Nine mothers whose black children were murdered by police took the stage at the Democratic National Convention last night to endorse Hillary Clinton for President of the United States. For me, seeing these mothers on the stage elicited joy, as black women are lifted up on behalf of their children killed by the state. But I also felt a sense of foreboding, as I silently prayed that Clinton, who, with her husband, had a hand in mass incarceration and over policing, will stay true to her word and return these mothers’ support with legitimate policy changes should she be elected president.
While on the campaign trail, Clinton met with the Mothers of the Movement and circulated an ad featuring Sybrina Fulton (the mother of Trayvon Martin), Lezley McSpadden (the mother of Michael Brown), Geneva Reed-Veal (the mother of Sandra Bland), Lucia McBath (the mother of Jordan Davis), Gwen Carr (the mother of Eric Garner), and Maria Hamilton (the mother of Dontre Hamilton). These mothers declared that they could be silent no more and threw their support behind Clinton. They are working for police reform, against gun violence, and the safety of the black community.
Last night, the mothers in the video, in addition to Cleopatra Pendleton-Cowley (the mother of Hadiya Pendleton), Annette Nance-Holt (mother of Blair Holt), and Wanda Johnson (mother of Oscar Grant), stood on the stage and called for Americans who agree that black lives matter and that there needs to be a change in policing to vote for Clinton.
I have no doubt in my mind that these mothers are present of their own accord, are not bought and are not buyable. It at least symbolically matters that these mothers are front and center at the Democratic Convention and that they were nowhere to be found at the Republican National Convention. Making overtures to their constituencies for votes is what politicians and parties do. Black people and black women have been a reliable component of the Democratic Party for years.
Yet, I have mixed feelings over willingness of national political parties to capitalize on the black mothers’ grief over their children for votes. Criminal justice reform has been added to the party platform, but Clinton’s history regarding law and order has been disastrous, as have her interactions with young black protesters who have challenged her on that history.
Samaria Rice, the mother of Tamir Rice, has refused to be a part of such campaigns, and actively avoids the spotlight, according to an LA Times article. She is wary of politicians’ ability and commitment to police reform and prefers to advocate for her son through her own foundation. It is, of course, up to each mother (and all of us) to determine what is the best path for us to engage in the fight for black freedom. Electoral politics is a perfectly valid method of advocacy. Since these mothers have made their voices heard and their wishes known, it is up to us to make sure their policy hopes come to fruition.
Still, I cannot deny that suspicion and distrust remains when those convention lights go down. Hillary Clinton has a lot of work to do and ground to make up before she can truly claim that black lives matter to her.
Photo Credits: Getty Images, NY CBS Local