By Delicia Hand
Before I became a mother, I always admired the ability of moms -- of Black and brown boys in particular -- to keep focused and remain calm and positive in the multitude of adverse situations they and their sons encountered. When I'd hear my sisters, cousins and friends talk about the challenges they faced in the educational system, or hear my older nephews talk about their interactions with law enforcement officials, I would become infuriated to the core. "Never my child," I would say. Or “These people are going to have to kill me if I ever have a son." I had no idea how these moms, in the face of such adversities, could manage to be constructive and fight calmly for their sons. Now that fight is my fight; their sons are my sons.
So, in the Fall of 2014 -- just a few months after Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri -- when the country was still brimming with debate and heated tensions, and merely days after Tamir Rice was gunned down in his neighborhood park -- I learned that I was expecting a child. A few months later, scans confirmed I was having a boy; instead of joy, I felt fear, anxiety, and disappointment. On one hand, I was grateful to be able to carry a successful pregnancy to term. On the other hand, I realized that I would now bring into the world someone whom I would love with my entire being but still be incapable of shielding from the world and how he might be perceived. Before he even came into the world, race mattered. I feared for his life and felt powerless. This is how my journey into motherhood began.
When my son Lucian was born, as instance after instance of continued police violence against Black men and boys continued to fill the headlines and social media, I was overcome with rage and heartache. This was the world I had brought my child into. Something had to change; I wracked my brain. I'd spent my career in policy and politics; so activism and engagement on an issue wasn't new. I'm an attorney; I'd worked on Capitol Hill, I'd testified before Congress on policy issues, I've represented consumers on complex issues; but felt powerless to help my own child. Where law school and my career had taught me the skill of dispassionate engagement, there was no way to be dispassionate about my son. I had never had so deep a personal connection to something that it was simultaneously paralyzing as it was motivating. Although I knew how to address the issues I was observing, none of the groups and communities of which I was a part addressed the unique emotional distress and burden of raising a Black son, nor did they provide tools and resources to equip mothers to improve the policies affecting their sons. I joined local moms groups and Mocha Moms hoping to find support among other moms, particularly moms of color and moms of Black sons. But, there was no space for these issues.
Like an answer to a prayer, at the end of the same week of Alton Sterling's and Philando Castile's deaths, a friend added me to the Moms of Black Boys United, Inc. (MOBBU) Facebook page. It was a relief to be amongst -- albeit virtually -- other mothers to whom I felt connected instantly. They would understand my fears and anxiety, but they also would understand the urgency of this current and every future moment. I plugged in immediately; I joined calls. And when the group began to form issue committees, I joined the Policy Committee and Organizational Development committee. I didn't really care in what capacity I joined. I wanted to be a part of the conversation, and I wanted to use my skills to help in anyway possible. Suddenly, the appreciation that this journey wasn't just about my son, but all of our sons, was empowering and motivating.
I'm currently chair of our Policy Committee, which primarily drives advocacy initiatives for our sister organization, MOBB United for Social Change. As a committee, we research policies that impact Black men and boys, identify opportunities to advocate on behalf of our sons, and guide MOBB United's responses to and approach in instances where Black men and boys have been victims of unjustified force and violence by police.
In the 9 months since the organization’s founding, the Policy committee has helped to:
- Facilitate MOBB United's participation in the Congressional Black Caucus's (CBC) Annual Legislative Conference.
- Drive a down ballot voter education campaign.
- Encourage MOBB United moms’ participation in state advocacy initiatives.
- Administered several calls to action, encouraging moms to reach out to local, state, and federal elected officials.
- Meet with state and federal legislators to advocate for better policies for our sons.
We've only just begun. This year, we are focused on developing relationships with key Congressional and State legislators, forging partnerships with organizations that share similar goals and missions. We need you and your energy for the fight!
If you have a background in law or policy, join the committee!
If you have passion and energy to seek out policy solutions and be an
advocate for your son, join us! We have a few subcommittees that drive
our work. Our Policy Updates subcommittee drives our research, so we
always are aware of latest developments. Our Policy Message subcommittee
ensures that we develop the most compelling, data-driven arguments and
messaging to drive our advocacy efforts. Finally, our Policy Strategy
subcommittee ensures that we create and leverage the right opportunities
to impact policies and successful advocate for our sons.
We meet every other week at 10 PM EST. For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Congratulations to Delicia Hand, who delivered her second son, Theodore Nigel Hand, on June 13, 2017.*