‘Mommy’s Wall’ organizer calls on other suburban mothers and those in power to fight for black lives
Undaunted by federal agents using increased force and unmarked vehicles to detain people, protesters in Portland continued to show up on the streets for nearly two months.
But the sounds of the city’s protests against systemic racism and police brutality began to change last week thanks to a group called the ‘Mommy’s Wall,’ of self-identified mothers who converted chants into lullabies and trained human shields between federal agents and other protesters.
Beverley “Bev” Barnum, one of the early organizers behind “Moms wall“Says the viral video of two federal agents apprehending a protester and putting him in a unmarked minivan motivated her to join the protests. Now, she continues to come forward to learn how to better serve the black community.
Barnum notes that the group is following the lead of black leaders.
“Yes [Black leaders] want a wall of mothers, they have one. If they want two, they get two, ”she said. “If they tell us to jump, we jump. And if they tell us to go, we go.
Prior to the George Floyd murder and the federal response in Portland, Barnum says she was not an activist – but rather “stuck in my own little world”. Many of the mothers she speaks with share the same story.
Mothers have a responsibility to protect human rights, she said. Mothers run to help when they see someone drown or fall off a bicycle, she says, and the same idea applies to police violence against black Americans.
“Here in the suburbs, we are so focused on serving our families that we sometimes forget that the whole world is our family,” she says. “And as mothers, we have a responsibility to look up, to be careful and to do something.”
When the moms arrive, the protesters say, “Thank goodness the moms are here,” she said.
The “Mommy’s Wall” gained national attention after they joined hands and sang, “Raise your hands, please don’t shoot me,” like a lullaby. Mothers follow the chants started by black leaders and do not create theirs, Barnum says.
When the protesters started organically singing the civil rights hymn “We Shall Overcome,” mothers had to sing it three times because they didn’t know the words, she said. The song is well known to black Americans, but is not often sung by white Americans.
Moms used their phones as candles to set the mood. Then the leaders invited the mothers to march to the front and protect the demonstrators, she said.
Mothers have historically come together to call for change, such as the “Mothers of the Movement” group, which includes the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner. Now, mothers from across the country inspired by the “Wall of Moms” are forming similar groups in other cities.
“As soon as you become a mom, something primitive inside of you lights up, and all of a sudden the world isn’t so bright anymore,” Barnum says. “You know deep down that you have to protect him. We have to protect people. “
Mothers rob families, she says, and those instincts are one of the reasons the Black Lives Matter movement has “caught fire” in suburban communities.
Seeing mothers stand in front of beanbags, tear gas and rubber bullets means a lot to black leaders and the black community because it shows “finally that we have skin in the game for them,” she said. . It’s easy to support the movement by contributing to a GoFundMe and then coming back to life as usual.
“It’s a lot harder to get up knowing that you just got shot and you’re going to do it again the next night because they’ve been going through this for God knows how long,” she said.
On Wednesday evening, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler was sprayed with tear gas after joining a crowd of demonstrators for a listening session. Barnum says the mayor’s responses to questions from the black community were “soft” and calls for stronger leadership from Wheeler, who has authority over the Portland Police Bureau.
Those in power – who “take advantage” – must use their voices and condemn the actions of the Portland Police Force instead of hiding behind a veil of helplessness, she said.
“Actively work to change this so that your mothers and grandmothers and doctors and librarians do not get shot at in an attempt to allow the black community to defend themselves,” she said. “Because it hurts. It hurts physically. “