FOREST PARK — Eight mothers sat on stage Sunday at the Missouri History Museum to discuss “the talk” black mothers have with their sons about dealing with police officers.
In its fifth year, the Mother 2 Mother panel fosters dialogue between white and black mothers about the often stark differences in raising their children.
On Sunday, the discussion was moderated by Simone Philips. She asked the people in the audience to close their eyes and “take a journey to transformative imagination.” Philips told them to imagine a world where black children are treated like children and not as “other.”
Five years ago, the killing of Michael Brown sparked a national conversation about how black people have to navigate their lives in America. Eight mothers decided that a discussion about the perils of raising black children in the post-Ferguson era is necessary now more than ever.
The emotion in the room was palpable, as the mothers shared their stories of losing their children. The women cited alleged police brutality, and many said they had not received justice nor answers for why their children were gone.
“How do I raise a young black man to be strong and proud, and then demean himself just to get home?” Nadida Matin asked the audience.
In 2013, Matin’s son was fatally shot by a police officer in New Jersey. Since then, she has been an advocate and active member against gun violence and police brutality.
As guests were allowed to grab the mic and ask questions, Philips encouraged white members of the audience to come forward and share their thoughts on what was discussed during the two-hour event.
One woman expressed her feelings of guilt about racism that black people face daily, and wanted to know what she could do to ally herself with blacks.
“You have to start by not asking us to take care of you and do your work,” one mother said.
“Wherever you have access, that is your field of work,” said another.
Nadida Matin’s husband, Mohammed Kamal, offered his thoughts as well.
“I’m a 60-year-old black man in America, and that’s a milestone,” he said. “Your uneasiness is the reason we die. If these things happened to white children, it would’ve been stopped immediately.”
Kamal went on to express his thoughts on how blacks could step up as well.
“Black people have become insensitive to the killings of our own people,” he warned. “We need to step up and get some resistance. This should bother you.”
A study published in August by Washington University found: “Black women and men and American Indian and Alaska Native women and men are significantly more likely than white women and men to be killed by police.”
The study also found that over a lifetime, about one in 1,000 black men will be killed by police.
With more than 22 area children killed this year, Mayor Lyda Krewson and aldermen are calling for stricter gun laws and legislation. Many Mother 2 Mother panelists disagreed.
“If you take all the guns off the street, it does not decrease the racial disparity we have in this country,” the Rev. Traci Blackmon, an area minister and activist, said. “We have to deal with race. I want us to hold police accountable.”
Blackmon said that she understood that the outlook could be bleak for children growing up in St. Louis, but that she refused to succumb to it.
“I refuse to raise children without joy, without hope,” she said. “Survival is not a destination; they deserve to thrive just like anybody else’s child.”
As emotion filled the room, Blackmon continued, “I’m not asking for anybody to give up what their child has. I’m asking for them to recognize it and make sure that everybody else’s child has it, too.
“That’s a lot, but it’s possible.”