New York, NY – A new group of working-class mothers called “Moms United for Black Lives” has formed following the outrageous police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many other people of color.
“Moms United started after the whole debacle with Wall of Moms,” Danialle James, a former caregiver and leader of the Portland Chapter of “Moms United for Black Lives,” said this week. “Folks wanted a place for moms to come together and be in one space with likeminded people to fight this evil system.”
According to James, “Moms United for Black Lives” officially formed on August 4, as a direct response to another Portland suburban mom group known as “Wall of Moms” appropriating the focus of protests away from the pursuit of positive institutional changes for Black lives.
James, who became unemployed after suffering a devastating stroke that forced her to learn how to walk all over again, says her new grandson is inspiring her activism.
“I’m hoping there will be place for his young self to grow, prosper and be somebody,” James said. “I hope when he applies for a job he gets it because of his intellect, not because of the color of his skin or lack thereof.”
Tanesha Grant, a former administrator for the Wall of Moms Facebook group in New York, says she was initially leery about joining the group when she realized there were no Black people involved. But decided to join anyway, utilizing her experience as a education activist and organizer.
The Black activists reportedly fell out with “Wall of Moms” after its de facto Portland leader Beverly Barnum decided she wanted to center the group on social justice issues that weren’t specific to solving issues related to Black communities.
“She started a 501(c) 3 behind our backs for “Wall of Moms,” James said. “She made this about her job. She has a history in [public relations].”
After relations soured with Wall of Moms, Grant joined “Moms United for Black Lives” and used her platform to help the group.
“We actually had a huge action [Monday],” said Grant. “The system tries to divide parents, students and teachers. One of the things that COVID has done [is teach] us to band together.”
Along with helping “Moms United for Black Lives” provide remote learning for children during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Grant is organizing for better-funded schools, abolishing the police and dismantling white supremacy.
“Most of the time our own communities have been keeping us safe,” Grant said. “Our first instinct is not to call the police; our last instinct is not to call the police — we might end up dead! The best thing for us, is to come together as a community. I’ve been stopping thousands of fights. We’ve been keeping ourselves safe. But the times we did keep ourselves safe — when we did have ‘Black Wall Streets,’ when we did have our own — white people came and burned us down.”
Grant is referring to the Tulsa race riot.
Tulsa, Oklahoma was once home to one of the three towns in America referred to as “Black Wall Street.” The Black Wall Streets in Durham, North Carolina and Jackson Ward, Virginia were dismantled after desegregation under the guise of urban renewal. In 1921, an estimated 300 people in Tulsa were killed, another 800 injured and 6,000 more displaced when a white mob formed after a Black teen was accused of raping a white woman on Memorial Day.
Later reports described the incident as the teen merely stepping on the woman’s foot by accident.
“Our Black children have to fight for decent education. Our Black parents have to fight for decent jobs and houses,” said Grant.
Demetria Hester, a nursing home aide, supports defunding the police and wants more educational reforms.
“Let’s put more counselors that are Black in schools that our kids can relate too,” said Hester, who not only wants Black guidance counselors, but also Black therapists. “Let’s make sure our schools have food pantries. Let’s make sure our schools have laundries for kids.”
Grant and Hester want better educational opportunities so that their kids, just like the children of their white counterparts in the “Wall of Moms,” have the same prospects.
“People assume that you are not the lawyer,” said attorney Solange Bitol, a “Moms United for Black Lives” leader in New York. “I am a lawyer.”
Grant is tired of the notion that Black kids are criminals.
“We can’t be the doctor, we can’t be the lawyer,” she said. “It is all of these things.”
Hester shares Grant’s sentiments.
“The kids need guidance,” she said. “They are our future.”