4 elected black mothers 2020-06-05 021
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4 Southland elected officials commit to fight police violence and racism — as only black mothers can

4 elected black mothers 2020-06-05 021
From left, Cook County 6th District Commissioner Donna Miller, Matteson Village President Sheila Chalmers-Currin, 38th District state Rep. Debbie Myers-Martin and 2nd District U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly after speaking at a news conference in Matteson on Friday. The four came together on Friday to pledge their commitment to addressing police violence and the institutional racism it springs from. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

Four elected representatives of the South Suburbs came together on Friday to pledge their commitment to addressing police violence and the institutional racism it springs from. 

The news conference at Unity Bridge in Matteson was convened by Donna Miller, Cook County commissioner for the 6th District, and included Sheila Chalmers-Currin, Matteson village president; Illinois Rep. Debbie Myers-Martin (D-38th); and U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-2nd).

Their purpose was to speak out in response to the civil unrest that has plagued the region, the nation and the world since the death of George Floyd, an African American man, while in policy custody in Minneapolis on May 25. 

They made a point of noting that as a group, they have three important characteristics. They represent the Southland community at four levels of government: local, county, state and national. All four are women of color. All four are mothers. 


The first characteristic gives them broad reach to enact reform, they said, and the last two give them a special perspective on matters of racism and police violence. 

“The combined voice of all of us is going to make an impact,” Miller said. “We say, ‘If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.’ We’ve heard that a million times. That is why each one of us, at each respective table and collectively working together, is going to make a huge impact.”

Their perspective as African American mothers will provide insight and passion on the issues of racism, they said. 

“First and foremost, we are mothers,” Chalmers-Currin said. “When we saw the video of George Floyd laying there and having him call out for his mother at the end of his life, that touched the hearts of so many women. That’s why I stand here today as a mother, as a grandmother, wanting this type of behavior to stop.

“I could tell many stories of my own son being pulled over for no reason. No one knows he’s an honors student, but his face is black. That’s an issue. That’s a problem that has  to stop.”

She said Matteson police have policies, including the use-of-force, that are regularly reviewed, and she urged all mayors to do the same.

Kelly offered a specific story illustrating Chalmers-Currin’s point. She recounted a situation that occurred just a couple of hours after she had brought her son home from college. He was in the driveway of her home, in her car, talking with his friends. 

A police vehicle circled the block several times and then an officer came to her door. 

“I still remember, and it hurts my heart to this day. They told me they thought my son was in a gang,” she said. “It hurt me so bad because I worked for the village. They know me.”

Myers-Martin said the relationship between African Americans and police departments across the nation has always been “challenging, to say the least,” and she said the four women, as legislators, would endeavor to help set standards of behavior for police officers. 

She also cited the civil rights movement of the 20th century as a source of inspiration for the current struggle.

“We, as women of color, have been elected to serve our communities, but more importantly, as mothers we must continue our quest for racial harmony, equality and justice for everyone,” she said. “We can’t allow our voices to be suppressed or ignored, but we must be mindful of the founders of the civil rights movement and the spirit of excellence in which they conducted themselves.” 

Miller noted that the unrest sparked by Floyd’s death has consequences for everyone in the South Suburbs, not just African Americans. The area still has not fully recovered from the Great Recession more than a decade ago. It was reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now is dealing with damage caused by rioters and looters. 

“We support peaceful protest as a method of expression. We do not condone the looting and violence that has occurred that has impacted our businesses and safety,” she said. “I implore everyone to not allow this righteous protest to be hijacked by those who do not share our values. We all need to commit to continue to work together and turn this anger into meaningful action and lasting change for the betterment of our communities.”

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