Since the death of her son Michael Brown in August 2014, Lezley McSpadden has met with countless sympathetic figures, from fellow mothers of sons who met tragic ends to NAACP and government leaders—and even international celebrities who’ve taken up the Black Lives Matter cause. Her resilience has inspired many, and in one star-studded meeting, she got some inspiration of her own.
On Mother’s Day 2015, Prince played a “Rally 4 Peace” concert in Baltimore in honor of Freddie Gray. McSpadden was invited to attend alongside other mothers of sons who had died in highly-publicized cases. Beyoncé and her mother Tina Knowles were in attendance, and as McSpadden details in her new book Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil: The Life, Legacy, and Love of My Son Michael Brown, the meeting proved to be fruitful.
McSpadden thanked Knowles for the suggestion and for being “an inspiration” herself. She soon felt “the wheels in [her] head were spinning,” and after researching MADD, she was impressed by what a group of grieving mothers could accomplish.
She had already founded the Michael O.D. Brown We Love Our Sons & Daughters Foundation, but now she had an idea for its first program. Having recently been moved by the rainbow that followed a storm, and with this movement of mothers in mind, McSpadden decided she wanted to start a “Rainbow of Mothers.”
Today the program is up and running, and McSpadden continues to work with other mothers united in grief and hope for social justice—recently, she even appeared alongside Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton and Gwen Carr, Eric Garner’s mother, in a video for Beyoncé’s Lemonade.
“The system has failed my son,” McSpadden writes about her son, known to herself and her family as Mike Mike. “It has failed me and it has failed all of us. But, now, I know that I can’t wait for anybody else to make change. I must make change, myself, that will be Mike Mike’s legacy; that will be his justice.”
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