Several Black mothers who lost children to police violence recently spoke at an event at Rutgers University-New Brunswick and say there needs to be better accountability when it comes to law enforcement.
The teach-in, which took place last week, was sponsored by Douglass Residential College, the Institute for Women’s Leadership, the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, the Paul Robeson Centennial Celebration and the Division of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement.
Mothers at the event included Lesley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown; Wanda Johnson, mother of Oscar Grant; Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner; Kadi Diallo, mother of Amadou Diallo; Valerie Bell, mother of Sean Bell; and Hawa Bah, mother of Mohamed Bah.
Students were engaged to have an open dialog with the women and discussed solutions about how to improve police-community relations.
“What we need is officers who care and have a relationship with the community,” said Carr, whose son died after a New York City police officer put him in a chokehold while arresting him. She added that many of the mothers involved in the group––whose sons’ deaths inspired the Black Lives Matter movement––have police officers in their families.
“This is not a club anyone hopes to become a part of, but we are united, and we will do what we can to change the narrative,” said Marion Gray-Hopkins, whose son Gary Hopkins Jr., 19, was unarmed when he was fatally shot by police in 1999 during an altercation. “We hear the stories from the point of view of police, but those are often not true.”
Elizabeth Gunn, associate dean of academic and STEM programs at Douglass Residential College, said the event brought to life an important part of the school’s message.
“This year at Douglass, students are learning about persistence, and all the mothers have channeled grief into activism, something all women at Douglass can incorporate,” Gunn said.