On Mother’s Day in 1996, Clementina M. Chéry decided she was going to raise awareness about homicide and the challenges that people affected by murder face by walking in honor of her son Louis Brown, who had been murdered two and a half years earlier. “I noticed that there were walks for hunger, for AIDS, for domestic violence, but no walks for peace,” she says. So she created one. “I wanted to do this because Louis was murdered publicly, so I wasn’t going to celebrate or grieve privately,” she says. “I was giving myself permission and providing space for other mothers.” Chéry describes Louis as “a total bookworm” who “wanted to be the first Black president,” and says she really didn’t know how to celebrate the day with her living children when her oldest son wasn’t there.
Twenty-one years later, people in Boston still march the 6.8 miles from the southern neighborhood of Dorchester to City Hall so mothers of murdered children can get support, be a part of community, and raise awareness about the struggles that survivors of homicide victims face. Today, almost 15,000 people from across the state of Massachusetts participate in the Mother’s Day Walk For Peace. Hosted by the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, which Chéry founded in honor of her son, people still walk “because murder still happens,” she says. “It’s not a Black issue or an urban issue. We are showing the power of mothers in the midst of our pain, making a statement that we choose peace, and that we are more than what society portrays us to be. We are a unified community.”