Macy Gray, Andra Day, others behind ‘Rise Up and Stand,’ global virtual event to push police reform, honor moms of those killed by cops
A Chicago-based nonprofit, Truth, Hope and Justice Initiative, will join with Grammy-winner Macy Gray’s My Good foundation at 7 p.m. CT Friday for a global, virtual event: “Rise Up And Stand — A Tribute To Our Mothers.” Facebook and Instagram will broadcast the event featuring celebrities, performances, clergy and more than 500 mothers of those killed by police during arrest/custody.
On Tuesday, Breonna Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, got the news she’d prayed for, when a Kentucky judge ordered release of grand jury records in the probe into Taylor’s killing.
After Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron last month announced a grand jury had declined to charge the three Louisville officers involved in the killing of the 26-year-old Black emergency room technician during a botched raid on her apartment in March, Palmer put her hope in the lawsuit subsequently filed by a juror seeking permission to speak.
“We’re definitely still fighting and hopeful about the juror who wants to speak out,” Palmer told the Chicago Sun-Times in an exclusive interview Monday night, as she chatted about “Rise Up And Stand — A Tribute To Our Mothers,” a global, virtual event being broadcast on Facebook and Instagram simultaneously at 7 p.m. CT Friday.
“I would hope the judge would let the jurors speak so that we know what did or did not happen in that grand jury proceeding,” Palmer said a day before her hope was realized.
“Policing reform has to happen,” Palmer said.
Friday’s event is to renew the push for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, passed on June 8 by the U.S. House but since stuck in the Senate, and honoring mothers of those killed by police during arrest or in custody.
Produced by the Chicago-based nonprofit Truth, Hope and Justice Initiative, partnering with Grammy winner Macy Gray’s My Good foundation, the hourlong event will feature celebrity appearances, musical performances and inspirational messages, including from Chicago’s Rev. Michael Pfleger and Rev. Otis Moss III. More than 500 impacted mothers nationwide are expected.
“I remember when I first saw the George Floyd video ... I just remember being in shock, and not being able to get it out of my head,” Gray, a mother of three, told the Sun-Times about launching her foundation this past August, dedicated strictly to assisting families of those killed by police.
“Systematic racism definitely has something to do with it, but I think it’s also a humanity thing, about what some people are capable of,” said Gray, the event’s host, who will also perform. Grammy/Emmy-nominated artist Andra Day also will speak and perform.
“My thing about Breonna’s case is the disinclination by a Black man, Mr. Daniel Cameron, to file charges,” said Gray. “His defending his decision not to do anything about her murder bothers me. One of our initiatives is getting him to step down, because that’s someone who did not do his job. He didn’t even try to bring charges against those who did her harm.”
Other performers include Walt Whitman and the Soul Children of Chicago, who will join Day in singing her famous song, “Rise Up,” for which the event is named — in tribute to the mothers.
“I’m reminded of a quote by Ella Baker, ‘Until the killing of Black mothers’ sons becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of a white mother’s son, we who believe in freedom cannot rest,’ ” Day said.
“Our goal is to rise up and to stand and support social justice, and to support racial equality, not just here in our justice system in America, but in the world at large.”
It was in 2016 that the Sun-Times wrote of the launch of the Truth, Hope and Justice Initiative, with a photo and video exhibit of families and victims of controversial police shootings. Mothers flew to Chicago from across the nation to have their stories archived. Four years later, that social justice project has turned into a movement.
“It has not been easy. I’ve got a divine strength coming from somewhere that’s holding me together,” said Letetra Wideman, 32, of North Chicago, sister of Jacob Blake, the 29-year-old shot in the back seven times by Kenosha, Wisconsin, police on Aug. 23.
“My mother is very traumatized,” Wideman said. “I don’t think what happened to Jacob has really sunk in for any of us. I have moments where I feel it. Most of the time, I’m just numb. I hope when people see all these families on Friday, they’ll say, ‘Something’s wrong with this picture.’ ”
Like Gray’s foundation, the Truth, Hope and Justice Initiative is strictly dedicated to supporting these families.
“Our mothers represent the first responders and influencers in our communities. We want to highlight the authentic stories of our mothers and how they have turned their pain into purpose, and initiate a call-to-action for social justice and racial equity,” said Chicago civil rights attorney Andrew M. Stroth, who founded the Truth, Hope and Justice Initiative.
“At this historic moment in time and with our country in trauma ... we want to reimagine a world in which we have fair and equitable laws and the ability to build trusted relationships between communities of color and law enforcement.”