A conversation with Mothers of the Movement

Horns blared the Gap Band’s Outstanding and the smell of fried chicken, candied yams, and collard greens filled the room. While this was not my first time at Warmdaddy’s, I have never been to their Soul Food Jazz Brunch. Like any other days, the brunch featured live music that whipped the crowded into a frenzy.  Jiving to drum beats and nibbling off of fried whiting smothered in hot sauce, it is spaces like these that exude Black magic and make you rejoice in your melanin filled skin. These spaces convene different strata of the Black community and bring together professional and working class Black folks. To this end, Warmdaddy’s becomes an important location to discuss matters important to the community.  For this reason, it was not surprising to hear from the Mothers of the Movement after the drummer from the Soul Collective finished belting out Prince’s Adore. Pennsylvania State Representative Jordan Harris talked about the importance of this year’s presidential election and introduced Maria Hamilton and Geneva Reed-Veal who explained why they supported Hillary Clinton.

Maria Hamilton, lost her son, Dondre, in 2014 after an altercation with Milwaukee police. He was reportedly sleeping on a park bench, when he was approached by the police that lead to a deadly altercation. Geneva Reed-Veal is perhaps more well known as the mother of the Sandra Bland, who died in police custody after her she was pulled over for failing to signal properly. They described Clinton the way that longtime friends and loyalists do as considerate and committed. They recounted first meeting Clinton in a Chicago office building for what was supposed to be a 30-minute meeting. The meeting actually lasted close to two hours, where Clinton asked them to tell her what they wanted her to know about their children. Clinton listened and took copious notes, instilling a loyalty among the women, who would become fervent supporters and campaign across the country for her.

Clinton’s reputation as a listener is well known, and has been recently documented by Ezra Klein. Klein suggests that this is one of the more distinguishable characteristics of Clinton as a woman candidate. Compared to men politicians and those who run with more masculine political personas that emphasize communication that enhance their profile (i.e. making big speech or winning the argument in a debate), women candidates hold more feminine traits that emphasize seeking consensus. Here, Clinton excels, by seeking consensus and winning over voters by listening. She is then able to recall key details from her listening tours and use them as she crafts policy, earning her a loyal legion of supporters. However, it would be inaccurate to suggest their support for Clinton is a blank check. Instead, they recognize Clinton as ally, who if is elected would allow them the best opportunity to advance their political agenda and someone who they intend to hold accountable.

I had to the chance to speak with Ms. Hamilton and Ms. Reed-Veal about their support for Clinton and what they see as the next steps for a racial justice movement after the election on November 8th. Observing them over brunch, there was a clear connection between them and black women of past generations, like Mamie Till, who used their grief to awaken the black community.  These women were not natural politicians but their loss forced them to investigate and change the political systems that killed their children. They exude strength, determination, and faith as they talk about their lost and advocate for greater political involvement in the black community. Many were introduced to the Mothers of the Movement when they appeared during the Democratic National Convention. Their testimony was amongst the most impactful during four nights of Democratic all stars. However, there are some who believe they were used by Clinton and Democrats even if they were personally moved by their testimony. However, hearing from Maria Hamilton and Geneva Reed-Veal reveal these are women who are in control of their and their children’s legacy. They exhibit agency as they navigate their unplanned entry into the political arena. They discussed with me doing their own research on political candidates, including how they became introduced to Secretary Clinton, and what they see as the necessary steps to achieve racial justice.  Moreover, our conversation reveals a large part of why Senator Bernie Sanders lost older black voters was because Clinton had developed deeper ties with this group and Sanders did not make time to build relationships that could translate into votes. Their ambitions are simple, but radical. They want to prevent the kinds of situations that killed children and they want government to work for them.