Mothers of the Movement event

Mothers of the Movement inspire resiliency in community, students
Posted on 09/28/2021

InspireNOLA, in partnership with Alliance for Diversity and Excellence (ADE), was proud to host three women who have shown true resiliency in the face of adversity: Tamika Palmer, the mother of Breonna Taylor; Gwendolyn Carr, the mother of Eric Garner; and Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin. Members of the Mothers of the Movement, these courageous women shared their journeys and their resilience with New Orleans students and the community.

“We felt it was necessary to have a conversation with the community about what we can do to protect our students from the systems of gun violence,” said Ashley Daniels, Interim CEO of Einstein charter schools and 20-21 Senior ADE Leadership Institute Cohort. “We need to fight against an epidemic where it seems like our young black and brown bodies can be seen as target practice instead of humans deserving of grace, protection, and hope.”  

The three woman participated in a community panel and Q&A on September 24 before addressing more than 1000 middle and high school students across the city at Xavier University on September 25.

“If you see who is in this room, you see students who are trying to change our times and our lives. It is important to understand that we need you. We love you. We are not afraid to say that,” said InspireNOLA CEO Jamar McKneely. “Today, celebrate because we are all fighting together at this point in time for survival - for survival of our lives.”

Tamika Palmer, the mother of Breonna Taylor, an ER technician who was killed in her home by police, said it is her duty to help the Breonnas to come.

“560 days ago, LAPD kicked in Breonna’s door and murdered her. To fight for 560 days is insane. To have to fight that long for somebody to do the right thing to give her justice is insane,” Palmer said. “The only thing I know how to do is fight for Breonna. I do this because so many other mothers don’t get this opportunity.”

Palmer has been fighting to make it a requirement for officers to live in the neighborhoods they police.

“We’ve been fighting this battle forever. They continuously don’t hold people accountable for what happens to us. They want us to have faith in a system that has never protected us and doesn’t serve us,” Palmer said. “It’s one of the hardest struggles we deal with. They are going into neighborhoods and killing people because they don’t know how to interact with them. Until they hold people accountable for hurting us, they will continue to act this way.” 

Palmer encourages everyone to get involved and have hope.

“I say hold on. I say keep going. I say don’t give up. I know it’s a tired song. But I think we are in the best position to get the change we’ve always wanted,” she said. “Now is the time. We can’t give up.” 

Gwendolyn Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, who was died while in a prohibited police chokehold, said she and the other mothers are a part of club no one wants to join. 

“We must stand together because we know the pain. This is what we’ve committed to do for the rest of our lives,” Carr said. “We’re not celebrities. Our children died. They paid the ultimate price. We are the mothers, the vessels that carried them. They are the celebrities. They paid the ultimate price. I will not let my son’s name be forgotten.” 

Carr successfully got the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act passed in New York, which stipulates that any police officer in the state of New York who injures or kills somebody through the use of "a chokehold or similar restraint" can be charged with a class C felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

“We didn’t go for reform, we went for a total revision. Right now, it can’t help my child, but it may help yours. I’m out there for our children,” Carr said. “We have to learn how to stay alive until all these laws are changed. We should have a world that we can live in and don’t be afraid to walk the streets or don’t be afraid when a police officer stops us for a normal traffic stop. It’s sad that a Black mother has to have a different conversation with our children than our white counterparts.”

“This has to stop. The only way to stop it is that we have to come together. It’s not too late for you. It’s not too late for other mother’s children. That is why I am out here today for you,” Carr told the students. “You are our future and we are depending on you to  make this world a better place for us to live in. This is the United States and it was built on our backs. And no one has the right to say we shouldn’t be here or that we don’t have the same rights as others.” 

Carr urged everyone to vote.

“Please vote. That is the most powerful access that you have. Not only vote but know who you are voting for. If we all stick together and vote for the right person, we will be in a better place,” she said. “And allow yourself to be at the table. If you are not at the table, you are on the menu.”

Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old who was shot by man in the neighborhood who thought he “looked suspicious” because he was wearing a hoodie.

“My son was 17 years old. He was unarmed. He was a momma’s boy. He loved his family. He loved to eat junk food like many of you. He loved videogames. And he loved that hoodie,” Fulton said. “My son looked suspicious to someone who had evil intent on their mind. It’s not always about you. It’s about the person holding the gun.”

Fulton said she will continue to be the voice for her child and fight against gun violence, which is happening more often at younger ages.

“Every day someone is being killed. If you get caught up in what the news is telling you every day, you can lose it really easily,” Fulton said. “I’m here to leave you a message. I’m here to inspire you and you are here to inspire me. Never give up. Your life matters. And you need to keep telling yourself that until you believe that. I’m here today to encourage you to know that whatever you are going through, you can do it. You can make it.”

Fulton told students they have to motivate themselves, stay focused, and convince themselves they can achieve their goals.

“I believe that I am the conductor of my life train. I decide if I stop, if I go fast, if I go slow, if I let people on or if I let people get off. I am going to keep moving because this is my train,” she said. “Don’t let anyone try to steal your train. You are the conductor of your train. You are the conductor of your life.” 

In addition to the powerful words of these mothers, two poets also shared their works with the students that echoed the day’s message.

Living School junior Joy Alsanders said in her poem “Justice”: 

 “Why is justice blind...will she not open her eyes to see the hatred in the world. The system that was supposed to protect me rejects me...I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, a student, I am a person. A person of this generation that can change this system….Justice will not be blind to me.”

Dillard University student Nia Gates said in her as yet untitled poem: 
“The journey of life can be quite difficult but here we are…. Better days are coming…. We never stop putting in the effort to molding a better future for us all….let’s fight for what’s right and speak for the voices that have been silenced….we must stand strong and stand together. We have come so far and have so much farther to go but together we will.”

A recording of Friday’s student event is available for viewing on YouTube: