A recent tragic shooting claimed the life of 6-month-old Jonylah Watkins on Chicago's South Side. This heartbreaking story is only one of many in the city of Chicago, which has become one of the most violent cities in the nation. Stretching further still, the escalation of violence can be seen across the world in epic proportions. This is a global epidemic, and there is much work to be done to end it. So, who can take on such a task? Mothers can.
Go back in time with me to when I was a young mother with my 6-month-old baby. I woke out of a very sound sleep one night to an alarm going off in a neighbor's car. As I lay there in my bed trying desperately to fall back asleep, I heard this song in my head over and over again:
While my children are sleeping in their canopy bed,
The mother in Africa,
Her children are dead
Oh, how can I sleep when I know this is true?
We have to wake up cause they're family too.
Oh, mothers of the world, you need to hear this song!
You have to go to your people and tell them they are wrong about us....
We want love.
We want peace.
Yes, my children were in a canopy bed and I was a young mother with two toddlers and a new baby. I was busy raising my children, there wasn't much time left over to think about world peace. This little song with its beckoning tune kept playing in my head over the next few years of my life. Visions began to form of a time when mothers would stand up and demand peace. Thirty years later, EarthHeart Foundation was formed, with my dear friend Dede Koldyke at the helm.
As Dede and I were doing research for the foundation, we were very surprised to discover that the holiday known as "Mother's Day" was originally created as a peace movement! Most people do not know this. We woman have been busy, we don't know much about our roots. Our history does not include herstory. I want to share with you part of the Mother's Day Proclamation that was written by Julia Ward Howe in 1870. Julia Ward Howe is best known for writing the Civil War anthem "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and for co-founding the American Woman Suffrage Association with Lucy Stone. Read these words and realize their power:
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.
Mothers, you are the change we are waiting for. Women are powerful and when we join together we have the ability to transform our world. Let me give you two great examples:
Madres of the Plaza de Mayo- Mothers in Argentina who were separated from their children as a result of illegal and brutal acts of the government joined together. Their nonviolent expression of truth to power eventually drew international attention. Human rights groups arrived to help them open up an office, publish their own newspaper and learn to make speeches. Although the police continued to harass them (in fact, the early founders mysteriously "disappeared"), it became more difficult for the government to ignore the moral presence of mothers standing witness to the illegal and brutal acts of the regime. As mothers, they presented a powerful moral symbol, which, over time, transformed them from women seeking to protect their children to women wishing to transform the state so that it reflected maternal values. In 1999, the organization was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace Education.
Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace- A movement started by women in Liberia, brought an end to the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003. Organized by social worker Leymah Gbowee, this movement started with thousands of local women praying and singing in a market daily for months. Thousands of women mobilized their efforts and staged silent nonviolent protests that included a sex strike. The movement eventually led to the democratic election of Liberia's first female president (Ellen Johnson Surleaf) in 2005. In 2011, Gbowee and Surleaf were honored with the Nobel Peace prize for their effots.
Let's start a grass roots movement, mothers! On Mother's Day weekend (Saturday, May 11), we will gather together in Chicago, Illinois. The mothers on all sides of the city want to pave the way as Ambassadors for Peace. They want to put a stop to violence like the tragedy of little Jonylah Watkins. These mothers have seen violence firsthand, they have watched their children die. Would you like to participate in EarthHeart Foundation's first annual Bringing Mothers Together as Ambassadors of Peace? If so, please go to http://www.earthheartfoundation.org/contact-us/ and send us an email.
This is an invitation to be part of a movement. Help the grass grow mothers! It's time to stand up, stand tall and speak up. WE ARE ALL FAMILY.