Black mothers have made significant contributions in the fight against police brutality. Aniefuna, Aniefuna, and Williams (2020) examined the legacies of resilience by contextualizing the struggles and contributions of Black motherhood and reproductive justice under police surveillance, and found that very little is known about the struggles of Black mothers – despite the fact that they are “the backbone and martyrs of their communities” and that this “comes at a tremendous cost because they remain largely unprotected and subject to immeasurable institutional violence and judgment against their mothering strategies” (Ibid.)
The Army of Moms The Army of Moms was formed in 2015 by Black mothers in Englewood, Chicago. The Black-mother led group organized officially under the name of Mothers Against Senseless Killings. The women sat on the corners of the blocks in the neighbourhood that were most vulnerable to gun-violence, watching over their children and serving as a barrier between their community and the prevailing gun violence. In 2019, two of these Black women were murdered on these very blocks that they tried to make safer, for the rest of their community.
A blogpost for ZORAcarries the testimony of the mothers: “We sit on blocks. We do walking patrols. We build real actual relationships with the people no one else wants to — the people they’re afraid of, but still somehow feel superior to, every single day. “We commit every day to not just talking about peace but to actively leaving our homes and computers to go out and search for it. ” Several of the mothers have lost their children to gun violence, and they persist in the hope of reaching out to Black mothers like themselves, who are most vulnerable and affected by gun violence.
These mothers subvert the silence and the socio-cultural impunity around gun violence that targets Black people, specifically. For several years, Black voices, in the words of Amber Goodwin, have been “silenced and pushed out of the conversation on ending gun violence in America, because we also wanted to talk about policing. For too long, communities of color have been othered within conversations about ending gun violence by those who wanted to victim-blame and reduce our experiences of gun violence to “Black on Black crime.”” In standing up for others in their community, in holding on firmly against structural and overt violence, and in speaking their truth to power, these women are striving to fight a longstanding systemic injustice that continues unabashed.
Erasure in the media
The media spotlight in recent times has centred on mothers coming together to form what’s known as the “Wall of Moms” – and in the dedicated focus on White mothers calling for social change, the story of the Army of Moms has been ignored and sidelined. In the words of Kelly Glass, who broke the silence and curated a story about the Army of Moms for the Lilly: “When Black mothers mobilize to fight against violence and racial injustice by forming a human barrier and two of their lives are lost, it’s a casualty of war. When groups of White mothers form a human barrier as a statement of solidarity in a movement new to them, it’s revolutionary. ”
Ignoring the efforts of the Black mothers in their fight against gun violence targeting their community is effectively fomenting the structural violence that enabled the crime in the first place. Placing Black mothers front and centre in a fight that is conceptualized, led, and furthered by their emotional labour is fundamental to their movement: and any effort to prioritize privilege than to give them their due only furthers that privilege. As Kelly Glass wrote, in the Lilly, “Black women are not only ignored in social justice movements. The sacrifice of Black women’s bodies and lives is so normalized that it does not move the masses. The reality is that as Black women work tirelessly to spearhead grassroots efforts against institutional injustices, their fight is just not considered as important as when White mothers show up. The Wall of Moms is a prime example.”
Aniefuna, L. I., Amari Aniefuna, M., & Williams, J. M. (2020). Creating and Undoing Legacies of Resilience: Black Women as Martyrs in the Black Community Under Oppressive Social Control. Women & Criminal Justice, 1-18.
Amber Goodwin, “Police kill 1,000 people a year with guns. White anti-gun violence advocates never addressed it.” https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/police-kill-1-000-people-year-guns-white-anti-gun-ncna1227536
Kelly Glass, “Black Mothers in Chicago are the Village against Gun Violence.” https://zora.medium.com/black-mothers-in-chicago-are-the-village-against-gun-violence-19d56027756e
Kelly Glass, “The ‘Wall of Moms’ is not the story. Black moms have been in this fight for years.” https://www.thelily.com/the-wall-of-moms-is-not-the-story-black-moms-have-been-in-this-fight-for-years/?utm_campaign=wp_evening_edition&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_evening