Mothers of Black Victims Emerge as a Force for Hillary Clinton

Amy Chozick, New York Times, April 13, 2016

The Sweet Maple Cafe in Chicago, famous for its grilled cheese sandwiches and sweet milk biscuits, typically closes each day after the lunch rush. But one evening in November, the restaurant opened for an unusual private dinner.

The mothers of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, and a half-dozen other black women who had lost children in clashes with the police or in gun violence, were flown in from around the country and invited to gather around a table. They were joined by Hillary Clinton, who asked them, one by one, to tell her their stories.

“She took her pad and her ink pen, she wrote her own notes, and she asked us what did we need,” said Maria Hamilton, whose son Dontre was shot 14 times by a white Milwaukee police officer in 2014.

Mrs. Clinton appeared “visibly hurt” as the mothers spoke, said Lucia McBath, whose 17-year-old son, Jordan Davis, was fatally shot after playing loud music in his car in 2012.

The gathering, held without aides or journalists present, stretched into a nearly three-hour dinner over pork chops and gravy, fried okra and rice. After dessert of apple pie, Mrs. Clinton encouraged the women to organize and travel the country with her campaign.

“You are the mothers of the children who are dying in the streets,” Mrs. Clinton told the group, Ms. McBath recalled. “You have a lot of power individually,” she said. “But collectively, you need to come together. The country needs to hear from you.”

Since then, these mothers, many of whom did not know one another before the Clinton campaign flew them to Chicago to convene, have blanketed the primary states, appearing with Mrs. Clinton in churches and barbershops from Ohio to South Carolina. They starred in an ad that aired in Cleveland, Chicago and St. Louis. And the campaign has paid their travel expenses so they could attend the Democratic presidential debates.

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The Clinton campaign named this sisterhood forged in the shared loss of a child the “Mothers of the Movement,” and they have become an unlikely linchpin of Mrs. Clinton’s success in the Democratic primary. At campaign stops, Mrs. Clinton introduces them as “a group of mothers who belong to a club no one ever wants to join.” The mothers will arrive in New York this week to help Mrs. Clinton compete in the primary on Tuesday.

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