Imagine your life as the mother of a grown child. A grown black man. Maybe he has some issues: difficulty finding a job, mental illness, a minor record of police encounters. Perhaps he is behind on child support payments. But he is on his own, as our society says he is supposed to be. You stay in touch. You worry. You celebrate his accomplishments and his independence. You give love and support. You worry.
And then you get the call.
Late at night, in some cases. Morning. Middle of the day.
By the time they come to talk to you, your child will have been dead for several hours. Unless, as for some, he is killed in your presence, over your screams of protest. They will start with questions. Do you know where your son is? When did you last see him? You will feel in your bones where this is going, but still reel with shock when they finally put it into words.
They will keep his body as "evidence," and deny you the chance to say goodbye until he is released, days later, to the funeral home. They will begin their investigation, question his friends, run his record, begin to smear him and your family publicly. As if his death at the hands of police is somehow his fault or your fault -- excusable because of his perceived failings or vulnerabilities.
Ultimately, the actions of the officer who killed your child will most likely be ruled justified -- "self-defense" -- even though your son was unarmed. If you're unusually lucky, the officer may be fired from his job. If you win the lottery, he may be charged. If your stars are aligned, he may be found guilty and serve a short sentence.
You will never be the same.
Maria Hamilton, founder of Mothers for Justice United, is living this story. Her son Dontre was killed on April 30, 2014. This Mothers Day weekend she is bringing victims' mothers and family members and their supporters from around the country to Washington, D.C. for the Million Moms March. On Saturday, May 9 -- which is Maria's birthday, and the anniversary of the day she buried her son -- they will march to the Department of Justice to present their demands for justice for their children.
Among their requests is that the victims' cases be reviewed for civil rights violations, that the involved police departments undergo patterns and practices investigations, and that those found to be consistently in violation be subject to monitoring and necessary restructuring.
Mothers for Justice United will continue to provide support and advocacy for the mothers and their families, and will mourn each time another mother joins their ranks. These killings need to stop.