This past Sunday was Mother’s Day. I suspect that I will never have a Mother’s Day when someone doesn’t look at me with puppy eyes and wonder how I am holding things together. I am not sure I will ever have another Mother’s Day where I don’t feel as if I am between emotions. As a mother who has lost a child, Mother’s Day can be a painful reminder of the fact that I will never again “mother” the child I lost. For me, however, I have found a way to mother my son Prince – even though he is no longer here with us. This weekend, in particular, I found a way to honor both of my children.
On Mother’s Day morning, I woke up completely exhausted. I have been miserably failing in my attempts to sleep train Stela, and Mother’s Day eve was no exception. I had agreed to speak in front of the White House on behalf of a group called “Mother’s of Lost Children.” My speech was in less than two hours, and I wasn’t sure of what I would say. I jotted some things down on my note cards, and decided to leave the rest up to the moment. Despite my lack of concrete plans, however, me and Stela made our way down to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
As I walked up to the group, I was worried. There were tons of mother’s dressed in all white, holding up huge signs full of painful statistics. I couldn’t help but notice, however, the tourists in front of the White House who were milling around mostly appearing to be in a clueless cloud of carelessness. For many of them, these women were just a backdrop in their White House experience. In fact, I witnessed one tourist shoving in front of a mother and asking her to move so that she could get a better picture of her friend in front of the White House.
Despite my hesitation, however, I grabbed the bull horn as promised to speak to the crowd. “My name is Hera McLeod,” I said. “My son’s name was Prince. He was killed in October 2012, while he was on what was just his fourth unsupervised visitation with his father.” After I said this, I noticed several tourist turn around in what appeared to be anticipation of what I would say next. The two tourist who had been vying for the picture, now seemed mildly interested.
Below is the speech I delivered, in front of the White House, to a bunch of tourists – hoping that one day my words would be heard by someone willing and able to effect change.
During the Civil Rights Movement in the 60’s the mistreatment of Black Americans reached such a dangerous level that it required federal oversight. We have reached that level when it comes to Civil Rights violations that occur against our nation’s children.
Family Courts across our country are sanctioning the abuse and murder of our children. As a mother who was legally forced to turn my son over to a serial killer, I am asking Mr. Obama and his administration for the following reforms:
1) Criminal accountability for psychological professionals who withhold key information, in cases where their negligence leads to the abuse and/or death of a child.
2) Federal oversight of Father’s Rights Initiative funding to ensure that it stays out of the hands of known child abusers. Federal funds should never go toward helping someone in their personal child custody case – this perpetuates legal abuse.
3) Federal requirements for state courts to meet minimum standards of training for social workers and judges involved in Family Court. This training would include child abuse and domestic violence recognition.
4) In cases there child abuse and/or domestic violence have been reported, it would be federally mandated that the courts assign victim advocates.
5) And finally, in cases where a Family Court decision has resulted in the child abuse and/or death of a child, states would be required to report to a federal oversight commission and adhere to an after action report to improve their system. These federal oversight would help to prevent future atrocities.
After I finished my speech, I took a moment to look up at the sky and thank Prince. I thanked him for choosing me as his mother, and I promised him that I would continue to fight for the children who would come after him. This promise would be my way of continuing to mother him even after his death.
Then, I passed the bullhorn to the next mother. The rest of the mother’s marched around the White House – I did not. I spent the rest of the day with my angel who is here on earth – Estela. We went for a walk, ate some Native American Fry Bread, and celebrated Mother’s Day with Grandma.
I am thankful for both of my children. In their own ways, they have made me a better mother – they have made me a stronger woman – and they have made me the best version of myself.