After the Grand Jury decision in Ferguson, I couldn’t watch the news. I couldn’t bear to see Lesley McSpadden’s—Michael Brown’s mother’s—face. Her eyes were my eyes. I remember when I looked like that; when I felt like that.
My son, Alan Blueford, was shot by an Oakland police officer on May 6, 2012. He had just turned 18. Officer Miguel Masso and his partner had stopped Alan and two friends as they were walking down 90th St. The boys were racially profiled; the officers never arrested them, but they tossed one of Alan’s friends against a fence, twisting his arm behind his back; they threw the other friend onto the curb. Alan saw this abuse and knew he was not under arrest, so he ran. Officer Masso had on a lapel camera, but he turned it off and chased my Alan for about five city blocks, then took out his gun. Accounts diverge here: either Alan was shot once, stumbled into a driveway, and was shot twice more while lying on his back, or he stumbled into a gate, fell into the driveway and was then shot three times. Either way, the officer stood over him and shot him, center mass. According to multiple witnesses, Alan screamed “I didn’t do anything!” One of the bullets went through his armpit, proving his hands were up at the time. His last words were “Why did you shoot me?”
After Alan died, people said I was strong; they didn’t see how broken I really was. They didn’t see how I couldn’t eat, how I could barely stand. People had to hold me up because my knees would buckle. The only time I could even speak was when I spoke about my son. And I realized how important it was to speak, and to keep speaking.
Members of the community formed the Justice 4 Alan Blueford Coalition to help us obtain the truth. We shut down the Oakland City Council to demand answers; we filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Oakland to seek justice for my boy. We later founded the Alan Blueford Center for Justice in Oakland, a place where people can come together to raise awareness about police brutality and heal as a community. It’s a lively, healthy environment where we share music, art, food and stories, and talk about how to take action. On December 20th, Alan’s birthday, we have a canned food and toy drive to serve our community. We have also started the Alan Blueford Foundation where we will eventually offer scholarships, healthcare outreach, and support groups. Oakland is suffering, and we want to make a difference. We want to give our children hope. Everyone deserves hope.
That’s why we must use this moment, when the nation’s attention is focused on police violence, to make real changes. That’s why I’ll be traveling to Washington, DC December 9 and 10 with a group of mothers to share our stories—our sons’ stories—with legislators and the Department of Justice. Together, we will be loud and forceful. Together, we will tell our lawmakers that the system has to change, that we have to stop protecting these officers who are killing our children without cause.
I’ll never get my son back, but if I raise my voice along with the voices of other mothers who have experienced unbearable loss, perhaps we’ll be able to help save the lives of other mothers’ children, and bring our children’s murderers to justice.