but the sacred feminine in every compassionate human being. In response, people came together and put a stake in the ground, so to speak, marking, as a point of demarcation, this time in history where the arc of justice is being bent with fervor.
One mother, among many committed to this effort, is Gwen Carr. Carr’s son, Eric Garner, died at the hands of a New York police officer on July 17, 2014, for allegedly selling loose cigarettes.
Carr’s son lost his life over loose cigarettes. In the case of George Floyd, it was an alleged counterfeit $20 bill. Clear evidence in both cases, it does not take much for a Black man to be sentenced to death in this country.
I Can’t Breathe
George Floyds utterances of, “I can’t breathe” hauntingly reminded Gwen Carr and the world of her own son’s pleadings before his death, where he repeated, “I can’t breathe,” at least 11 times during the final moments of his life.
Six years after losing her own son, Gwen Carr, along with other Black mothers who have lost sons and daughters under similar circumstances, reached out to support the Floyd family.
Floyd’s close-knit family, having lost its own matriarch just a couple of short years before his death, seemed to find comfort in the universal offering of mother-centered love, anchored in the hearts of Carr and the other Black mothers who stepped in with arms to enfold, shoulders to cry on and nurturing words of comfort.
Within two days of Floyd’s murder, Gwen Carr reached out to his family.
“I just told them that, ‘No matter what, you can depend on me if you need me,’” said Carr.
True to her word, Carr (and others) continued to give the Floyd family her love and support throughout the long year leading to the trial and on to its conclusion. It appears she formed a bond with the Floyd family certain to last a lifetime.
Although the officer who killed Carr’s son was fired but never charged, she remains steadfast in her quest for fairness and justice in policing, and encourages other families to do the same. And, there are so many other families . . . of all races.
A recent Washington Post Report noted in the last year police shot and killed 973 people coming close to its annual average since 2015, of about 1,000 such deaths per year.
However, we must remember, these are not just numbers, each marks the life of a person and each person leaves family and friends to mourn their loss.
Words of Comfort and Caring
“You are not in this alone. We are here. We are here for you,” said Carr during a recent interview as she sought to console others who share this experience.She, like other mothers who reach out offering support, stressed, “I reach out to you. I embrace you. I empower you. I hold you in my heart because I know what it is you’re going through.”
Black mothers like Carr; like Dominik Archibald whose son, Nathaniel Pickett, was murdered by a San Bernardino County sheriff deputy in 2015 who was never charged; and the hundreds of other broken-hearted mothers who take this journey each year, should be remembered for their loss and honored for their courage, perseverance, and commitment to working for change, so no other mother will know their pain.
This Mother’s Day week I encourage everyone to support the efforts of mothers (and families) fighting for justice in memory of their loved ones. To support the work of Gwen Carr visit the Garner Way Foundation; to support the justice work of the Floyd family visit George Floyd Foundation and visit the Nathaniel H. Pickett II Foundation to learn more about the justice efforts being pursued in his memory.
Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.