(The Root) — BET President Debra Lee and National Action Network founder the Rev. Al Sharpton were joined by Cleopatra Pendleton, the mother of Hadiya Pendleton, to announce the launch of MOM, Mothers on a Mission Against Urban Gun Violence. The initiative is being rolled out in May to coincide with the Mother’s Day holiday.
In their remarks, Sharpton and Lee explained that they selected Mother’s Day as the peg because, unbeknownst to many Americans, Mother’s Day has activist origins. Although it did not become a national holiday until the 1900s, Julia Ward Howe initiated the first Mother’s Day Proclamation and Mother’s Day for Peace in 1870 to lament the impact of Civil War violence on communities. Among the things Howe said in the proclamation was this: “We, women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country, to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: ‘Disarm, Disarm!’ ” Excerpts from the full proclamation were read by representatives of BET.
Lee and Sharpton are now hoping to replicate Howe’s intent by galvanizing mothers nationwide to activism around the issue of modern-day gun violence. Speaking to The Root, Lee said, “Gun control and gun violence in our neighborhoods and our communities is such a horrible issue that we have to solve, and at BET, I’ve been looking for a way to work to use our media presence to help with this issue. Talking with NAN, we came up with this idea and [it] seems perfect.”
Lee and Sharpton stated that the mission of MOM is to raise awareness, mobilize mothers and rebrand Mother’s Day to return to its activist roots. They also unveiled a five-point plan to combat gun violence in urban communities, and BET committed its online and on-air resources to promoting these initiatives.
The plan consists of spurring mothers and others to do the following beginning on Mother’s Day:
1. Find a local anti-violence program to which you will donate time and money.
2. Work with other mothers to petition local churches and community centers to stay open to provide anti-violence programming and other options for young people, especially in the summer.
3. Contact local and federal elected officials to make your voices heard on gun violence.
4. Get involved on a local level with organizations like NAN’s Occupy the Corners program to make a difference.