At the Democratic National Convention, Lucia McBath was one of nine “Mothers of the Movement” who stood together to speak on behalf of their fallen children.
Since then, Lucia McBath has fought to change “stand your ground” gun laws and even testified before a Senate Judiciary Committee on the subject. She spoke with theGrio about her rousing speech at the DNC, what her 17-year-old son taught her about racial harmony, and why she insists she’s not a pawn for Hillary Clinton‘s campaign.
NA: You mentioned in your DNC speech that you lived in fear your son could die the way he did. Can you talk about your fears of raising a young black boy in America? And what you told Jordan to expect?
LM: I have to be honest: it wasn’t really highlighted in my life and in my consciousness until Trayvon Martin died. When this happened to Trayvon, I remember we were standing in my bedroom and Jordan was questioning, “Mom how did this happen to Trayvon? He wasn’t doing anything wrong.”
I remember saying to him, “Sweetheart, I want you to understand that because you are a young black male… There is a notion that you aren’t really valued… I will tell you absolutely, if you are in a verbal confrontation with anyone, you stand down, Jordan.”
“If they think they are in fear of you or threatened by you, because you are a young black male, you are subject to be gunned down.”
And he said, “Mom, that’s not gonna happen to me, I know how to take care of myself.” I remember him saying this and I said to myself, “That 16-year-old bravado, they think they are in control.”
I remember saying, “Baby, I know what you think you can do. But this is a bigger and meaner world that you are probably not built to handle.” And that was the very first thing I thought about when I knew Jordan was murdered.
And I felt like I didn’t do enough. It wasn’t good enough. No matter what I said, I didn’t say enough to protect him from that very thing that we had watched happen to Trayvon.
NA: You have been fighting to change gun laws around the country since Jordan’s death. What is the biggest resistance you’ve seen from the gun lobby?
LM: The biggest resistance I have seen from the gun lobby is the mentality that everyone under the second amendment right is able to bear arms. With bearing arms comes great responsibility. And that is not what the gun lobby is telling people.
They are pushing guns everywhere, guns anytime, saying, “Shoot first, ask questions later. You need to defend yourself.” No one from that side is advocating common sense measures in using your guns.
I am not against the second amendment, nor is my organization. But the NRA gun lobby of today is not the NRA gun lobby of 25-30 years ago, which did advocate gun safety. Leadership has pushed the organization in a completely different direction.
NA: You and the other Mothers of the Movement have endorsed Secretary Hillary Clinton. Some are critical of the campaign’s involvement with black mothers who have lost their children. What do you say to those critics who question why Clinton would call on you to speak on her behalf?
LM: Well, we talk to those critics all the time. And they say, “The campaign is just using you,” and we always say, “Do you honestly believe we will put the legacy of our children and our families deliberately in harm’s way? We have already suffered enough harm. Do you honestly believe this group of strong women would allow anyone to pressure them to do anything they didn’t want to do?
We are looking for somebody that is willing to stand up and take the gun lobby head on. We’re looking for somebody that is going to stand up and champion common sense solutions. We are looking for somebody that is going to be a champion for changing the culture.
There was no other candidate that appealed to the interest and the needs of the minority community. So to honestly think that we are being used, [those critics] are completely off their rocker. We can’t be used unless we wanted to be used.
We have chosen to stand by Hillary Clinton because she is that person. And she is a mother, grandmother, she has an extra layer of understanding and commitment to women and to our children — to our families. And that’s why she is the person that we stand with.
NA: What would you like to see people do to get involved?
LM: In order to do anything, you have to be educated and empowered. You need to find out in your state what gun laws your legislators may have been reluctant to change or tweak to keep your community safer. It’s not enough to throw up your arms and be mad, upset and angry and be out in the streets.
And that’s what the mothers spend a lot of time and effort doing. We don’t want anyone else to be victimized the way we have been. I talk to the legislators all the time, and they ask, “Where are the people that support you? Why are they not here with you?”
What do I say when I am sitting in front of a legislator and I can’t account for why I don’t have anyone there with me? Why are there not people in numbers calling the legislatures, showing up in their office every month, pounding down the doors? We need you to be accountable to us.
NA: Is there anything in Jordan’s young life that he taught you, which stays with you today?
LM: Jordan was a child that was very inclusive. I watched him — he had no boundaries. He had no walls. Our house always looked like a mini United Nations. Every week Jordan was bringing home a new person, “Mom this is my new friend.” And I would think, “Jordan you just met this kid.”
I think that’s the reason why I have been able to do so well with this work. Because I watched my child include everyone that came in contact with him. He made them feel welcome. I used to always say I watch Jordan love, accept, and forgive a great deal of the time. If anything I carry in my work is just that love, acceptance and forgiveness. My child talks to me.
I don’t harbor any ill will. People say, “Why aren’t you mad at the white community?” I can’t be mad at the white community because of what’s happening with gun violence. And I do not condone a whole race of people, because White, Black, Latino, it’s happening to all races.
I accept and love and forgive everyone. Because we all need forgiveness. And I know truly if I had not forgiven Michael [Dunn], God would not allow me to be in the position he has placed me in. This is my world and I am called to live here amongst everyone.