After the death of her son, Chaplain Clementina Chéry (Tina), who was at the time not a Chaplin but more an ordinary hardworking African-Latina mother living in Boston, asked: Who could raise a child who could kill? She went to find the answer to her question. What she found was an African-American mother visibly destroyed by the reality that her son, whom she had done her best to raise, had killed someone – another mother’s child. Tina, angry at the loss of her son and recognizing the anguish and despair of the mother she found, used her own anger as a strategy to develop a formula that would aid both mothers through the life-long journey of loss due to murder: She founded the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute.
It was an honor and an inspiration to meet and listen to Chaplain Clementina Chéry speak at Harvard Divinity School’s colloquium Healing, Bridge-Building, and Empowerment to Address Gun Violence: Inspiration from Boston’s African American Communities. With Rev. Liz Walker moderator, the evening included dynamic presenters: Stanley Pollack – founder and executive director, Center for Teen Empowerment; Monalisa Smith – founder, president, and CEO, Mothers for Justice and Equality; John M. Brown, Sergeant Detective – Boston Police Department; David J. Harris – managing director, Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, Harvard Law School; and a dynamic wiry seventeen-year-old youth organizer whose name I do not recall, but will update in this post later. It was his first time in his life to be on the campus of a university and he was delighted that it was Harvard.
My take-away from the evening is the spirited cry of Tina: “I am an Angry Black Woman.” Tina uses her anger to fuel transformations in herself, her community and beyond. She used her anger to stand alongside the mother of her son’s murder, throughout his incarceration and aided in his release, and in helping him put his life together. What eloquent anger this is: In these times in the US and the world, we could all do with hefty doses of the transformative anger that possess Chaplain Clementina Chéry (Tina).