As I write this I am currently in the air en route to Washington DC. In less than 24 hours, we will join together, arm in arm, hand in hand, to march on our nation's capitol for the inaugural Million Moms March. For months our volunteer team has logged hundreds of hours of planning, conference calls, meetings, research, emails, and the like as we worked to coordinate this march. It has been a labor of love to make this happen, and now it all comes together. Million Moms March. I will be there, along with hundreds of others, to oppose the glaring injustices present in our justice system. I will be there to honor lives lost and to demonstrate support and solidarity. You will there for those reasons as well, but that is not all. You will be there for a greater reason.
You will be there because you have experienced the greatest loss that I, a fellow mom, can imagine - the untimely death of your child. Not just any death, but a violent, undeserved killing at the hands of the very individuals with whom we entrust our lives, our nation's police officers. And while you were still reeling with shock, sorrow, and pain, you had to endure yet another brutal act of violence: the cruel and deliberate character assassination/victim-blaming on your deceased child before you'd even had a chance to grieve the tremendous loss you've suffered.
At that moment, you don't know that it will get even worse in the days to come. You have no idea yet that your pain is only going to intensify when it becomes evident that those responsible for killing your child will not be held accountable for their actions. Their egregious, excessive, unwarranted, and plausibly racially-motivated actions will largely go unpunished both in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of much of society. The world will go on, with more attention paid to the Kardashians or to Scandal than to the growing numbers of aggressions at the hands of police/vigilantes. Profiling, unlawful stop and search, unnecessary use of force, injury, and deaths, etc., mostly committed against brown and black individuals, disabled individuals, and LGBTQ* persons, continue to occur.
Dearest mothers, I cannot imagine the pain that you are in. Yet you are here. You are enduring your own personal hell, but you are here. You are fighting - through tears, through anger, through shock - for this to stop. For some type of resolution. For reform and change. For future children and adults to avoid having to experience the unthinkable, which you sadly know so well.
To be with you this weekend, I will be apart from my beloved children. But there's no place I'd rather be right now. Because it disturbs me that this keeps happening. Because I believe that your children - Jordan Baker, Dontre Hamilton, Aiyana Jones, Tamir Rice, David Dehmann, Sean Bell, Mya Hall and others - deserve to be remembered. Because I know that my children's brown faces and/or their disabilities put them at risk for a similar fate. Because I believe our society is capable of better.
You inspire me. More than you know. I have been dealing with my own personal pain and my own fears, my own personal hell. It cannot compare to yours, as my children continue to draw breath. But it has wounded me. Just as you have been betrayed by a system (in your case, police) that is supposed to serve and protect, my family has been similarly betrayed (by the child welfare system). It has brought me to the depths of my inner soul, to my knees in prayer and in anguish, to a level of emotion I didn't know I was capable of. As time has passed I have began to pick up the pieces and work toward healing myself. Some days are better than others, but on the whole I think I am getting "there." I don't really know where "there" is exactly, but it's not here. I can feel the change, and it encourages me. I can see now that I am stronger than I thought.
You incredible ladies have given me a renewed sense of hope and strength. Your stories, your mission, your openness - it touches me. I honor you, a mother, on this upcoming Mother's Day. I draw encouragement from your resilience and your determination. I know that if you can stand, I can stand - and I will. I choose today not to be ruled by fear. I will get through this and my children will get through this. We need to, because we cannot help anyone else if we ourselves are broken. Like others before us who have endured unfathomable hardships, we can - and will get through this. We will survive. We will. But I want more. Today I pledge to do more. Because I want to do more than just survive.
D@mn it, I want to thrive.