Mom Squads Are Taking To The Streets

In one of Chicago's most dangerous communities, mom squad activists are trying to decrease gun crime and lower fatalities. It's true — mothers are taking to street corners, wearing bright shirts that say "Moms On Patrol," and setting up little cookouts as they attempt to make the neighborhood safe for their children. The idea of mothers getting involved in anti-violence activism isn't anything new, but moms seem to have an acute ability to effect change when they join together.

In Chicago, Tamar Manassen created "Mothers Against Senseless Killings" because she was worried for her children's safety in Chicago's sixth-most dangerous neighborhood. But specifically, the murder of Lucille Barnes in June, who was killed when a gunman fired into a crowd and hitting her and two others, really sparked the group's creation. Manassen didn't want the same fate for her children. "I have two teenagers and, it's really hard to keep your kids alive in Chicago," she told ABC7.

Though it seems like a community crime watch, MASK is also focused on making changes within kids' lives, as well as the community. According to the Chicago Tribune, the majority of killings in the neighborhood take place on sidewalks and street corners, which is where MASK is now camping out.

According to Manassen, the group wanted to have a friendly welcoming effect on the community and advocate for parents to become more invested in their children's lives. "It's either a time commitment or a life commitment," Daira Brooks told ABC7. "Do you want to be alive? And if you have children, obviously the children are the ones who [are] being hurt out here, do you go ahead and sacrifice some time to make sure your kids will stay alive?"

About 15 moms are out each day between 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and plan to stay out until Labor Day, when the Chicago Public Schools Safe Passage program begins providing escorts for children going to and from school. According to CNN, in the five weeks since the mothers started, there have been no shootings.

On larger scales, mother activist groups can cause lasting impacts on society. Mothers Against Drunk Driving is the most notable example and was founded in 1980 with the express intent of decreasing alcohol related driving fatalities by 20 percent by the year 2000. Through education efforts and awareness, they were so successful that they met their goal three years early. Since then, the scope of MADD has changed to include education against driving while drugged, and they've started dedicating effort to getting states to lower the legal alcohol levels.

A more recent group, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, is a grassroots effort by moms to instill gun awareness and regulation in their communities. Their website lists countless food chains they've petitioned, such as Panera, Sonic, and Starbucks who have changed their open-carry policies within their facilities across the nation. In addition, the organization has worked with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to come up with preventative measures to decrease gun violence and limit illegal gun sales.

And individual mothers are making waves as well. Toya Graham famously chased down her son on national TV during the Baltimore riots earlier this year. Graham saw her masked son attempting to join the rioters and swiftly smacked him across the head. "That's my only son, and at the end of the day, I don't want him to be a Freddie Gray," Graham told CNN.

Mothers who have lost their sons to police violence have banded together as a unified front, as evidenced by the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner, who spoke together at a rally earlier this summer. A photo showcasing the four of them together wouldn't be all that notable, if it weren't for the fact that these mothers only knew each other because their sons died during a police confrontation. But they are using their losses to launch a larger discussion and ensure that no more women join their ranks. “We need to stick together as one. We need to keep fighting," Sybrina Johnson, Trayvon Martin's mother said earlier this month. "We will continually keep fighting."

Unlike MASK, these mothers can't vouch for a month free of killings. But that doesn't mean their message isn't effective. Police brutality and racial violence are reaching a boiling point in America, and the issue is impossible to ignore. It might be a slow process, but these women are one mom squad I wouldn't bet against.

Image: ABC7 News