The Strength of Allison Jean & The Road Toward Healing For Mothers Of Murdered Children
We can trace the modern pain of Black mothers to Emmett Till, when Mamie Elizabeth Till-Mobley, 34, was given the swollen corpse of her child in the summer of 1955.
We can trace her wailing to the west coast of Africa where black men and women were shipped across an unforgiving ocean, never to be seen by their loved ones.
Today we find that pain in Allison Jean, Botham Jean’s mother. Her 26-year-old son was shot dead in his home by Dallas police officer, Amber Guyger. The same officer who had joked about being racist through text messages and even took a dig at civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr.
When Guyger was sentenced to 10 years in jail for the murder of Botham Jean, she was shockingly consoled by two people: Jean’s brother Brandt and the judge who sentenced her, Tammy Kemp. Guyger was not embraced by Botham’s mother, nor did anyone expect her to.
Guyger will serve less time than Korey Wise, the eldest of the exonerated Central Park Five. Despite the gross lack of evidence, the five boys spent a chunk of their youth in prison after being wrongly accused and coaxed into confessing to raping and assaulting a white woman.
During Botham’s trial, Allison wore her son’s favorite color in the courtroom, red. During her testimony, she brought attention to the corruption present in the police department. She also spoke about what life has been like for her since her son’s death.
“My life has not been the same… like a roller coaster. I cannot sleep. I cannot eat. It’s just been the most terrible time for me,” Allison said during her testimony. “I’ve been sick often. But I have to try to keep the family together, because everyone is in pain.”
Allison immigrated to America from St Lucia. She built a life in America for her children and did an exceptional job, especially with Botham. Botham was the kind of son who made Mothers Day trips to surprise his mother. She had done everything right and so did her son, who was even a worship leadership and active member of his community. And yet none of it was enough to save him from the deadly biases of law enforcement. Today she belongs to a sorority of mothers like Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother, and Lesley McSpadden, Michael Brown’s mother.
These graves are much deeper than the ones given media attention. After we sit through public trials, watch mothers wail on television, and protest, what happens when the dust settles? What becomes of these women who stand as matriarchs and pinnacles of power and stability for their families? How do we know whether they remain sheroes or become shadows?
Allison told the court that she was “very concerned ” about her youngest son Brandt since Botham’s murder. “Botham was my middle child,” she said. “I always referred to him as the glue between my three kids.”
Mothers, trauma, fear and love are what’s left when the cameras have gone and officers are not indicted.
And besides mothers, other close family members are also burdened down by these traumatic ordeals of police violence. Tamir Rice’s teenage sister, who lost 50 pounds after witnessing police shoot her little brother in 2014. Not only did Samaria Rice, Tamir’s mother, have to bury her child but she had to care for the one she had left, despite tragedy and hardship. Since his death, Samaria started a foundation and social program, The Tamir Rice Afrocentric Cultural Center, for other Black and brown youth in his honor.
Sybrina Fulton dedicated her life to social justice after her son was murdered in 2012. This year she announced that she is running for a seat on the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners. Despite her accomplishments, however, she told CNN, “Seven years out, and I’m still crying.”
Even now with Guyger’s sentencing, Allison’s work as a mother work still is not done. Brandt choosing to hug his brother’s killer has been labeled by many as Sambo behavior, effects of a slave mentality and just plain ridiculous. Like any righteous mother Allison came to the defense of her son and in an interview with CBS News stated that although she was surprised by her his actions, she wanted people to know that, “What Brandt did was to cleanse his heart towards Amber … I do not want it to be misconstrued as a complete forgiveness of everybody.”
When CBS News spoke to Allison before the trial, she said she’s not ready for forgiveness. Now, she said, she’s “getting closer to it.” She told CNN, Botham’s life was “more valuable than 10 years.”
When Black lives are robbed and broken families are left to pick up the pieces, the million-dollar question is usually, do they forgive the murderer? When the press asked Eric Garner’s wife, Esaw Garner if she forgave then Officer Daniel Pantaleo, she said, “Hell no.”
Outlets tend to check whether or not Black families should offer compassion to the murderers of a loved one after a trial, but no one really inquires about their feelings or mental state of a mother after burying a child. More inquiries should be made into the well-being and peace of these families, instead of how much grace they have to offer. The next time an unarmed Black person is killed for no reason other than being Black, questions to grieving mothers within the week of their child’s death should probably focus on their newfound lack of faith in police enforcement or the new reality death has opened their eyes to.
We have no reason to believe Allison was any less than the poised woman she presented herself to be. But imagine if she wasn’t. Despite Botham’s blatant innocence, he would have been judged based on her, which shows just how vital a mother is, not only to the family she cares for in the wake of her child’s death, but in her dead one’s innocence.
Allison’s justice, despite the lenient sentence, is something many mothers in her position don’t get to experience. And although the trial is over, her journey as a mother and human being who has experienced extreme loss is far from it. Like the mothers before her, a part of Allison will always grieve her son and the continued media coverage will continue to expose the wound. Botham’s murder will forever be a point of reference as these kinds of death continue. Allison’s pain is as old as the Atlantic slave trade, and the journey, like many mothers living similar realities, has only begun.