Rallies took place in Sanford on Feb. 5, which would have been his 18th birthday. Here, Sybrina Fulton, third from left, and Tracy Martin, fourth from left, raise their hands in prayer during the March for Peace at Miami’s Ives Estate Park in honor of their late son.Joe Raedle / Getty Images
For the first time in my life, and much to my deepening sadness, I have begun wondering if there is a silver lining to my being a black woman without children in this country.
It’s a profoundly tragic thought I find myself pondering in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin case.
While living in America, I find myself without little black boys to raise and groom, without having to wonder if I’ll ever know the way a mother’s heart shatters, fragments still alive and beating but tripping over themselves in the agony of another dead black child.
Is there a patron saint for this; a patron saint for dead children, our killed sons? If there were I suppose it would be Mary, the woman of whom we often just remember for her claims to virginity and holy visitations. We think of her as the mother of God, and rarely if ever as the possible fit for a patron saint of unbearable suffering, the patron saint of strength and courage, the patron saint of legal laws within unjust systems, the patron saint of murdered sons. Mary was a mother who also dreamed for her son. But she was told that the life of her son would divide many and would pierce her own heart (Luke 2:34-35.) Mary was a woman whose son’s trial and death were also surrounded by political and communal divisions, and ensconced within questions of power and injustice. But when her son Jesus was stumbling to the cross I suspect Mary was more overcome with grief than recalling God’s promises of a new heaven and a new earth, God’s promises of redemption and justice.
And recently, I can’t help wondering how many countless black women give birth to black sons and know without being told that the lives of their sons might also pierce their own maternal hearts; those black sons who are immediately born into worlds that divide them from others. But maybe many, like Mary, despite their worst fears, rarely imagine that their sons’ lives will end so horrifyingly. Maybe they never imagine that their sons’ deaths would divide nations.
As the repercussions of the Zimmerman trial continue to build, amidst of all the articles and protests and calls to action, I have found myself repeatedly thinking about the women. Not the six women on the jury, but the countless ones in the world and in the Christian faith tradition, my faith tradition, the mothers of murdered sons. They are so many unnamed. In Matthew’s Gospel story of King Herod’s murder of all the little Jewish baby boys we only know Rachel’s name, one name of a mother among hundreds whose sons were murdered without just cause. Maybe history finds it easier to forget the names of mothers with murdered sons because no one wants to be reminded of such horror, of such unspeakable and reoccurring pain.
It is not an aspect of the tradition that I either think about or have been formed to reflect on. But if I think about it, I may not too easily forget other names of women in history and alive today who were and are still forced to contend with murdered sons.
So for just a minute I want to try and remember names.
Her name is Eve, the first woman to lose a son to murder and yet had the courage to birth more babies. Eve’s son, Abel, was killed by his brother Cain. And in the eyes of God, as God sees all of God’s children, Trayvon Martin was also killed by his brother, George Zimmerman.
Her name is Mary. Her son Jesus, was murdered by religious zealots, politicians, and a maddening crowd.
Her name was Mamie Elizabeth Till-Mobley. Her teenage son Emmit Till, was murdered by a group of white men because he had looked at a white woman.
Her name was Rachel, her Hebrew son with countless others was murdered because he posed a paranoid threat to power.
Her name is Wanda Johnson. Her son, Oscar Grant III was shot in the back by police officer Johannes Mehserle while lying face down on the Fruitvale train station floor in Oakland California in 2009. The police officer claimed he was just trying to tase young Oscar.
Her name is Sybrina Fulton. Her son, Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman. And many of us are still trying to determine why.
I know many of us have names we remember, names we still hear, names we might rather forget.
I hope we don’t forget.
I trust God doesn’t forget the name of God’s own mother, and the names of God’s children.