Talking last night to mothers who’ve had children murdered on the streets of Boston has left me scrambling for words today. The occasion was a Mother’s Day Monday Interfaith Worship service spearheaded by the office of Massachusetts State Senator Diane Wilkerson. For the past ten years Wilkerson has used her office to help call attention to the alarming number of young people who are murdered every year in Boston as a result of street violence. As a politician Senator Wilkerson knows that her office has to tackle the issue of violence and crime in her city and state, but as a woman of faith she knows that there is also a spiritual problem that needs attending to. “I have no memory of going to a classmate’s funeral when I was a child,” she said. “But it’s a common occurrence for inner-city children here. Everybody knows at least one someone who was shot or killed in street violence. That tells me that we have failed our children.”
I was slated to be the speaker at the Mother’s Day Monday service, but I did more listening than I did talking. Mothers stood and talked about the children they lost to gang violence, cross fire, and unsolved street violence. There was lots of talk about love, family, faith, and forgiveness. Still, it was like it happened yesterday. Each woman could remember exactly what she was doing when the knock on the door came with news of her child’s death. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place. Mothers talked about the pain of burying children, and the rest of us sat there and listened and wept. Like mourning women all over the world we gathered to weep with the mothers and to protest to anyone who may be listening, “This has got to stop.”
School will be out soon, and lots of inner city youth everywhere who are looking forward to the summer will have little to nothing to do all day while their parents are at work. Funds for summer youth programs have dried up, says our elected officials. “Something is wrong when more money is spent in this country on building prisons than it is on educating and lifting the spirits of children,” says Senator Wilkerson.
Meanwhile, mothers in Boston are bracing themselves. And praying. And weeping. And organizing. And praying. And weeping. And organizing.
If there were summer camps that you went away to back when I was a kid we didn’t know anything about them. Summer was spent outside. “Go outside and play.” “Stay out of trouble.” “Be in the house when the street lights come on.” Playing outside in the streets was how we spent our summers when I was child. Bike riding. Skating. Running to the store. But no one plays outside much anymore these days. For one reason, it’s too dangerous. Another reason is because the community youth centers where we learned to swim, play softball, and passing love notes to each other have been replaced by the violent games children get to watch on TV and the computer.
While words do not come easy today, I don’t want to miss the opportunity today to salute women like State Senator Diane Wilkerson and organizations everywhere like “Mothers on A Mission” who are working to make neighborhoods safe for boys and girls to be able to play and working to help mothers of murdered children find a way to turn their grief into a cause to organize to save the children that are still with us.