May 18 2015

Every Mother’s Day is, and should be, quite special.  This time around, I engaged in a week leading up to Mother’s Day that was particularly memorable.  It was where the themes of “Mothers” and “Justice” collide.

In partnership with our colleagues at Amnesty International, we co-hosted a 10-day “pop-up” exhibit called Manifest: Justice in South Los Angeles.  We invited artists to submit work that spoke to the themes of injustice, justice, oppression, and healing.  As a health foundation, we are increasingly mindful about the relationship between and among adversity, oppression, injustice and community and individual wellness.  So, supporting the Manifest: Justice exhibit represented a new kind of territory for us.

I was amazed at how artists creatively captured these themes, for example:  A Ferguson police car with a community garden sprouting inside; a small room that was one-half prison cell and one half school classroom (comparing the costs of incarceration versus education); a weeping “Miss Liberty” from the Statue of Liberty.  Inspiring, thought-provoking, and powerful.

But the highlight at the Manifest: Justice exhibit for me was engaging in a public conversation with activist-actress Rosario Dawson, and Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin.  Since her son’s tragic and untimely demise, Ms. Fulton has toured the nation speaking to themes of justice, and oppression, and healing – and motherhood.  She spoke candidly and openly about her pain and the trauma affecting her family that played out on the national stage.  She embodies the notion that resilient people (and I would argue resilient communities) who cope with even devastating tragedy are capable of manifesting positive social action and leadership against injustice.  Ms. Fulton described her “Circle of Mothers” approach, where she has reached out to and engaged mothers who deal with similar tragedies, like Gloria Darden, the mother of Baltimore’s Freddie Gray.  Rosario Dawson spoke passionately about her work with United We Win and Voto Latino on the importance of civic engagement of young people across the nation.  She is, quite simply, a force for good.

Balancing her identity as a public figure and a mourning mother must be devastating, to say the least, and yet Ms. Fulton does so with powerful grace. It is her resilience and ultimately her love of both of her sons and her community that gives her the strength to fight against injustices and work to change the systems that are leading to empty kitchen tables and broken hearts.

So this past Mother’s Day, beyond the traditional flowers and the cards, took on a bit more special meaning this past week.  I was reminded of the role that Mothers play in the battle for equality and social justice.  And Manifestly so.

Dr. Bob Ross

You may also enjoy reading Sybrina Fulton Lends Voice To Art Exhibit: ‘I Have To Be A Spokesperson For The Voiceless’ by clicking here

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