As thousands of moms descended on Washington, D.C., for Mother's Day weekend, marching for the loss of their children to police violence and to call attention to police brutality, a smaller group of moms gathered in an auditorium at the University of Baltimore.
The group, Matter Moms, led by The Root Publisher Donna Byrd, seeks to validate the work that women have been doing at home and in the community to fight racial injustice, as well as to brainstorm ideas and turn those ideas into action.
In Baltimore, grassroots coalitions have united; gangs like the Bloods, Crips and Black Guerrilla Family have called a truce; and diverse faith communities have joined together in solidarity. But what has largely been missing from the media reports are the women at the forefront of this movement.
"Women will be at the heart of what we will see in terms of change in this country," Donna Byrd told the crowd of women of varying ages at the meeting Saturday.
A diverse group of speakers addressed the gathering, including Tawanda Jones, activist and sister of Tyrone West, who was beaten to death by Baltimore police officers in 2013; Beverly Bond, founder of Black Girls Rock; Maryland state Del. Jill Carter; Marlaa Reid, wife of Pastor Frank Reid of Bethel AME Church; and Jacqueline Johnson, a former teacher in the Baltimore City Public Schools system.
Jones spoke passionately about the loss of her brother to police brutality in Baltimore and her calling to help others who have been victimized. For 660 days since his death, she has been on the front lines of protests and has supported the family of Eric Garner, who was killed by a police officer in New York City in 2014.
Bond announced that she wants to offer five full scholarships for girls in Baltimore who want to participate in a black girls leadership conference with the Black Girls Rock organization.
Some audience members became emotional and were passionate about the issues in Baltimore and the distorted media images that have come out of the protests.
In a brainstorming session after the speakers finished, an action plan was created that included work on reopening recreation centers for young people, voter registration, unifying various grassroots groups around the city and employment programs for young people in Baltimore.
The most pressing actions, Byrd said, will be developed and eventually formatted into something the group can take to Annapolis, Md., to testify for legislation.
"We are good at talking," said Byrd about ensuring that this group is less about talk and more about action. "But we need to get to work."