PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA — Almost four years ago, Lucia McBath became a reluctant celebrity when her son, Jordan Davis, was shot and killed in Jacksonville, Florida for playing loud music in his car. Since then, she has become an advocate for gun control and racial justice, joining Hillary Clinton’s campaign as one of the “mothers of the movement.”
On Tuesday night, her celebrity will take her to her biggest stage yet — the podium at the Democratic National Convention.
“It’s a tremendous honor,” McBath told ThinkProgress. “I’m very humbled that Secretary Clinton and the DNC would want me to speak and represent the mothers around the nation who are suffering from the consequences of gun violence. I’m hoping my son would be proud of me.”
McBath will be joined on the DNC stage with the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Hadiya Pendelton, Dontre Hamilton, Michael Brown, and Oscar Grant — men and women killed by police and by gun violence. Together, they form the “mothers of the movement,” and together they have been traveling the country speaking on behalf of Clinton, advocating on behalf of the candidate and her plans to control access to firearms and to improve relations between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
“We’ve been the voice,” McBath said. “We’re the mothers who are birthing the children that are dying in the streets. This has become our cause. We have decided that enough is enough and we’re going to help champion the movement.”
Last November, the mothers sat down for private conversation with Clinton. Then they joined her on the campaign trail in South Carolina in February and sat alongside her on stage at rallies in New York, Ferguson, and Philadelphia. When Clinton spoke about guns and racial justice, they told their stories and nodded in agreement.
For McBath, one of the few mothers whose child was not killed by police, the issues of gun violence and policing are intertwined.
“You can’t separate any of those kinds of issues,” she said. “We have all suffered from systemic gun violence that’s pervasive through the system… Each of our tragedies happened a little bit differently, but they’re all interconnected. It’s still all one and the same.”
Each of our tragedies happened a little bit differently, but they’re all interconnected.
McBath, who is also an advocate with Everytown For Gun Safety, endorsed Clinton in January and has thrown much of her energy this past year into getting Clinton elected. But other relatives of high-profile shooting victims have been more hesitant to throw their support behind the former secretary of state.
Erica Garner, whose father was killed by New York police for selling cigarettes, endorsed Bernie Sanders. And Tamir Rice’s mother, Samaria, said she hasn’t endorsed a candidate because none of their plans address her concerns.
“I cannot settle for partial solutions and lip service,” she wrote in an online post. “I know we need real action, and I refuse to endorse any candidate that offers less.”
On Monday, the first day of the convention, Wanda Willingham attended a meeting of the DNC’s black caucus in downtown Philadelphia. She said she also became involved in politics after her 19-year-old son, Elijah Willingham, was shot and killed in Albany, New York. But she told ThinkProgress she would prefer politicians to focus less on the high-profile cases that make headlines and more about the epidemic of gun violence in America. And she doesn’t completely trust that Clinton is not exploiting the mothers’ tragedies.
“I don’t like issues like that being used for a campaign because really, that’s all it ever amounts to,” she said. “To be very honest, I think right now she’s using it to campaign.”
But she said the movement may be a positive thing in the end because voters will keep “on top of her” so she actually follows through with her promises.
McBath, however, says Clinton’s record of what convinced her to join the campaign. “If you look at her record on the gun measures, she’s been doing that her entire career, specifically when she started as a senator,” she said. “She’s always been championing for these kinds of changes with our gun culture. This isn’t anything she just decided to do at the last minute.”
[Clinton’s] always been championing for these kinds of changes with our gun culture.
Already, McBath and the other mothers’ advocacy has influenced the Democratic Party platform, which many are calling one of the most progressive platforms in party history. McBath testified before the drafting committee, and the final document includes a section on gun violence, calling it a “public health issue.” For the first time ever, the platform also calls for more body cameras, independent investigations of police shootings, and guidelines for the appropriate use of force, among other policing reforms.
Much of that movement on criminal justice can be traced back to the Black Lives Matter movement and its influence on this presidential race. Last summer, after being repeatedly interrupted by advocates from the movement, Bernie Sanders put forward a racial justice platform that addressed police violence directly. Clinton soon proposed a similar platform, and the issues have remained salient throughout the campaign. Clinton and Sanders repeatedly brought up racial justice during the debates and at their rallies, and they have responded to each police shooting that makes headlines with promises of change.
As the issues have become prevalent, so have the voices of the mothers who are demanding reform. On Tuesday night, they will get their biggest audience yet when the convention will be broadcast to millions of viewers across the country.
“These issues are not just issues in the minority community,” McBath said. “These are issues that impact the entire nation.”