On Nov. 14, the mothers of the Black Lives Matter movement walked into Voorhees Chapel to a standing ovation from a crowd of students, faculty, administrators and guests. The 10 women were hosted by Douglass Residential College (DRC) and participated as panelists in Thursday’s social justice teach-in.
Mothers of the Movement is a group of Black women whose children have been killed by gun violence and police brutality. The deaths of their children have led to national outcry from movements like Black Lives Matter.
“One in 1,000 unarmed African American men and boys will be killed by police in our country this year,” said Dr. Elizabeth Gunn, the associate dean of academic programs at DRC. “Today’s event is a special occasion and an educational gathering for civil and dignified conversation.”
Each of the mothers was first asked to share something about their son that was not represented by the media. Many shared the dreams of their sons, ranging from playing college football to working as a corrections officer, as well as their relationships with their family and community.
“Coming up this year, on Nov. 27, will be 20 years since (Gary Hopkins Jr.) was murdered in 1999 by a Prince George’s County (Maryland) police officer,” said Marion Gray-Hopkins, mother of Gary Hopkins Jr. “What you didn’t know about Gary was that he was a brother, the youngest of four, a mentor to his peer group. He loved to write, he was a poet, he was a writer, he was a rapper, or so he liked to think.”
Gunn asked the panelists how they were able to persist through their grief and work toward social justice.
“I would like to give my admiration to the ladies that are sitting on this stage that reached out to me,” said Montye Benjamin, mother of Jayvis Benjamin, who was killed by a police officer in Georgia in 2013. “Everyone here has been constant encouragement. I stayed kind of in my shell for a while, but I realized this issue was bigger than myself as well as my son.”
Kadi Diallo is the mother of Amadou Diallo, an immigrant from Guinea killed by New York Police Department (NYPD) officers in 1999. She said she had to travel across the world when her tragedy hit her and said she was motivated to make sure her son had not died in vain.
Eric Garner was also killed by an NYPD officer. His mother, Gwen Carr, said she was in a dark place after the death of her son and did not even want to get out of bed. Being a religious person, she said she started praying and found her motivation.
“The media will demonize your child, the police department will criminalize your child. So they assassinate your child twice. First they murder him, then they assassinate him in the papers. But I decided to get up and turn my mourning into a movement and my sorrow into a strategy,” she said.
Gray-Hopkins co-founded the Coalition for Concerned Mothers to help mentor those who are experiencing similar tragedies.
“None of us want to be a part of this club that we’re a part of, but it gives me motivation,” she said. “By mentoring someone else, I’m really mentoring myself and it’s helping me and healing me.”
Continue reading about the event on The Daily Targum.
Additionally, please view the Rutgers Today feature on the event.