Jeralynn Blueford: ‘The community is grieving’

Mollie Costello, left, & Jeralynn Blueford demand justice.

Mollie Costello, left, & Jeralynn Blueford demand justice on the Poor Peoples March in May 2013..

Oakland, Calif. — Two and a half years after the death of her son by the gun of Oakland Police Department officer Miguel Masso, Jeralynn Blueford and Adam Blueford are still struggling to make sense of this tragedy and find justice for their son, Alan Blueford. Workers World sat with Jeralynn Blueford on Oct. 7 to hear her views on the anti-police brutality struggle and how she has found her role in it.

Together with Mollie Costello, Blueford has developed the Alan Blueford Center for Justice (­ABC4J), which she describes as “a place to help heal the community.” Located near downtown Oakland on Telegraph Avenue, she described ABC4J: “We do a lot of different outreach. It’s a meeting space for activities around issues such as mass incarceration. Every first Friday, we open our doors to the public to share art exhibits, photos. We have live music — it’s all conscious awareness rap music and singing. In May, on the second anniversary of Alan’s death, we did the ‘Use Your Heels to Heal Celebration’ walk around Lake Merritt, and for his birthday last year we did ‘Feed the People.’”

Blueford described: “I know I can’t get Alan back, but the pain that I experience is still very deep and hurts a lot. The only time I feel better is when I’m helping people. To keep Alan who he was, still alive. He was a servant of people, working in his high school with disabled youth.”

Blueford told how she was “inspired by Sabrina Fulton, Trayvon [Martin]’s mother, at the ‘Circle of Mothers’ event organized in May by Fulton. It was a weekend of women empowering women to transform change in their communities.” Blueford said she was inspired by seeing mothers come together. “Although we were grieving, we were able to unite and share and love one another. It empowered me to want to do more.”

WW: Is this how you conceived of your upcoming ‘Helping Hearts to Heal Conference’?

Jeralynn Blueford: Yes, we came up with the idea to have a panel of mothers to share experiences of what we lost, to come up with questions we need answers to and see what solutions are put forward. The purpose of the conference is to reclaim our power as mothers, families, as a community, to transform change. We have to make our community better. …

There’s no hope in our communities. I remember the hopelessness I felt among the youth, when handing out flyers in Fruitvale. They already know about the police, who take oaths to protect and serve, but their actions and mindset are to shoot to kill. They don’t question people anymore, they come out with their guns blazing.

‘A long, long fight ahead’

WW: Is the conference just for mothers?

JB: The conference is open to all to allow grieving and develop unity as we’ve all suffered losses. The community is grieving. The conference will focus on education, inspiration and celebrating the lives of lost loved ones. The sessions will include a mothers’ panel; discussion on the law and suing for police reports; and a celebration for the announcement of the Alan Blueford Foundation.

The mothers’ panel will include Dinial New, who lost two sons, ages 13 and 19, in January; Wanda Johnson, Oscar Grant’s mother; Krystal Brow from Florida, who lost her husband; Rosemary Duenez, mother of Ernest Duenez Jr.; and Val Greenoak, mother of Jessie Hamilton.

WW: How have the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, affected you?

JB: What went on in Ferguson made me relive everything that happened to my Alan. As I looked into Mike Brown’s mother’s eyes, I saw a reflection of myself. I know she has a long, long fight ahead. She’ll need strong faith and a strong support system, and a belief in the healing part, because you need all that to fight. I plan on going there. … I’ve sent my love and prayers for her and her family, but the real struggle happens when everyone stops coming, news stops reporting. That’s when I plan to go and meet with her, share some of my experiences and be of any kind of help that I could possibly be to her.

I made a pledge at the mothers’ conference: ‘This is my story. I cannot change my story. My job is to stand on my story, not in my story.’ What I thought my life would be and what’s happened are totally different. Alan was always proud of me. Whatever I do from here on, it is really imperative that I make him proud. I feel like I’m healing. I was filled with sadness and grief and anger. I’m trying not to remember the tragedy, but remember the life!