Gwen Carr, the mother of the late Eric Garner—an African-American man murdered by New York City police, speaks out about police brutality. She shares how she’s raising awareness and motivating others to redirect justified anger in constructive ways.
Omega: What advice do you have for people looking to address the problem of police violence?
Gwen: I would say, the struggle is real. There is a lot of work to be done and to do this work you have to really be about change. And to be about change is not always a comfortable thing.
We have to be in uncomfortable situations to make America and the government uncomfortable—to make them see that there is a problem—because if they don't admit that there is a problem, we can't begin to get to a solution. It's a fight that we must fight. It's an uncomfortable fight. It's not a popular fight, but if we're going to do it, we've got to do it all the way.
Omega: How do you get people to listen?
Gwen: A lot of people are not in the know. A lot of government officials, a lot of regular people don't want to listen to what’s happening—they just feel like nothing is going to change. I feel if I get out there and say, "We must make them listen to us," I may get a different response than someone who's just trying to make a speech.
Omega: What advice do you share?
Gwen: Get involved before it happens to you, because we don't want this to happen to another mother. Or another sister or a brother. Because, when it comes, you're always unprepared. We never know who the next victim is and we don't need another victim.
Omega: In the 2015 Baltimore riots, you were very vocal about urging people to protest peacefully. Why is that so important?
Gwen: Two negatives will never make a positive. Sometimes people's anger is so bottled up—which I can understand completely—it can just explode. We have to try to keep that from happening.
When the riots started in Baltimore, the residents of Baltimore were burning up their own stores, their own places of business—and that only hurts us. Not one person who caused this anger was hurt by this riot. It was only us, and we have to stop doing that. We have to stop hurting our own, because in the fight against police violence a lot of innocent people could get killed. We have to channel our anger in a different way.
Omega: What is a better way to channel our anger?
Gwen: By galvanizing. By getting together. By making people aware. If we want to fight, we've got to fight in a positive and a constructive way. We must let things go and let officials know that we are not playing. We are looking for change.
Omega: Since you’ve been speaking out against police violence, what changes have you seen?
Gwen: They are still killing us, but we want to let people of color know that we are still out there challenging the government officials to do their work, to do their part.
As for myself and other New York mothers, we went up to Governor Cuomo’s office in Albany. We don't make phone calls, we don't write letters, because we feel that that's not enough and the issue is not being addressed properly.
We decided to go to his office and ask for an executive order for a special prosecutor and he gave it to us. Now when these senseless unarmed killings of our children take place, it takes it out of the hands of the local district attorney and puts it in the hands of the state’s attorney general. So, we did accomplish that.
Omega: What are some ways people can get involved?
Gwen: There are people who want to do something, but don't know how. Maybe they’re not willing to protest or get out there and speak up for themselves and others. But there are other things they can do. They can write letters or make telephone calls. Some people do artwork and present it. Some people call other mothers. Some people donate to the cause. There are so many things that can be done. Everybody is not made for everything, so whatever you feel is your contribution to the struggle, you can do.
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