Longstanding racial tensions in America were reignited in the wake of recent filmed, fatal police shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota. Those incidents spawned more Black Lives Matter protests across the country, including in Dallas, where a lone sniper took the lives of five police officers who were reportedly there to protect the otherwise peaceful protesters.
With police killing at least 146 black people in 2016, according to a project by the Guardian that tracks police killings in America, an internal alarm has sounded in black mothers across the nation once again. Some are banning together in large numbers pleading for stricter gun laws.
I caught up with a few mothers to photograph them and discuss how they keep their sons safe.
Monica Cost, Chief Pathfinder
We don’t watch the news at our home because you can’t control the inputs on the television. You never know what’s coming next so I usually bring the news to them and we talk about it. The last thing I want is for my sons to live in fear. But I want them to be aware. I’d rather have them have awareness than fear.
I’m tapped out on talking. I want action. What are we doing about policy, police training, how are we mobilizing in the communities? If officers were required to spend a certain amount of hours connecting to the community they serve I think this conversation would be different.
Nikole Skoko, Interior Designer
My son just turned 17 and got his driver’s license. Every time he gets into the car and pulls out of the driveway I am on guard.
My son wants to be a father one day. He wants to be a husband. He’s a great son, an incredible brother and an awesome friend. These are things, if you pulled my son over you wouldn’t know or maybe you don’t take the time to know because he has a black face. But he’s more than just that black face.I remember a time when you would have a block party and police officers who were assigned that block would come and they knew who we were. And we knew who they were. They were part of the community and they formed a very comfortable relationship.
Claire Jones, School Administrator
I’m married to a police officer so I tell my boys to comply .We have multiple firearms in my home because of my husband’s position in law enforcement. I’m not licensed to carry but my husband always has his firearm with him. I think people should have the right to bare arm but I think we should also have stricter gun laws.
When you think about the protocols that aren’t being followed I think there should be a restructure in law enforcement. If you’re not qualified—fair and equitable with everyone you come in contact with then you shouldn’t be a police officer.
Shellee Mendes, Salon Owner
I want to take my sons to our local police station and introduce them and ask the officers to look out for them, because they could be coming home late one night, get pulled over and something could happen to them. I want to make sure officers are aware but it can’t just be my son. I’m thinking of ways we can prevent this from happening to the next dad, the next African American young man, or to the next kid.
I think it’s very cowardly for a police officer to pull his gun out for a traffic violation or a taillight. Or a young kid that’s unarmed or someone who’s a licensed gun owner.
Janelle Woods-McNish, Director of Giving and Service, former Mrs. Massachusetts Universal 2015
My son is 8 and he means the world to me. When I think about my contribution to the world, just raising him and his siblings to be amazing citizens, if I get that right I think that’s my contribution to society.
This stereotype about black men starts young. Society has painted this image of black men and black boys that we’re having to fight against. And we know that these are our boys. So when society starts young, starts putting labels on our boys that’s where I think a lot of this stems from; when you don’t see people as humans then you treat them in a particular way. It’s heartbreaking that I have to teach my son this.
Cassandra-Tucker Brodie, Fashion Designer
It’s wonderful that there’s a bigger awakening, people are becoming more aware of life of black people in this country. The movement Black Lives Matter has been wonderful.
I’m very hopeful because at some point things have to change. I’m thinking that by the time he’s old enough to experience racism I’m very hopeful that things will change because black people will have to make that change. It’s not going to happen with us asking someone else to do it. We’re going to have to make that change.