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Michael Brown’s Mom Explains How Beyoncé’s Mom Helped Her

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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.

Read an excerpt from McSpadden’s new book at ESSENCE.

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.

I felt a light tap and turned to see Beyoncé’s mama, Tina Knowles, standing there. She immediately wrapped her arms around me … For the next few minutes she shared something very special with me.

“What are you going to do now? You have to do something,” she said, looking me in the eye.

“I know. I started a foundation, but I’m still figurin’ it all out,” I said.

“Listen, Lezley, there was an organization that started back in the 1980s called Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, MADD. You should look it up. It could inspire you.”

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.”

That name came to me in the middle of the night. I hadn’t been this excited in months. I was smiling again. I wanted to use my voice to bring together a rainbow of mothers from all races and backgrounds who had either lost a child to street violence, gun violence, excessive police force, or just untimely death due to illness. I saw services for counseling, programs for our surviving kids, physical activities so that we could keep our bodies and minds occupied. I wanted this to be a support network for mothers across the country, maybe even the world one day.

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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