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Why the Mothers of the Movement's DNC speech brought us to tears.

Too many mothers have had to bury too many children due to gun violence. These moms are trying to change that.

611.

That's how many people have been killed by police in 2016.

300.

That's the number of homicides that occurred in Chicago by Father's Day 2016.


In America, our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, children, and friends are dying from gun and police violence at a staggering rate.

During the Democratic National Convention, several mothers whose children have been victims of gun violence made it clear that enough is enough.

The Mothers of the Movement are like most moms: hard-working, caring parents who never dreamed they would lose a child. But their stories are also unique and incredibly important.

The Mothers of the Movement are moms who have lost children to police brutality and gun violence. They have come together to unite against gun violence in the U.S.

Tonight, their emotional stories helped illustrate how far we have still to go in this country.

The Mothers of the Movement led their DNC segment with a tear-jerking speech by Geneva Reed-Veal, Sandra Bland's mother.

She talked about how gun violence and the lack of gun control in the U.S. have torn apart her life and the lives of the other mothers in the group.

"This isn’t about being politically correct. This is about saving our children," Sybrina Fulton said to rousing applause.

Who exactly are the Mothers of the Movement?

Meet Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin's mom.

Photos by The Young Turks/YouTube (left), Aaron Davidson/Getty Images for Jazz in the Gardens (right).

Trayvon Martin, 17, was a high-schooler walking home with a can of tea and a packet of Skittles when George Zimmerman shot him. Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder in 2013. He auctioned the gun used to kill Martin for $250,000.

During the DNC, Fulton explained why she decided to share her story and join the Mothers of the Movement group.

"I am an unwilling participant in this movement," she said. "I would not have signed up for this, nor any other mother that is standing here today. But I am here today for my son, Trayvon Martin, who is in heaven, but also for his brother, Jahvaris Fulton, who is still here on Earth. I did not want this spotlight, but I will do everything I can to focus some of this light on the pain of a path out of the darkness."

Meet Lucia McBath, mother of Jordan Davis.

Photos by The New York Times/YouTube (left), Paras Griffin/Getty Images for 2016 Essence Festival (right).

Jordan Davis, 17, was a teenager sitting in a car with friends when he was shot by Michael Dunn, who was upset that their music was too loud. Dunn was found guilty of first-degree murder and given a life sentence without parole.

During the DNC, McBath said she doesn't want other parents to live in fear of what happened to her son. "I lived in fear that my son would die like this," she said. "I even warned him that because he was a young black man, he would meet people who didn't value him or his life. That is a conversation that no parent should ever have with their child."

Meet Geneva Reed-Veal, mother of Sandra Bland.


Photos by CDF/YouTube (left), Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images (right).

Sandra Bland, 28, was an outspoken activist with a degree in agriculture from Prairie View A&M University. Bland was arrested during what should have been a routine traffic stop. Three days later, she was found hanged to death in her cell at the Waller County Jail.

Bland's death was ruled a suicide, but many have noted the brutal arrest preceding Bland's death by state trooper Brian Encinia and the edited dashcam footage that was released. Encinia has been indicted for perjury, and thus dismissed by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

"When a young black life is cut short, it’s not just a loss," Reed-Veal said at the DNC. "It’s a personal loss. It’s a national loss. It’s a loss that diminishes all of us."

Several other Mothers of the Movement did not speak at the DNC, but they stood on stage to support the three who did.

Meet Maria Hamilton, mother of Dontré Hamilton.

Photos by Mashable/YouTube (left), Mark Makela/Getty Images (right).

Dontré Hamilton, 31, was a son and uncle. He was unarmed and had been treated for paranoid schizophrenia. Officer Christopher Manney shot Hamilton multiple times. Manney was never charged and was eventually fired from the Milwaukee Police Department.

Meet Gwen Carr, Eric Garner's mother.

Photos by The Young Turks/YouTube (left), Spencer Platt/Getty Images (right).

Eric, a son and beloved father, was confronted by police for selling loose cigarettes in Staten Island, New York. Several police officers surrounded Garner. Officer Daniel Pantaleo used a banned chokehold to restrain Garner, who yelled "I can't breathe" multiple times in an effort to plea with officers. Unfortunately, it was to no avail, and the chokehold ultimately killed him.

A Richmond County grand jury decided not to indict Pantaleo in 2014.

Meet Lezley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown.

Photos by AMTV/YouTube (left), Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images (right).

Michael Brown, 18, had just graduated and had plans to go to college. Officer Darren Wilson shot the unarmed Brown several times after, witnesses said, Brown held up his hands in submission. The U.S. Department of Justice cleared him of any wrongdoing and cleared him of violating any of Brown's rights.

Meet Cleopatra Pendleton-Cowley, mother of Hadiya Pendleton.


Photos by OutLaw4/YouTube (left) Scott Olson/Getty Images (right).

Hadiya Pendleton, 15, had just performed with her school at events for President Obama's second inauguration when she was caught in the crossfire of a gang-related shooting in Chicago. Michael Ward, 18, and Kenneth Williams, 20, were arrested on several charges, including attempted murder and first-degree murder. They said the bullets were intended for a rival gang, not Pendleton.

Meet Annette Nance-Holt, mother of Blair Holt.

Photos by Joseph Latimore/YouTube (left), Scott Olson/Getty Images (right).

Blair Holt, 16, was killed trying to protect a friend on a Chicago bus. Four other teens were injured in the gang-related shooting. Holt was an honor student and beloved classmate and son. His killer, Michael Pace, was sentenced to 100 years in prison.

Meet Wanda Johnson, mother of Oscar Grant.

Photos by The Young Turks/YouTube (left), SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images (right).

Oscar Grant, 22, was unarmed when he was shot and killed by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle in Oakland, California. Grant was beloved in his community and was coming home after ringing in the new year with friends when he was killed in 2009. His brutal killing was captured on camera and was portrayed in the award-winning film Fruitvale Station. Mehserle was convicted of second-degree murder but got an early release from prison just a year into his sentence.

These mothers' words were captivating, emotional, and heartbreaking.

They shouldn't have to speak like this, but they did. And they spoke to remind us, through their words, that we have the power to change this. In November, we can use our right to vote to demand action and reject complacency.

"So many of our children are gone, but they are not forgotten," Reed-Veal, Sandra Bland's mother, said. "Sandy cannot speak, but I am here to speak for her. What a blessing to be here tonight so that Sandy can still speak through her mama. And what a blessing for us that we have the opportunity to cast our vote."

"We're going to keep telling our stories, and we're urging you to say their names," said McBath.

By saying their names, we can honor the voices of those who can no longer speak, just like the Mothers of the Movement. But beyond that, we can also help shape a future that no longer requires this discussion.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

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To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

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