today in black history

April 25, 2024

Jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald, the "First Lady of Song," was born on this date in 1918 in Newport News, Virginia.

Calling on Momma

POSTED: May 30, 2020, 7:00 am

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As life was being drained from his body by the weight of a racist police officer’s knee on his neck, George Floyd called out for help to the one source he knew would understand. His momma. I understood his anguish and his plea for help from the only person many Black men have ever known to come to their aid. The women that gave life to us and loved us even when we were not our best selves, remain forever linked to us no matter our age. What made Floyd’s cry heart-crushing and poignant is that his mother is deceased, and he was well aware that her physical presence could not come to his aid. His plea was a cry to the heavens, to pierce the sky and seek comfort in his waning minutes on this earth.

Black mothers carry the pain of our people. They smile through the suffering, attend to wounds when they themselves carry open sores, and fight even when they are battered and beaten by the stress of this world. If you are Black, you understood why George Floyd was calling for his momma. Our mothers have stood in the gap, loved us when the world hated us, and straightened our backs after society did its best to break them. We could run home to momma that first time we were called a nigger on the street. We could tell momma about being harassed by a White adult or shop owner. Momma understood when we walked through the door with our head hung low, shoulders sunk and spirit crushed. She always knew what to say, perhaps a Bible verse, a poem or just some encouraging words. For Black men, momma is the shelter in the midst of the storm.

None of us know how this life will end for us. As the veil of death descended on George Floyd, it was the love of his mother that ushered him to eternal rest. I really don’t think it was a cry for help. It was that shout we gave when coming through the door after school “Mom. I’m home.” Floyd was letting his mother know he was coming home. The world couldn’t hurt him anymore.

“For Black men, momma is the shelter in the midst of the storm”

As this shocking but sadly ordinary tragedy unfolds, my thoughts have been on the Black mothers who have watched their sons lowered in their graves. It is an unthinkable loss that forever weighs on the heart of a Black mother. After all the efforts to protect a Black son, having them snatched from you at the hands of a police officer is a cruel and inhumane lottery to ‘win.’ I have seen the pain etched on the faces of Black mothers, the tears and the voices wracked with pain over the loss of a child. It is a pain that never goes away. Just ask Thelma Dantzler, mother of Phillip Pannell, a 16-year old Black boy shot in the back, arms raised in surrender and killed on April 10, 1990 by a White police officer in suburban Teaneck, New Jersey. She called me the other day, exasperated by the killing of George Floyd and lamenting how his suffering rekindled memories of Phillip’s death. At the time we were told by Phillip’s friends that he too was calling for his momma when he was shot by a police officer. What mother wants to bear that type of pain?

There were moments in my life when I called for my momma too. Apart from God, she was the source of my help. I was always teased as being a ‘momma’s boy.’ I never shied away from that label. To her dying day, it was my mother who had my back and affirmed my worth as a human being. She always stood steadfast in my corner, offering correction when necessary but never allowing me to submit to the low expectation society had of me or falling prey to the hate and resentment that seemed reserved for Black boys. Our mothers are our shield and we know that we can call on them in our time of need. Even when they are no longer earthly bound.

George Floyd is with his mother. This I am certain. She extended her arms from heaven and welcomed her son home. He is healed and without pain. Whatever weight society placed on him has been lifted. Momma heard him and God answered him. Rest easy Brother. Momma’s got you.

Walter Fields is Executive Editor of

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