In Argentina’s Plaza de Mayo, mothers and grandmothers marched wearing white handkerchiefs with the names of their children and grandchildren “disappeared” by a military dictatorship. They became iconic for their strong will and tenacity in seeking justice. Similarly in New York City, for over a decade, mothers, primarily Black and Latina, have been marching through the streets, carrying the pictures of their “disappeared.” While Margarita Rosario, Juanita Young, Allene Person, and Constance Malcolm didn’t lose their sons to a military dictatorship, they lost them to another state power, the New York City Police Department and like the Plaza de Mayo mothers, they don’t want anyone to forget their children. They don’t want any other mother to go through what they have suffered. They want justice. Which is why they, with the support local grassroots organization, The Justice Committee, are planning an action at NYPD headquarters on the Friday before Mother’s Day, May 10th.
The mothers and the Justice Committee released a video calling for support, not just in the form of presence but also in the form of lyrics or songs dedicated to justice for the families. “The Justice Committee and the mothers are asking musicians to add their voices to this call for justice because it is a “call” that must only only be “made.” It must be shouted to all corners and transmitted to all generations and into all of our hearts, minds and beings. For this reasons, artists have an important role to play,” says Loyda Colon of the Justice Committee.
Margarita Rosario, the mother of Anthony Rosario and aunt of Hilton Vega who both were shot a total of 28 times and killed by NYPD in 1995, hopes that the artists who participate can not only express her pain but also be the voice of her son and nephew. “We need to hear what I cannot express and what my son cannot express because he’s not here. I would like for the artists to bring that pain out that I hold inside for my son,” she said. There was clear forensic evidence that Rosario and Vega were shot in the back while lying face down, on their stomachs, but the officers responsible, Patrick Brosnan and James Crowe, were never charged. The Civilian Complaint Review Board found the officers used “unnecessary and excessive force,” but the NYPD ignored the finding.
Juanita Young, mother of Malcolm Ferguson who was shot and killed by NYPD in 2000 in the Bronx, just three blocks from where Amadou Diallo was shot at 41 times and killed by the NYPD in 1999, hopes that the artists can help all feel the spirits of her son and others. She tells possible participants, “When you play, let everybody feel the spirits all around them…(The NYPD has) taken away our loved ones and our hearts continually bleed. We want them to know the spirits are surrounding all the parents.” The officer responsible for Ferguson’s death was never charged with a crime despite admitting during the civil trial that he shot him for no good reason.
Constance Malcolm, the mother of Ramarley Graham who was shot and killed by the NYPD in 2012, reminds artists that young men like her son are the ones who purchase their music and that they themselves could be targets for police brutality. She tells artists, “These are the young men and women who purchase your cds. Come and show support your support for them. Because they are the future and it could be one of you next. And if they can get gunned down, we might not have a future.” The officer responsible in Graham’s death has been criminally charged with first and second degree manslaughter charges.
The Mother’s Cry for Justice comes at a time when the NYPD is already under intense scrutiny due to the ongoing Floyd v. City of New York trial that questions the constitutional legality of stop and frisks in the city on the grounds that they racially profile city residents.