Open letter to Wanda Cooper-Jones, mother of Ahmaud Arbery, and all Americans
By Congresswoman Lucy McBath, Julvonnia McDowell, Miami Knight, Nichole Villafane, Sharmaine Brown, and Stephanie Stone
Like too many Black mothers in America, we know the pain Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, is feeling. We are part of a community we didn’t choose — a community of mothers whose children have been taken by gun violence and then blamed for their own deaths. We know the profound grief, shock and loss that comes from their death, and how alone she will feel in the days and weeks ahead.
We stand with Wanda with a heavy heart knowing that she has been robbed of celebrating her son’s 26th birthday on Friday, celebrating Mother’s Day today, and celebrating so many future milestones with Ahmaud. In our pain, the bond that we share with all mothers whose children have been taken is deep and unshakeable.
As American citizens, as Georgians, we are angry and stand with you in solidarity. We deserve better and must all demand better. For Ahmaud Arbery, and for each of our sons and daughters, we must unite behind a country where Black Americans can play music, go shopping, go to a park, drive in their car, go for a run, and just exist in the world, without being hunted down simply because of the color of our skin. We must affirm that it is unacceptable that Black Americans are ten times more likely than white Americans to die of gun violence. Our children deserve to live and it is a crisis that has been ignored by too many for too long.
Change will only be possible by addressing head on America’s deep history of racism and systems of oppression that are very much alive today — and by disarming hate. Because we know from the stories of Trayvon, Jordan, Michael, and too many other Black men and children, that when a person who is filled with hate is armed with a gun, it is deadly and irreversible. And when hate and racism is emboldened by gun laws that encourage vigilantism, like Georgia’s stand your ground, citizen’s arrest, and open carry laws, they can and will be used to kill our children with impunity. We know these laws don’t apply to us and to non-Black citizens the same way.
We fight to prevent any other parent from experiencing the pain of burying a child from gun violence. Each of us have channeled enormous anguish into demanding a safer country for all of us. We are our children’s voices. And we carry their memories with us every day as we fight for an America free from gun violence, and to end racism and dismantle hate.
Our resolve to honor their memory with action is stronger than ever. This Mother’s Day, we say the names of our sons and daughters and other young Black men and women who should still be alive. We say their names aloud so that they may always be remembered and they may fuel our fight for change.
Ahmaud, JaJuan, Jared, Jordan, Paul, Ty-Key, X’avier. Trayvon. Michael. And far too many others.
We ask you to say their names aloud too. And then honor them by demanding that we do more to protect lives and reject hate.
Congresswoman Lucy McBath (GA-6th), Mother of Jordan Davis
Leaders of the Everytown Survivor Network and Georgia Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America:
Julvonnia McDowell, Mother of JaJuan McDowell
Miami Knight, Mother of Ty-Key Douglas
Nichole Villafane, Mother of X’avier Arnold
Sharmaine Brown, Mother of Jared Brown
Stephanie Stone, Mother of Paul Sampleton Jr.