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May 10, 2020

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Wanda Cooper Jones with her son Ahmaud Arbery
Today a growing list of black mothers face Mother’s Day with grief because their children have been taken from them too soon, Ahmaud Arbery’s mother now counted among them - via the Washington Post. In addition, a large number of black mothers woke up behind bars today not because they have been found guilty of a crime but because they cannot afford the ransom that has been set for their freedom.

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Consider now! Call for the wailing women to come; send for the most skillful of them. Let them come quickly and wail over us till our eyes overflow with tears and water streams from our eyelids...."

Now, you women, hear the word of the Lord; open your ears to the words of his mouth. Teach your daughters how to wail; teach one another a lament. "Death has climbed in through our windows and has entered our fortresses; it has removed the children from the streets and the young men from the public squares."

This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord. - ‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭9:17-18, 20-21, 23-24‬

In this segment of Jeremiah, we are told that there existed a group of women whose job it was to wail and hold vigil. These women lead their people in expression of grief in tragedy. God is telling us here that it is good and healthy to wail and cry when death steals from us, when injustices take our loved ones.

Today is Mother’s Day, a day for celebration of the maternal figures and feminine energies that bring love and nurturing to our lives. There is an ever-present tension in the celebration of Mother’s Day, however, for those of us with a complicated or negative experience with our own mothers, or for those among us who long to raise children of their own but have not realized this dream, or for those who have lost your mother figures. We see you today. We also make space for mothers who have lost their children. We grieve and mourn with you. Your child existed. They mattered. We see you and we remember their lives with you.  

A subgroup of this sorority of mourning mothers are those who have lost their children to the sin of white supremacy. These mothers cannot hold their children today because a white person felt empowered to take that precious child from this earth and from their families. With this group of mothers, we wail. We wail for your loss and for the unspeakable injustices fueled by hatred and racism. How DARE these white people, these systems, approach your children in this way! We see you. Your child mattered. These things should never have happened. It should not have taken two months to arrest the murderers of Ahmaud Arbery, whose stalking and killing was caught on tape. White killers should not walk free after taking black lives, especially those who do so from behind a badge, as with Tamir Rice and Michael Brown. May our collective wailing cause others to take notice, to join the mourning of these national tragedies, and begin the long and hard work of reparation.

We also hold space for the mothers who cannot be with their children today because they are being held hostage by the criminal justice system, forced to do jail time for a crime for which they may never be convicted. We see you. We see the many ways the system is profiting from you, and the ways that your children are placed in precarious situations as a result of your incarceration. We wail for you, and we will continue to fight to dismantle the system that has caged you.

To honor Ahmaud Arbery, who would have turned 26 on Friday, many are running 2.23 miles this weekend to mark February 23, the day he was murdered.  Post your run on social media with the tag #IRunWithMaud.

Cash bail is just one of the many ways our system seeks to control black bodies. Many black people, including black mothers, are being held hostage in our jails even if they have not been convicted of any crime. To honor Mother’s Day, consider donating to National Bail Out’s Free Black Mamas Campaign

Mother God,

We admit and acknowledge this country’s original and enduring sins of racism and white supremacy. We pray for complete repentance. Show us a path toward reparation, God of Repair and Mercy.

We pray for the wisdom and strength to bring healing and justice, on Earth as it is in Heaven.

We pray for an end to white supremacy, an end to racist policing, an end to the ransom system that is cash bail.

With mothers who mourn this day, we mourn. 

With the mother of Ahmaud Arbery, we mourn.

With the mother of Breonna Taylor, we mourn.

With the mother of Sean Reed, we mourn.

With Tamir’s mother, Trayvon’s mother, Sandra’s mother, we mourn.  

We mourn with you, God, the mother of us all.


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