Many of us remember the names of victims of police abuse, like Michael Brown and Rekia Boyd, as well as those killed by vigilante violence, like Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. But it's easy to forget the names of the women in these victims' lives whose pain remains long after the media and the public move on.
In honor of Mother's Day this Sunday, let's take the time to remember those black women who have lost sons, daughters and partners to violence. Women like Samaria Rice, who moved into a homeless shelter before finding new lodgings because she could no longer bear to live near the Cleveland park where her 12-year-old son was shot and killed by police. And women like Dominika Stanley, who was forced to sit on the same bloodied couch her 7-year-old daughter died on after being shot by police during a raid.
The tenacity that emerges when one has no choice but to fight for justice in the face of senseless violence is a burden these women should not have to bear. Flowers and cards are not enough to assuage the pain these women might carry, but public acknowledgement and support is an act we can all commit to this Mother's Day.
Samaria Rice is the mother of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. On Nov. 22, 2014, Tamir was fatally shot by a Cleveland police officer who thought Tamir's toy gun was real. The Rice family is currently suing the two officers involved and the City of Cleveland.
Rice continues to fight for justice despite the fact that she has yet to bury her son and properly mourn his death. "In less than a second my son is gone and I want to know how long I've got to wait for justice," she said at a news conference on May 4, according to the New York Times. A memorial fund has been established by the law firm representing the family to help support the family as they continue to seek justice.
Dominika Stanley is the mother of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, a 7-year-old girl who was fatally shot by a Detroit police officer during a raid in Stanley's home in May 2010. Officer Joseph Weekley rushed through the doors of their home, and according to police, got into a scuffle with Aiyana's grandmother, causing the gun to go off. Aiyana was shot while laying under a blanket. All charges against the officer were dismissed, and he remains on the job as of January 2015.
In 2013, J. Cole dedicated his music video "Crooked Smile" to Aiyana. The video tells the sordid story of a Drug Enforcement Agency raid gone wrong and ends with a call to end the war on drugs. It also reveals the ways the war on drugs in black communities affects more than the black men who tend to be targeted, but also children, mothers and grandmothers.
Eric Garner's death at the hands of police in July 2014 sparked national protests. As his widow and the mother of their kids, Esaw Garner has been at the forefront of many public conversations surrounding the incident.
"This fight ain't over. It's just begun. As long as I have a breath in my body I will fight the fight to the end," she stated at a press conference in December 2014, after a grand jury decided not to indict the officer who killed her husband by choking him as he repeatedly said, "I can't breathe." But her resilience doesn't mean she doesn't mourn.
"He should be here celebrating Christmas and Thanksgiving and everything else with his children and grandchildren. And he can't. Why? Because a cop did wrong," she said at a press conference in New York City in December 2014.
Lucia McBath is the mother of 17-year-old Jordan Davis. Davis was fatally shot in November 2012 at a gas station by 45-year-old Michael Dunn, after Dunn confronted the teen and his friends about their loud music. Nearly two years after the shooting, Dunn was sentenced to life in prison.
In an interview with the Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates following the sentencing, McBath said, "I guess I'm speechless. Excited. Happy. It feels like the weight of the world has been lifted. But I definitely am waffling back and forth. I was elated about justice for Jordan, but I would prefer to have him here, thriving and growing. I wish that was my reality, but in light of everything this is the best I can get."
While Dunn's sentence might be the "best" she can get, McBath continues to fight alongside other families to end the brutal pattern of vigilante murders of black youth by speaking before audiences like the Florida Congress.
Sybrina Fulton is the mother of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was fatally shot by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida, in 2012.
"George Zimmerman stalked my son and murdered him in cold blood," Fulton told MSNBC-TV. Trayvon's senseless murder and the subsequent acquittal of Zimmerman sparked outrage across the country. It also sparked the #BlackLivesMatter movement, of which Fulton has been a stalwart fixture. She and Tracy Martin, Trayvon's father, turned tragedy into purpose and now advocate across the country as cofounders of the Trayvon Martin Foundation.
Lesley McSpadden is the mother of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was killed by officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, 2014. Brown's death was captured on video and moved activists in Ferguson to engage in daily protests and acts of civil disobedience.
According to USA Today, McSpadden initially had faith that justice would prevail and Wilson would be indicted. When he was not, McSpadden's pain and anger was clear. "I do want to meet with [Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch] right now," she yelled after it was announced Wilson would not be indicted.
Since then, Ferguson has emerged as an epicenter of a new social justice movement, which McSpadden contributes to by attending protests and continuing public advocacy.
LaTona Gunn is the mother of 15-year-old Sakia Gunn, who was killed by 28-year-old Richard McCullough in Newark, New Jersey, on May 11, 2003. After Gunn rejected McCullough's advance and told him she was a lesbian, McCullough attacked the teen and fatally stabbed her in the chest. McCullough was sentenced with 20 years in prison.
While the case has been largely underreported in media, LaTona Gunn has traveled extensively speaking about her daughter's death, and hate crimes in general, with filmmaker Charles Brack, who produced a documentary about the case.