A delegation of 10 African American mothers came to Washington, D.C. between Dec. 9-11 to voice their criticism on police brutality and the criminal justice system.
The women know firsthand about injustice due to their sons being killed by police.
Dorothy Copp Elliott, whose son Archie Elliott was shot and killed June 16, 1993 said, “The pain in my heart is still there. It doesn’t matter if there are cameras or witnesses they (meaning the police) are never held responsible.”
The mothers were hosted by organizations CODEPINK, #DCFerguson, DC Hands Up Coalition, Mothers Against Police Brutality and the National Congress of Black Women.
The three day sessions contained a strategy meeting of organizations working on issues relating to police brutality, a public forum at First Trinity Lutheran Church in Northwest, a congressional hearing and meetings at the Rayburn Building in Southwest, a public vigil at the Department of Justice, and more meetings and media interviews.
CODEPINK made the format that included pictures of the fallen sons in heart-shaped symbols along with crosses. Signs reading “Black Lives Matter,” “Stop Police Brutality,” and “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” highlighted the background of each session.
A full house attended the First Trinity Lutheran Church on Dec. 9. Washington radio station WPFW’s Verna Avery Brown introduced the mothers.
Wanda Jackson’s son, Oscar Grant, was shot and killed by transit policeman Johannes Mehserle at a subway station in Oakland, Ca. New Year’s Day in 2009. “First I want to say, what is justice – my son deserved not to be killed,” Jackson said. “We need to change our mindset; they need to be held accountable for their actions. I believe the cop that killed my son should have been on death row or serve 25 years to life.”
Grant’s story was made into a 2013 critically acclaimed film called “Fruitvale Station.”
Other mothers present were Valerie Bell, whose son Sean Bell was killed by plainclothes New York policemen his wedding day on November 25, 2006; Jeralynn Blueford, whose son Alan Blueford, 19, was killed in East Oakland, Ca. May 6, 2012; and Darlene Cain, whose son Dale Graham, 29, was shot and killed by a Baltimore police officer on October 28, 2008.
Collette Flanagan, Constance Malcolm, Marcella Holloman, Danette Chavis and Tressa Sherrod were other mothers who attended.
In addition to these mothers speaking out, some have set up organizations and foundations of their own so their sons’ lives, though destroyed, will not be in vain.
One of the highlights of the church forum was the attendance and recognition of two members of the Emmett Till family. Airicka Gordon-Taylor and Thelma Wright Edwards are cousins. Edwards, 83, gave a brief history in knowing Till after the forum.
“My brother Simeon was with Emmett at the grocery store the day when he whistled,” she said. Edwards continued saying that the men who took Emmett away came to her father’s house (Moses Wright) and that her grandmother and Emmett’s were sisters.
The mothers were joined by members of the Black Caucus on Dec. 10. Henry G. (Hank) Jackson, president and CEO for the Society for Human Resources Management, Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) each gave condolences to the mothers.
“When you get it twisted you get two systems of justice and two ways of domestic tranquility. This is what we have in this country.” said Jackson. He then turned and stated to the mothers, “I am so sorry you have to share this burden.”
Conyers emphasized the importance of the End Racial Profiling Act of 2013 he created. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) is sponsoring the bill.
Jackson Lee in her speech referred to the famous Ella Baker 1964 quote “Until the killing of black mothers’ sons, becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of a white mother’s son, we who believe in freedom cannot rest until this happens.”
Flanagan is the founder of Mothers Against Police Brutality. “Our children’s lives are being stolen – nothing prepares you for putting your child in the ground,” she said. “The police unions need to be dismantled. It’s been 41 years since a policeman in Dallas has been indicted. They send their children to college while we send our children to the morgue,”
An evening vigil for the mothers was held Dec. 11 at the Department of Justice. The mothers continued to speak on racism, police militarization, non-indictments for police, grand juries and prosecutors, and accountability. All believed their sons were murdered.
Plans for a Mother’s Day march against police brutality are underway for May 2015.