By SYLVIA BENNETT-STONE
My daughter, Krystal Joy, was killed in 2004, caught in the crossfire of two gunmen while she was sitting in her car after pulling up to a gas pump. She was only 19. I’ve spent the past 17 years helping Black mothers deal with the grief of losing a child to senseless violence.
This is why I am outraged that leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement—who have built personal platforms on the deaths of victims like 12-year-old Tamir Rice and 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant—are stepping away from activism to enjoy their financial gains instead of helping support the families whose grief catapulted their movement into the national spotlight.
Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of BLM, is leaving the organization to pursue a multi-year TV development deal with Warner Bros. She owns at least four homes totaling more than $3 million. Meanwhile, Lisa Simpson, the mother of 18-year-old victim Richard Risher, said in March she is facing homelessness and says she has never received any financial assistance from the BLM organization; instead, she says BLM leaders called her “a liar and crazy.” Breonna Taylor’s mother has called BLM a “fraud” for claiming to raise money on behalf of her daughter but never giving back to the families they purported to help.
The BLM foundation took in just over $90 million last year. But it won’t reveal how much (if any) it gave to help the families of Black victims, many of whom need financial assistance to pay for counseling, food or rent as they take time off work to deal with crippling grief.
After my daughter’s death, I remember going out to the same store I had shopped at for years and not being able to find my way back home. Losing a child is every parent’s worst nightmare. The first week, you are numb. You have to remind yourself to breathe as you go through the motions of contacting loved ones and making funeral arrangements. The second week, you are in denial. You don’t really believe your baby is gone; you keep expecting a call explaining that there was some sort of mistake. By week three, the unthinkable reality has started to set in. Everyone else has gone back to their normal lives, and your loss is no longer a priority. You are alone, left to figure out how to continue living without your child. You still forget to breathe sometimes. I have conversations weekly and sometimes daily with mothers of other Black victims about these experiences of grief.
I, too, have been criticized by people affiliated with BLM because I advocate for mothers who lost children to neighborhood violence. I have been told that speaking about these murdered children would “dilute” BLM’s message.