By: Koya Perez
This is reality.
A mother’s worst nightmare is losing her child. This nightmare has become reality for hundreds of black mothers across the United States. Beginning in 2013, the death of Trayvon Martin socked the world, and sparked a fire inside the hearts and souls of black people. Gang violence, gun violence, and obsessive force by misleading officers are the main factors killing off the black population. Protest after protest, plea after plea, when will the slayings and killings end?
On Friday, April 22, 2016 five courageous mothers took the stage at Delaware State University to share their stories of the children they lost due to high racial profiling and discrimination against black people. This is not the 1960s. This is 2016.
Opening the discussion was Maria Hamilton, mother of Dontre Hamilton. “Dontre was 31 years old…his life was taken from him on April 30, 2014 for being a black man in a park,” she began. “Dontre was demonized after he was murdered.” The story of Dontre Hamilton may not have been nationally publicized, but is still as important. While sitting in Red Arrow Park one day, an officer approached Hamilton. A call had been made about a homeless man being disruptive in the park. Assumed to be the homeless man, the officer began to pat down Hamilton. The two entered into an altercation in which Hamilton was struck 8 times with a baton before grabbing the baton to stop from being hit. The officer shot Hamilton 14 times. “Any one of the bullets could have killed him. But he continued to shoot. There was a bullet hole through each of his organs.” Maria Hamilton spoke in a voice filled with sadness and anger.
Following Ms. Hamilton, Geneva Reed-Veal who spoke on behalf of her daughter Sandra Bland. “I decided to come out in this movement because six other women died in jail in July 2015. Does anybody know who they are?” she asked.
The room was silent.
Ms. Reed-Veal proceeded to tell the audience to Google their names as she continued talking. “Her story is now international,” she began again. Sandra Bland was a 28-year-old woman who was found hanging in a jail cell in Texas on July 13, 2016. Prior to arriving to the jail, Bland was pulled over by state trooper Brian Encinia for failing to use a turn signal. He arrested her after an argument sprouted between the two. Three days later, Bland was found hanging by a trash bag in her cell.
“How could this six foot, beautiful, Amazon-like woman hang herself by a trashbag?!” asked her mother, slightly outraged. She continued her story by telling how she became involved in the movement and what it means to her. She believes all black parents, families, and citizens are affected in some way by police brutality and black on black violence. She wants us all to take a stand.
“But stay in your lane!” she warns. “If you’re a letter writer, write letters to the government. If you’re a protester, protest. If you’re a chef, cook.” she joked, making light of the situation at hand. “Do what you do best. Be active, but be good at what you do.”
Each case is unique. Each mother experienced a loss only they can understand. But, two similar stories brought two mothers together. Cleopatra Pendleton, mother of Hadiya Pendleton, and Nardyne Jefferies, mother of Brishell Jones spoke about their daughters’ deaths due to gun violence. Hadiya Pendleton was a 15-year-old honor student and majorette at King College Prep high school. She had just performed in President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. On a rainy January 29, 2013, she was taking shelter in a park before heading home, when twelve men ran into the park and opened fire. The shooter got away. Hadiya was not the target, but lost her life as an innocent soul.
A sad, similar story goes for Brishell Jones. Just hours after attending the funeral of a friend, who was shot and killed in a gang-related incident, revenge took over the streets of Washington D.C. Brishell Jones was shot in her right temple in a crossfire of bullets. Another young life gone. Two young, innocent women lost their lives to senseless gun violence.
Lastly, Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner spoke. Regrettably, another nationally known name asserts itself in the media. Eric Garner was a victim of police brutality. Garner was approached by two officers, who previously had suspicions about Garner selling untaxed, loose cigarettes. The officers wanted to catch him in action. An altercation ensued, followed by a shooting. This resulted in Garner being placed in a chokehold trying desperately to save his life. His final words were, “I can’t breathe.” The incident captured by a cellphone replayed instantly across the internet and sparked yet another protest and rallying cry for justice.
The panel conveyed the hurt, heartache, and truth about the young, innocent black lives that were taken from us. While these mothers may not receive closure at this time, as the pain from losing a child will never go away, they gain new children; the students at DSU whole-heartedly support these mothers and their movement towards justice. As a whole, the black community can empathize with each mother’s pain, as we can only become stronger and move forward from here.