by Bridjes O’Neil
Special to the NNPA from the St. Louis American
The Rev. Traci Blackmon of Christ the King UCC said it was time for all wailing mothers to have a voice.
“There’s a scripture in Jeremiah that says, ‘Call for the Wailing Women.’ No more killing. No more blood. No more wailing mothers,” Blackmon said.
Mothers from across the country gathered at the St. Louis County Justice Center in Clayton on Saturday, calling for an end to all violence. Blackmon helped organize the Mother’s March along with the Rev. Karen Anderson of Ward Chapel AME, Rev. Rebecca Ragland of Episcopal Church of Holy Communion, and Dr. Leah Gunning Francis, a professor at Eden Seminary.
Blackmon said the idea to organize a march stemmed from speaking engagements she would have about Michael Brown. Brown, an unarmed black teen, was fatally shot by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson two months ago.
“There was rarely a time when I would go somewhere to speak that some mother wouldn’t stop me afterwards and want to tell the story of her child being killed,” Blackmon said. “We began to pray about it and looked at all the lives that had been lost—not just black lives.”
“The sound of wailing is heard from Zion,” Anderson said. “The sound of wailing is heard from Ferguson. The sound of wailing is heard from Shaw.”
The Shaw Neighborhood is where 18-year-old VonDerrit Myers Jr. was fatally shot by an off-duty St. Louis police officer on October 8. Homicides in St. Louis city are up thirty percent from 2013, and are on track to break previous records. They called for justice in Brown’s death—and all killings.
The solemn protest first began with four minutes of silence in memory of Brown and was marked by moving mini-sermons, speeches and spoken word performances. Men joined women in solidarity— including the Rev. Starsky Wilson and Dr. Arun Ghandi, grandson of Muhatma Ghandi.
Wilson said he became acquainted early on with mother’s who bury their sons because of violence in the streets—something he described as “out-of-order.”
“I sat on the front pew of my church and looked up at my mother who looked over at the coffin where my brother lay,” he said. “I saw my mother weeping and wailing.”
Dr. Arun said it is important not to define ourselves as black, brown or white because we are all human beings. He questioned how one of the most powerful and richest countries in the world could be the most violent and said the time has come for women to take leadership.
“We have created a gun culture and a violent culture that needs to change,” he said. “My grandfather said, ‘Peace in this world would arrive only when the women awaken.’”
The hon. Betty L. Thompson—who lost her own son, Tyrone, to gun violence—brought attention to the case of 27-year-old Jarvis Murphy. His now 14-year-old daughter, Amber Moore, stood next to Thompson. Murphy was left comatose for two and a half years and died from injuries he sustained after a traffic stop in Overland.
“Hold that up so the cameras can see it,” said Murphy’s grandmother, Thelma Evans, referring to Amber’s Justice for Jarvis sign with a photo of her father.
They marched once around the Justice Center, beginning east on Carondelet Avenue to S. Bemiston Avenue and right on Bonhomme Avenue to Carondelet Avenue. Mothers who lost children to violence were asked to carry photos of their children during the march.
“We really never found out what happened,” Evans said.
Evans’ said the family’s goal is to have the case re-opened. Yvette Harris, founder of Mothers Against Senseless Killings or M.A.S.K., recalled her son’s sense of humor and his relationship with God.
“He was just a joyous young man,” Harris said of her 17-year-old son, O’Dale Terry, who died by gun violence. After the march, 110 rainbow-hued balloons was released representing the 110 victims of violence in the region so far this year.