Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ twist of fate

She and other leaders honor mothers of children lost to violence with ‘Standing in the Gap’ program in LA nine months after Ferguson

by Larry Buford

It had been just over nine months since unarmed Michael Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer. The pain and suffering of those nine months has given birth to a new era of intolerance for police brutality.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters speaks at “Walk for Life” in LA on Aug. 9, 2014.
Congresswoman Maxine Waters speaks at “Walk for Life” in LA on Aug. 9, 2014.

On the heels of Mother’s Day, more than a thousand community members turned out for a luncheon on Saturday, May 30, at the Westin Hotel near LAX to honor those whose children lost their lives to violence and to join forces with the Black Women’s Forum (BWF), of which Congresswoman Maxine Waters is co-founder.

Perhaps Waters – who is to be commended for championing the effort – was destined to facilitate the occasion. In an ironic twist of fate, nine months earlier, on Aug. 9, 2014, she participated in the peaceful “Walk for Life” march and rally in Los Angeles, which began at 8:30 a.m. (PST). It was a celebration to commemorate peace among local gang rivals.

During the rally, Waters praised the police and community for working together. It was learned only later what was taking place at the same time in Ferguson. Although Michael Brown’s tragic death became the springboard for a “March for Justice” everywhere, Waters was quick to point out that all the tragic deaths mattered and served to help get us to where we are today.

Honorees of the program, called “Standing in the Gap,” were Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin; Lesley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown; Tritobia Ford, mother of Ezell Ford; Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner; and Sandra Thomas, mother of Alesia Thomas. Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice was unable to attend.

The panel discussion – moderated by Waters – was about the mother’s shared pain and the often forgotten humanity of their children. Some of the mothers have begun foundations in their slain child’s name to create awareness of how violent crime impacts the families of the victims and to provide support and advocacy for those families.

Although Michael Brown’s tragic death became the springboard for a “March for Justice” everywhere, Waters was quick to point out that all the tragic deaths mattered and served to help get us to where we are today.

As each of the mothers told their stories, the audience was able to get a better picture of the character of each victim, which is seldom if ever mentioned in the media. For instance, Carr mentioned that her son Eric attended Ohio State University and had high entrepreneurial aspirations but was inhibited by his asthmatic condition.

Turning to the other mothers on stage, McSpadden said, “I’m fighting for my son and your son and your son.” Waters added, “Our children are depending on us to protect them. That includes protesting, organizing and working to change laws that allow police officers to kill Black and Brown youth with little to no consequences. It’s unacceptable for someone with a gun and a badge to have that kind of power over someone who’s unarmed – someone they’re paid to protect and serve.”

Honorees of the program, called “Standing in the Gap,” were Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin; Lesley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown; Tritobia Ford, mother of Ezell Ford; Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner; and Sandra Thomas, mother of Alesia Thomas. Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice was unable to attend.

Attorney Benjamin L. Crump, considered to be one of the country’s top 100 trial lawyers, said another aspect of repairing the criminal justice system is having Black people on juries. Instead of finding ways to get out of jury duty, he asked those present to take service seriously. “The jury pool is not representative, and that makes a difference,” he said.

Fulton charged those in attendance to go beyond jury duty and encouraged community residents to “vote and remain engaged in local affairs.”

Special guests in attendance included Congresswoman Karen Bass; Congresswoman Marcia Fudge; Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts; Pastor Rosalynn K. Brookins, Brookins AME; Pastor Reginald Pope, Bethel Missionary Baptist Church; Bishop Kenneth C. Ulmer, Faithful Central Bible Church; Bishop C. Garnett Henning, Ward AME Church; Pastor Shane Scott, Macedonia Baptist Church; Pastor Melvin Wade, Mt. Moriah Baptist Church; actresses Victoria Rowell, Dawnn Lewis and Holly Robinson Peete. Also on hand was former Councilwoman Jan Perry, general manager of the Economic and Workforce Development Department, George McKenna, LA Board of Education and many, many more.

A song for the occasion, titled “Standing in the Gap,” was performed by Angie Fisher. Supporters included Stevie Wonder and his KJLH Radio team, Jackson Limousine Services, the LA Sentinel and many others.

The BWF was founded in the 1980s by Waters, along with deceased founders former LA Sentinel Publisher Ruth Washington and Ethel Bradley, the wife of former LA Mayor Tom Bradley.

Email writer Larry S. Buford at lbuford8101@hotmail.com.