By Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith
“Momma! I’m through.” This was the cry of a mother’s child, George Floyd, during the last moments of his life as an officer knelt on his neck. One of the witnesses to this was a nine-year-old girlchild after she bought snacks at a nearby store with her cousin.
When Jesus, the child of Mary, was crucified on a cross, his last words were also directed to his mother. According to John 19:26-27, “he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.”
These same cries are also heard today from unaccompanied children who have or are making the dangerous journey to the United States because of the disturbing conditions and dangers in their homes. ProPublica reports that “they scream ‘Mami’ and ‘Papá’ over and over again, as if those are the only words they know.” There were 18,663 unaccompanied children in March 2021.
How many cries are made today by children and mothers desperate for their lives to be protected and saved? How many are assaulted by the threat and horror of death because of violence, conflict, hunger, poverty, climate change, and other interrelated causes? Perhaps we will never know but these echoed cries of Rachel’s lamentation in Jeremiah 31:15 and Matthew 2:16-18 beckon us to listen and respond today: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”
Revelations 21:4 says God is listening and responding: “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Therefore, as people of faith and goodwill we are called to listen and respond. Listening to our mothers and children and advocating with them can help turn their cries and tears of anguish to tears of renewed hope and possibilities.
Mothers and children have been key leaders in the increased public advocacy for a racially equitable future that has been a response to the tragedy of George Floyd’s death and other similar deaths. Recently, there were tears of hope when the policeman who put his knee on his neck was held accountable. There are tears of hope as unaccompanied children who have crossed the U.S. southern border are placed in foster care homes until permanent homes can be found—instead of being caged and condemned.
Bread for the World, in partnership with persons like you, advocates for policies that advance resources for child and maternal health and nutrition, and police and immigration reforms. You are invited to join us at the upcoming Bread for the World Advocacy Summit to learn more.
This month also brings Mother’s Day and the Africa month celebrations that can bring hope. May the tears and cries of all of us find hope in our individual and communal acts of love, justice, and compassion.
Angelique Walker-Smith is senior associate for Pan African and Orthodox Church Engagement at Bread for the World.