Black mothers turn their grief into governance

With Rep. Lucy McBath, it’s clear: Public service began with her private anguish. Her 17-year-old son, Jordan Davis, was gunned down outside a Florida convenience store in 2012 after a car full of kids playing loud music made Michael Dunn angry. He fired inside it, killing Davis. Dunn got life behind bars for murder and McBath forgave him.

When the former Delta flight attendant ran for Congress, few expected her to win. Georgia’s sixth district, in suburban Atlanta, is white, wealthy and Republican. But, driven by her motivation to make a change, she ousted the incumbent.

“Jordan’s death had everything to do with me running for office,” McBath said. “My mother’s mission here is to basically take all of that concern and support and nurturing that I would still be doing for my son. I’m just channeling it toward the people I live among every single day.”

She’s not alone. A number of African-American women who’ve lost a child to gun violence or alleged police brutality want to go from grieving to governing to make a change. Mothers of the Movement is a club no one wants to join, because the cost of admission is too high. But now there’s a mini-movement within the movement.

Sybrina Fulton understands McBath’s motivation. At the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Fulton joined a stage of mothers whose children were killed. Seventeen year-old Trayvon Martin was unarmed when crime watch volunteer George Zimmerman fatally shot him in 2012. Fulton’s grief turned to activism and now a campaign for a seat on the Miami-Dade County Commission.

“I was frustrated seeing the same things happening and me depending on other people to make change so I had to be a part of that change,” Fulton said.

Fulton was inspired, in part, by Lucy McBath.

“Of course there are several other people that ran for office that I saw, you know, and it inspired me. You can’t help but be empowered and inspired by seeing somebody that had the same tragedy that I have and managed to move on,” Fulton said.

It was near St. Louis where Lezley McSpadden lost her son, Michael Brown. A police officer killed the 18-year-old in 2013, sparking the Ferguson riots. Earlier this year, McSpadden ran for city council and lost.

“We recognize that if we don’t stand up and champion for our communities, more people within our communities continue to die disproportionately,” McBath said. “I just think that people are looking for a way to walk out their hurt, their pain, their anguish and do something for the good of others with it.”

It’s been almost seven years and still, McBath said, she gets up every day worrying about how to keep her son Jordan safe. She’ll never get over losing him but she believes making a change will help her overcome her grief.

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