At her most recent appearance in Durham, North Carolina, Hillary Clinton had some notable guests in her entourage. They refer to themselves as the “Mothers of the Movement,” all members of the same unfortunate club: they have all lost a child in racially motivated circumstances, some to gun violence and some in encounters with police.
In this ubiquitous internet age that makes their children’s stories known everywhere almost instantly, they are dedicated to social justice and preventing other mothers from feeling their same pain. Additionally, they are dedicated to doing their part to make sure Hillary Clinton is elected.
The five mothers are Geneva Reed-Veal, Gwen Carr, Lucia McBath, Maria Hamilton and Sybrina Fulton, and they were with Clinton on Sunday, Oct. 23, at Union Baptist Church in Durham and then later at an event in Raleigh.
Their aim is to help Clinton win the Black vote, and to do so they have visited the states where the percentage points separating Clinton from Republican Donald Trump are smallest. They stressed how imperative it is for those concerned with criminal justice reform to express their concern through voting.
Clinton first met the mothers in the fall of 2015 in Chicago, a city known for its heavy gun violence. The Mothers of the Movement spoke at the Democratic National Convention on Clinton’s behalf, and are appearing with her in the states that will determine the election, the swing states. They have been to Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
The Guardian reports that Reed-Veal said to the congregation, “You have no business staying home in this election. If you decide to stay home, shut your mouth. Do not complain about anything that’s going on, do not talk about your neighborhood, do not talk about your neighbor, do not talk about what’s not going on.”
Geneva Reed-Veal’s daughter, Sandra Bland, was infamously — and mysteriously — found dead in a jail cell, three days after she was arrested by a Texas state trooper during a routine traffic stop.
The words of Reed-Veal exemplified the tough love of a Black mother, and, according to The Guardian, “were met with applause and scattered cries of ‘Amen.’ ”
Clinton referred to the mothers as “extraordinary women,” according to The Guardian, as all of them are kept going by memories of children gone too soon, but whose memories live on in the Black Lives Matter movement and the movement toward racial justice in America.
Maria Hamilton is the mother of Dontre Hamilton, who was 31 when he was shot 14 times by a white Milwaukee police officer who frisked him while he slept on a park bench. The death of Eric Garner, Gwen Carr’s son, prompted protests across the country after a video showed the father of six kept in an illegal chokehold by New York City police officers, despite him repeatedly telling them, “I can’t breathe.”
The sons of the remaining mothers, Lucia McBath and Sybrina Fulton, were not killed by law enforcement officers, but they were nonetheless killed by non-Black armed people suspected of having a bias against young Black men.
Trayvon Martin, Fulton’s son, was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood watch volunteer who thought the Black teen looked suspicious in the predominantly white neighborhood in Florida. Trayvon was 17 and unarmed.
McBath’s son, Jordan Davis, was also 17, and was shot in the same year and state as Trayvon. He was shot by Michael Dunn at a gas station because Dunn felt Davis’ music was too loud. Dunn has since been convicted of first-degree murder, attempted murder and firing into an occupied vehicle.
“They’ve all given me a lot of strength and encouragement. And they said things that I have carried in my heart,” Clinton told churchgoers on Sunday, according to The Guardian. “Their hearts may be broken, but their souls are shining.”
The Guardian reports that Gwen Carr said she first avoided Clinton and helping her campaign, but she was eventually swayed and impressed by the conversation she had with Clinton when they met last fall. Last month in Philadelphia, Carr acknowledged her position and reasoning: “There’s power in the Black vote.”