WASHINGTON — It is a sisterhood that all would choose not to be a part of.
In Chicago on Monday, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton met privately for more than two hours with about a dozen mothers, many African-American, whose children have been murdered. Some of their names, including Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, from Ferguson, Missouri, are sadly well-known.
From Chicago, that includes the mothers of other high-profile young victims: Hadiya Pendleton, Blair Holt, Francisco “Frankie” Valencia and Terrell Bosley.
The Clinton campaign brought the group together at the Sweet Maple Cafe, 1339 W. Taylor. Clinton arrived about 3 p.m., after headlining two of the three fundraisers that brought her to Chicago and Evanston on Monday. She stayed until about 5 p.m.
The Clinton session in Chicago came as President Barack Obama, in New Jersey on Monday, unveiled a series of plans to make it easier for ex-prisoners to get jobs and find housing. He dispatched HUD Secretary Julian Castro to Chicago to throw a spotlight on some of the changes.
Among those gathered by Clinton’s team was Joy McCormack, whose son, Francisco “Frankie” Valencia, was a 21-year old DePaul University senior when he killed by a gang member on Halloween in 2009.
I asked her whether it was easier or harder to meet with Clinton, a former secretary of State, New York senator and first lady at the anniversary of her son’s death.
“Bittersweet,” she told me. “This is a club no one wants to join.”
“It was a pretty extensive meeting,” said McCormack, who lives in Jefferson Park. Clinton “did a lot of listening. Every person in the room told their personal story and . . . offered their suggestions of the kind of changes that need to happen.”
The Chicago stop was put on Clinton’s campaign calendar weeks ago for fundraising. The crime victims’ event was added because it intersected with the stepped up focus last week on crime, gun violence and the African-American vote.
“During the meeting, Clinton listened as the mothers and families shared their heartbreaking stories and discussed what must be done in order to prevent future incidents like the ones that have taken the lives of their children,” a Clinton aide said.
McCormack said Clinton told the women she wanted to work in “partnership” with them and talked about her desire “to be in a position to bring change forward.”’
The suggestions from the women are ones that have been impossible to implement, even when mightily pushed by Obama, including closing gun-show sale loopholes.
Last week, Clinton also addressed “distrust” between law enforcement and the communities they serve, a problem Obama discussed in a speech a week ago to the International Association of Chiefs of Police convention at McCormick Place.
Among the mothers in the Clinton group:
• McCormack, who is the founder and board president of Chicago’s Citizens for Change Inc. and the Chicago Survivors program.
• Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, the mother of Hadiya Pendleton, 15, who was gunned down in a park near Obama’s Kenwood in 2013. Michelle Obama attended her funeral and earlier this year delivered the graduation address at her high school, King College Prep, 4445 S. Drexel, not far from where the first lady grew up on the South Side.
• Annette Nance-Holt, whose son, Blair, was 16 and a student at Julian High School when he was shot to death by a reputed gang member while on his way home from school in 2007.
• Pam Bosley, whose son, Terrell, was killed outside a South Side church in 2006.
• Sabrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen killed in 2012 by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.
• Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old Cleveland boy killed by a police officer in 2014.
• Lesley McSpadden, the mother of Michael Brown, who killed by a white police office in Ferguson, Missouri, last year.
• Maria Hamilton, mother of Dontre Hamilton, a Milwaukee youth shot in 2014.
Clinton unveiled more of her criminal justice reform proposals, and as it happened on Monday, Obama, in New Jersey, took one off her list. Obama took executive action to “ban the box” to prevent all federal government employers and contractors from asking about criminal history on job applications, delaying those kind of background questions until later in the process so a resume is not thrown away at the start.
The City of Chicago bans the box. Last year, the City Council passed an ordinance mandating the ban on all businesses, no matter the size.
The state of Illinois banned the box in 2014 for companies with at least 15 workers.