Never underestimate a mother fighting for the safety and
well-being of her child. That is
precisely what Ieshia Evans was doing in Baton Rouge on Saturday, when
Reuters photographer Jonathon Bachman captured this iconic moment. A Brooklyn mother of a 5-year-old son,
Evans traveled from Pennsylvania to take part in protests against the recent
police killing of Alton Sterling.
This mother may be wearing flats and a flimsy
sundress, but she is steel, strength personified. As a mother, I recognize her despite never
having met her. Her gaze is unwavering,
her stance rooted. Ieshia Evans was
going nowhere on that Baton Rouge street.
She had work to do, despite being faced with a seeming army of modern
day Storm Troopers.
The right to peacefully protest is firmly rooted in our
history. Ms. Evans was doing just that,
in fact had traveled from many states away, leaving her son at home, because
one day that young son will grow into an African American man and life is hard,
too hard, for black men in America.
I think about what it took for her, a young mother, to leave
her child, pack up her car and head south, into the mouth of the lion, if you
will. It seems obvious that Ieshia was
not planning on becoming the focal point of a viral photo, a symbol of a
growing movement. She was mothering in
that moment, despite her son being over 1,000 miles away. She was doing something monumental, she was declaring
enough, with her head high and full
of conviction. My guess is, though, her
heart was beating fast, despite her courage.
As mothers, we work to keep our kids protected in this world
today, and as they grow up, ensuring the world they inherit from us is a safe
one for them. Police officers, too, have
protection at the core of their mission.
“To serve and protect” is something many of us associate with police
forces across America. In this photo,
then, we are seeing two very different versions of what it means to protect.
Police, here, are relying on armor, tanks and high-powered
guns to protect, sometimes themselves.
Ms. Evans had nothing more than the phone she carried and her mother’s
love to rely upon. I know which one is
The social media space has embraced Ieshia Evans and exalted her
as a hero of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Various news outlets are reporting that, after this confrontation was
captured, Ms. Evans was, in fact, arrested and held in a Baton Rouge jail
overnight. She did not resist her arrest,
and all accounts suggest she was treated adequately while in custody.
The story, though, is not what happens after the camera went
away and Ms. Evans was escorted into police custody. The story here, that even the police in the
photo seem to recognize, is that a mother’s love is fierce. A mother’s love is strong. A mother’s love is pure. None of that can be denied.
Black lives do matter, black sons matter and a mother’s
love is capable of extraordinary feats. Ieshia
Evans was alone on that Baton Rouge highway as she stood her ground and fought
for her son’s future, faced with a wall of officers whose job was to remove her.