A few months prior to the horrific tragedy of 9/11, my personal life was already shattered into a million pieces. In a matter of minutes, an issue that too often impacts the lives of African Americans hit directly home. My two-year-old son’s father was shot and killed; our lives left hanging in the balance. But it was precisely during this tumultuous point in my life, that I made a conscious decision to transform the pain and anguish into constructive behavior that could hopefully prevent another family from experiencing a similar calamity. It was at that moment, that I decided to take action.
Growing up with parents that were so heavily involved in the fight for civil rights, I was practically raised in the National Action Network (NAN). Keenly observing and admiring the unyielding work of our tireless leader, the Rev. Al Sharpton, I witnessed first-hand the impact that a demand for equality had on people’s lives. But it was following my own personal loss, that I reaffirmed my commitment to NAN’s cause of seeking education reform, an end to police brutality, impartiality in the workplace, access to health care, fair housing, civil liberty for all and of course an end to rampant gun usage and violence.
In NAN’s headquarters of NYC, the NYPD recently released a startling statistic: in 2010, the murder rate involving African American victims increased by 31%. And sadly, this rise in violence isn’t confined to the big apple. All across the country, in cities and towns in every state, we are experiencing a dangerous elevation that has a detrimental effect not only on the victim, but on all those left behind.
When my son’s father was viciously murdered 10 years ago, education, health care and other real-life challenges took on new meaning. In essence, I became a double mom – a mother and a father. But out of catastrophe, comes hope. We as a community must heal ourselves; it must begin from within. As NAN continues its fight for social justice, we call on everyone to take a stand, and get involved in their community. We call on everyone to mentor a young person, to volunteer at a soup kitchen, to read to the elderly, to help eliminate guns on our streets and to further the importance of education.
We call everyone to action.
Tamika Mallory is the National Executive Director of National Action Network (NAN), one of the nation’s leading civil rights organizations founded by Reverend Al Sharpton. She is a nationally recognized progressive leader and a fierce advocate for social justice and civil rights.