By Monalisa Smith
“Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining. Stop grumbling. Stop crying. We are going to press on. We have work to do.’’
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
We all need to put on our marching shoes and take every single senseless violent act toward our children personally. We must take a position that it is not acceptable. Children have the right to live withouth fear.
Children are dying. This month, two children, ages 14 and 16, were attacked in their neighborhood. One died; the other is in critical condition. In the first two weeks of September, three young men were murdered in the Boston area. In addition, there have been stabbings and shootings in Roslindale, Hyde Park, Roxbury, Readville, and Mattapan tin the last few weeks.
The recent incidents demonstrate that violence is not confined to one neighborhood. The impact of these crimes is felt far beyond the victims. Violence cripples families and neighborhoods alike. Yet somehow, this violence and loss of young lives has become not only unsurprising, but unnoticed. The sad truth that acts of violence have become normalized in this society dehumanizes all of us. It is time for that mindset to change.
So yes, Mr. President, we need to put on our marching shoes. Mothers for Justice and Equality (MJE) was founded with the vision of a world in which it is never normal or acceptable for children to be murdered. MJE’s “call to action” came in September 2010 when a small group of Boston area mothers, many suffering from the loss of a child themselves, gathered to share concerns about the alarming numbers of murders involving children. We adopted the mission of ending neighborhood violence.
MJE works at the grassroots level to educate and engage emerging community leaders, particularly mothers, in taking ownership of the crisis of violence in their neighborhoods and in participating in solving it. MJE acts as a catalyst for members to convene and to empower themselves through education and engagement opportunities. Engagement actions aim to create change at home as well as in neighborhoods. Neighbors join together for healing, mentoring, awareness, advocacy, and peace-building. Education empowers members of MJE by providing the civic leadership tools they need to support their efforts.
For too long, neighborhood violence has left mothers numb and without a voice. That time is past. We believe that our pain can fuel action and our voices can sound a clarion call. Engaged and empowered mothers, working with one another, may be the key to ending violence.
Ultimately, MJE believes that change will occur as the internalized expectations of what is acceptable in our neighborhoods changes. Children deserve to grow up free from fear. Children deserve to be valued and deserve the support of the entire community. No other organization has proposed harnessing and focusing the fierce love and protectiveness of mothers to create neighborhoods where playgrounds are safe and sidewalks are not threatening. We are drying our tears and pressing on. We are standing up to be heard. We are ready to act. We can no longer tolerate children being ripped from us through violence.
We need to put on our marching shoes because our children need us more than ever. We, the Mothers for Justice and Equality, are calling on all Americans to help us save our children because there is nothing more important to us than their lives.
Monalisa Smith is president of Mothers for Justice and Equality.