As mothers, EBONY's 2022 Power 100 Social Justice Award honorees Tamika Palmer and Wanda Cooper-Jones have endured an unthinkable yet common fear that many Black families across the country dread. After her daughter Breonna Taylor was wrongfully killed at the hands of police officers in her own abode while she was sleeping, Palmer channeled her anger and devastation into a fight for justice that would set a precedent rarely seen in situations of violence invoked by state law enforcement. Cooper-Jones—who's son Ahmaud Arbery was murdered while jogging in his own neighborhood by racist vigilantes in 2020—is doing the same by diligently working to support Black boys nationally Today, both women continue to press forward through their work with the Breonna Taylor Foundation, Until Freedom and the Ahmaud Arbery Foundation, respectively, organizations that prioritize racial justice and uplifting the legacy of those our community have lost too soon.
EBONY connected with Palmer and Cooper-Jones to discuss their dedication to racial justice and how they're ensuring the legacy of their children is everlasting.
EBONY: What brings you solace as you work to continuously uphold your child's legacy?
Tamika Palmer: That’s simple. I’ll have to say the indictments and the pure fact that the people who wronged Breonna will have to answer to that. That brings me solace.
Wanda Cooper-Jones: I take solace in the fact that they couldn't kill my son's name. I wouldn't let them kill my son's name. They wanted to paint my son as a criminal killed during the course of a crime—lies like that Black boys tend to endure.
As mothers, how do you want the world to remember Breonna and Ahmaud ? How can people honor their legacies daily?
Palmer: We want people to remember Breonna as we, her family, remember her. Breonna was a fun, loving and caring person who would give her shirt off her back to help anyone in need. She was a person who could bring people together no matter the situation and we all got to witness that as she brought the world together to stand for her. To honor her daily is to stay the course as we are still not done fighting for justice. We have indictments right now, not convictions just yet, so we have to continuously say her name and stand for her because she can’t.
Cooper-Jones: I want the world to remember my son as a loving, generous Black man. We honor his legacy by building up Black men and Black boys, and by letting go of prejudice and racial stereotypes. Honor my son's legacy by helping to create access to Black boys like him by supporting his foundation or other organizations built around protecting and uplifting our boys.
Since this unfortunate tragedy, the Black community has tapped into its fortitude by rallying behind efforts to bring about justice for Breonna and Ahmaud. How have you found strength from the Black community and community during this time?
Palmer: The Black community stood in the gap for me on days I didn’t think possible. The wonderful thing is that it was not just the Black community who did this but the global community at-large. For that, I am forever grateful. They gave me days to rest and get my mental health together. This was so vital as it this allowed me to regain my strength so that I may stand and fight for others in the same or a worse situation than me and my family. This was done all while also sharing and teaching me ways to do it
Cooper-Jones: I have experienced that sea of fortitude in my association with far too many families from this community of loss due to racial or state sanctioned violence, such as the families of Atatiana Jefferson in Fort Worth, TX; Cameron Lamb from Kansas City; Ronald Greene from Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Darius Tarver in Arlington, TX. Our families share not only in each other's suffering but in our successes as well.
How can people positively and efficiently support you, your families and your work?
Cooper-Jones: The Ahmaud Arbery Foundation exists to continue to protect the Ahmaud Arbery name and create inroads for other Black boys like Quez. You can support the Ahmaud Arbery Foundation by signing up as a permanent sponsor.
Palmer: Those who wish to support us can do so through their support of the Breonna Taylor Foundation and Until Freedom.
How do you Move Black Forward?
Palmer: I move Black forward by continuing to hold people, including law enforcement, accountable for treating our lives as if we are not equal or important. I move Black forward by not erasing our history simply because others don’t want it to fit into the structure for a brighter future.
Cooper-Jones: I move Black forward by running with 'Maud. I move Black forward by standing up for my son's legacy. When I stand for Quez' legacy, I stand for the futures of all Black sons. In Ahmaud's name, I watched hate crime legislation signed into law for the first time in the state of Georgia. Ahmaud's name pushed Black forward when lawmakers removed the citizen's arrest vigilante defense from the books, ending the Jim Crow era practice of empowering mob justice. My prayers move Black forward.