Black Lives Matter, my mother and September 11th
In my role as President of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association in New York City, I recently visited Ferguson, Missouri, with members of the National Bar Association.
During that trip, we were accompanied by Jesse Jackson, Benjamin Crump and several mothers of black people who had been killed by the police — including Leslie McFadden, Michael Brown’s mother and Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother. At the event, Ms. McFadden urged attendees not to let her son be forgotten. She then spoke about the lack of positive media coverage as well as the need for the Black Lives Matter movement to remind us all that we do, in fact matter.
Her message resonated for me because since the September 11th terrorist attacks, I feel deeply frustrated by the fact the overwhelming media coverage surrounding 9/11 has been focused on victims who were white.
My mother, Joan Donna Griffith, was a proud Jamaican-American. At work, she was Joan, an assistant vice president and office manager at Fiduciary Trust, where she worked on the 97th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. At home, she was Mommy and Donna.
I personally find it rare when the media decides to features victims of color when covering this tragedy. This was true then and has remained consistent over the past 15 years. Even the term “victims’ families” was usually referring to the primarily white victims who had organized as the voice of the collective body.
As a people, we have been lobbying for a fair shake from the justice system, police, Hollywood, labor force and media companies for centuries.
It is important to shine a light on the diversity of the victims whose lives were taken on 9/11. Their lives reflect the depth and diversity that is New York City, even if too much of the coverage has not.
My mother was a loving wife to her husband of twenty years, Peter, and mother to me and my younger sister Joann. She was the youngest of six children and was deeply loved by a wide range of nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. She was a voracious reader, an excellent cook, lover of Disney movies, music, and she was a natural leader.
She was the person who everyone went to for advice. She was beautiful, smart, thoughtful, funny and kind. She took immense pride in dressing well. She loved all children and frequently took in others when she could.
When my mother was murdered, “Black Lives Matter” wasn’t a saying or movement yet.
To our family, her life matters, which is why I am so deliberate about telling her story and her impact on me as a person, a mother, a wife and a leader.
Like Michael Brown’s mother urged, it is our responsibility to tell the stories that are not told, to remember the people and sacrifices that came before us, and to keep their stories alive.
September 11th changed this country, but more than that, it took the lives of nearly three thousand people — people who, like my mother, were someone’s spouse, daughter, parent, friend. Their lives mattered.
Each of those lives mattered, and fifteen years later, not honoring their individual legacies erases a critical part of American history, diluting the rich diversity that makes our country so great.
Paula T. Edgar Esq. is founder and principal of PGE LLC, a consulting firm that specializes in professional development, coaching, social media strategy, and diversity and inclusion. A civic leader and President of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association, she received her B.A. in Anthropology from the California State University Fullerton and her J.D. from CUNY School of Law. Connect with Paula on Twitter @Paulaedgar and at www.paulaedgar.com