Lucy McBath: Mother on a Missionby Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., NNPA Newswire Contributor November 2, 2018
When her son Jordan McBath was alive, Lucy McBath would ask God to use him to make the world a better place. “That was my greatest prayer,” says McBath who was devastated when Jordan’s life was cut short at age 17. McBath admits his death was the first time in her life she had ever questioned God. In 2012, Jordan was murdered by Michael Dunn who objected to Jordan and his friends playing loud music at a Florida gas station. McBath says she learned a very good lesson about faith from that experience. “When you’re asking God to use you, you don’t always get to choose what that looks like,” she says quietly. “I realized I was being used – wewere being used — to make this world better.”
McBath, who is running for the 6th Congressional District of Georgia against incumbent Karen Handel, believes God is continuing to use her as she continues her journey to create change. While Jordan’s murder prompted McBath to push for common sense gun laws, she was actually born into an activist family. McBath is the daughter of Lucien Holman and Wilma Holman, a man who served as the NAACP Illinois branch president for twenty years and a mother who worked as a nurse.
She spent her childhood traveling with her family, attending marches and rallies for civil rights and fighting alongside more storied civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was during these experiences, McBath learned the importance of fighting for what you believe. “I learned to stand up for what I believe and to challenge systems and beliefs that don’t afford everybody to have the same sense of democracy,” she says.
McBath talks about the importance of grassroots organizing and how essential organizing is to having a cultural shift. “Anytime there is a cultural shift in our society, people are out their mobilizing, marching and making their voices heard.” Most importantly, she also learned, “It only takes one person to begin a movement.”
McBath has done just that as national spokesperson for Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Fueled by the need for change, McBath also served as Faith and Outreach leader for both.
McBath names the book of Esther as her favorite book in the Bible. In a nutshell, Esther and her cousin Mordecai, who were Jewish, persuaded Esther’s husband King Ahaseurus to retract his order for the annihilation of all Jews – an order put in place after his Chief Minister Haman coerced him. Instead Haman was hanged in the gallows intended for Mordecai and the Jews were spared and defeated their enemies.
McBath is committed to doing what’s right and defeating those whose actions would ruin people’s lives. McBath worked with Everytown and Moms, founded her own charity, Champion in the Making Legacy Foundation, to help cover costs for students attending traditional or technical schools and served as a surrogate for the 2016 Hillary Clinton for President Campaign as one of the “Mothers of the Movement.”
A woman who has spent the last six years lobbying Georgia’s Congressional, State House and State Senate delegations to enact common sense gun violence prevention laws could very well have continued in that vein. After Clinton’s loss in the 2016 election, McBath decided she needed to do more.
“After losing the election, I thought to myself, what do I do? Where do I go? How do I continue to build upon what we have done?” she offers. “After Parkland happened, I realized the legislators have the power to create the change. It just had to stop. It had to stop,” says McBath growing silent. After a moment of reflection, McBath begins speaking again. It is clear McBath’s desire for change is painful and personal. “I had already been dealing with our gun violence/prevention – testifying and listening to the amendments and time and time again watching the Republican Party have a disdain for common sense gun laws,” she offers. “When the Parkland children stood up, I thought why are we not standing behind them. Why are we not helping them save their own lives? If not now, then when?”
Clearly, the time is now, and the election is in a few days and McBath has continuously beaten the odds, having secured the Democratic nomination. It took a lot of faith, time, money and effort to go down this path to potential lawmaker. “I had already been in Washington. I’ve already done a lot of work folks do. I testify, negotiate, advocate. I just thought that Jordan’s legacy,” her voice trails off. “If this is how to continue to save lives, then it would be more tragic not even to try.”
McBath is doing more than just trying, despite being called a “Gun Grabber,” by GOP opponents. The woman who wants common sense gun laws has been labeled an extremist by 2nd amendment activists, which is ironic. “We have an extremist culture here that has been perpetrated by the NRA leadership. I don’t want to cast stones at all NRA members, but if you are a law-abiding gun owner, you don’t have a reason to be worried,” she says.
While McBath’s name is connected most often to gun and violence prevention, the two-time breast cancer survivor is also fighting for access to healthcare. McBath is thankful for her great healthcare benefits as a Delta Airlines employee for 30 years, but understands her situation is not the norm for many of her constituents. “I don’t want anyone in my district to be faced with not having access to health care – faced with a healthcare crisis. When I know the incumbent tried to defund Planned Parenthood, I know what that means especially for women, most of whom are women of color.” McBath has a plan and a desire driven by the loss of her only child to get her constituents there.
Listening to McBath, one has to marvel at her strength and resiliency. When asked what would Jordan think of her congressional run, she smiles gently. “I think Jordan would have been very surprised. He would have said Mom go for it! What I’m doing is what I was teaching him to be.”
Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D. is culture and entertainment editor for NNPA/Black Press USA. She is also founder & editor-in-chief of The Burton Wire, an award-winning news blog covering the African Diaspora. Follow her on Twitter@Ntellectual.