Open letter to mums of living sons

VOICEOFREASONI need to begin by expressing my heartfelt sympathies to those women who have lost sons –– women, who by some act of violence, have lost their son or sons in ways they could never have imagined. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

I truly hope you find the grace and the steel to continue in the face of what is the greatest of tragedies.

To the ones whose most prized posessions are still alive, who still have that living embodiment of their hopes, I know this must be a time of angst. As you witness the uptick in violent crimes nationally, I know you must have heard the Commissioner of Police in a Press conference last week where he is reported to have said “to date there are 134 cases of firearm-related crimes as opposed to 128 for the previous year” –– an increase he describes as not “catastrophic”.

Despite the top cop’s implicit suggestion that there is no need for panic, I imagine you are wondering about the pragmatics of keeping your boy safe, regardless of his age. For, as mothers, you do not have the luxury of measuring crime in terms of deaths and injuries alone, but rather by lives affected and promise curtailed.   

In the midst of this, there appears that there is little you can do in the way of ensuring your son’s constant safety. Here is what you can do: love him and cherish him, and ensure that he knows he is loved and cherished. Embrace him for who he is, even when pushing him to be better.

Never forget the promise you saw in his newborn eyes, and remember that he is always worth the work. Laugh with him and work to create memories as often as you can, because these are the things that will matter most at the end of the day –– particularly, if that day ends with your losing your son through the callousness and hate of violent crime.

If you are the praying type, say a prayer not only for your boy, but for all our boys. Because even the ones who have strayed down the wrong path, even those who have taken the lives of those most precious to others, deserve our prayers.

As you pray, befriend someone else’s son; be a force in his life; care, counsel, embrace. Quite simply do what you can to ensure that one fewer mother has to receive a phone call no mother should ever have to, informing her that her son has died, or, worst yet, has killed.

I wish I could offer a magic pill to remedy this situation or, at the very least, a more structural set of solutions; but I cannot. I do not know if it will require stiffer prison penalties; but I imagine not. I do not know if a gun amnesty will be effective. I do not know if we are truly engaging in the rehabilitative work that is supposed to define a stay at Her Majesty Prisons Dodds, and I do not know whether it will truly create change.

I do not know if the political and social will to ensure there are educational and employment opportunities for all, regardless of class and status, will lead to a shift in the climate of fear. I do not know. I am no criminologist.

All I know is that we as a society must seek to find out.

To not seek solutions, to not do the work of making your boys whole, is to have us constantly living in fear, leading to “a country where we will wish our sons away”.

This work is not simply for those who have lost, and who may have said “he was a nice boy, he jus’ had he ways”.

There is a problematique in Barbadian socialization/parenting that suggests if you raise him to say “yes please” and “thank you”; to keep his hands to himself; and to watch the company he keeps, he will be okay. Every so often we are reminded that those raised to be respectable and upstanding can both lose and take life.

“Bullets cannot be called back nor triggers unpulled”, and the force of deadly weapons has no consideration for personhood, only physical circumstance. It is in that reality you must realize you have raised your sones well for life; but that is not sure protection against death by violence. It is in that way that all of your boys are bound together.

We must engage in a collective repentance that allows us to dispense with caution and engage with courage as we seek to concern ourselves not merely about who murdered, or has the ability to murder your precious sons, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy that produced the murderers.

I have the pleasure of being the sibling of only brothers, of being the uncle of four beautiful boys, not to mention having a squad of male friends who are my confidants, partners in mischief, my inspirations. I do not wish  to overstate the reality, for even one death is too many; but there is a vulnerability I feel in this moment because of violence across the country and the multiplicity of ways the men and boys in my life could fall victim to it.

It is a fear we may be raising one of my nephews to be a newspaper headline of the worst kind, or that I will awake to news of the death of one of my beloved brothers –– whether familial or bonded –– leaving a gaping hole in every day I will have thereafter.

We should all be tired of knowing the full names of young Barbadian men for all the wrong reasons. Let’s hope that in this moment there is a possibility that those who have died will compel us through our memories to make this a place where boys are allowed to grow, to be all that their mothers dream of –– and more.

(Andwele Boyce is a young communicator who is passionate about politics and popular cultutre. He holds a Master’s in international trade.)

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