Warning: This story references violence and injustices.
Love Sum Mommas community care program was seeded in my heart summer 2020 after I spoke with a Louisville family who had lost 2 children in 2020 to gun violence. They were the second family who has lost children to gun violence that I spoke with that afternoon for the census. Having to ask about family members and dates of birth and death stirred deep feelings and generated stories surrounding their loved ones. Joyful stories. Funny stories. Heartbreaking stories. Holding space for all of life’s experiences is emotionally and physically draining, especially the traumatic, life shattering kinds that I can’t fully comprehend because I haven’t lived it personally. It’s a feeling and effect that I don’t have words for exactly. But I can say that it is heavy, very heavy. It is deeply gut and soul wrenching. There’s internal wailing, rage, and desperation. It’s vulnerable. It’s uncomfortable. It’s also necessary. Grief is a part of life. Those two families weren’t the last I’d speak with during those few weeks.
Genuinely connecting with variously different people very quickly over real, unchosen, unjust, life-changing events is heavy (when you have a connected heart), and it takes skill, but is all a gift I will cherish. Some incinerating passion ignited along that gut wrenching journey. It made clear the intertwining of so many things for me and put faces and societal positions of power glaringly obvious whereas before, they were seen results from ideas with vague sources. It also made clear that my life and God and the universe had aligned specific things in my life and that it was time to do something with it all.
There were a lot of gunfire deaths there in 2020, record number I think. There were a lot in Knoxville too. There are a whole lot of similarities in the places – from the hills to the cities of KY and TN. I wasn’t ever around the gunfire (except a loud cannon sound once that made the resident jump and tell me it was time for me to go, the time I was one block over, and another by same spot but one day later). From the people I was tasked to speak with, I was mostly treated with kindness and respect and mostly trusted. People spoke to me and opened up, a lot. I have many fond memories, many joyful memories, and many transformative ones. Many make me smile. Some make me cry. Others make me exhausted. And many ignite fire. Because things need to burn. It’s a part of life too. I’m going to tell those stories over time because the deserve voice. No identifying info though, just stories of connections.
I cried alone in my car many times in Louisville, yelled out to (and at) God and (not present) people, fixed my face, and re-grounded before exiting my car again. India Arie, Sam Smith, Black Eyed Peas, and Lil Baby kept me company on repeat. I thank God for breathing, yoga, nature, and therapy. I thank God for the many people who expressed and planted beauty into their neglected and traumatized part of town with gardens, murals, parks, statues, humor, and love. I thank the many people for their brave connection, acceptance, protection, and genuine conversation.
It was rough on my systems, those weeks. Really rough. It was taxing to hear, see, feel, and stay present, aware, and engaged, while working way too many hours in a day and week, trying to get as many people counted as I possibly could (because I knew so many co-workers and supervisors were purposefully not doing their jobs). But, I wasn’t the one living those stories, subject to those conditions. My return to Knoxville was abrupt, disturbing, and is another story in itself. By the time I returned, I needed recovery. My nervous system was in desperate need of nourishment, processing, and rest. I was privileged and blessed with a support system willing to allow me that time, access, and space. I layered myself in plants, therapy, and tools at my reach.
But, this wasn’t, and isn’t, about me. It’s about the mothers. The kids. The dads. The families. The people. The lives. The earth. And all of the connections to all of those responsible. It’s about justice ✊🏽. What of the people without resources? Those without support, unable to get care? What of the people I spoke with, who have been ignored, neglected, abused, unseen? This is about caring and supporting those who need it, those who all the systems intersect against in current society and practice, and about doing it in a way that makes a new system. A system of healing, of collective care.
Every night I was in Louisville, I went to the river to practice yoga, ground, and intentionally move my body to release the feelings and the energy that had built up. And to sit and listen to the water. I spoke to a coworker-turned-friend and vented and cried and analyzed experiences and feelings and society and solutions. And every night, I’d look across the river, notice the clear line dividing the darkness along the West Bank from the bright and shininess of the downtown and the East. Politics and events and food and access and nature and all the purposeful neglect so glaring in the lights. Every night after I met those families, as I sat and listened but not listening, hearing all the sirens and the gunfire, but also re-hearing their stories in my head and heart, and ALSO hearing a quiet internal knowing, that ignited passion grew into a knowing of how much is connected and how much can greatly change-if we do the work.
It’s time and this is a step. And it starts with me, connecting.
What I felt due to my experiences is a drop in the bucket of what those mommas and other mommas like them feel. All mommas need our support so let’s give them that support. Love Sum Mommas is a community care project to support mommas, and we are starting with those mommas in the Knoxville area (where Sum Love is based) who have had a child taken by violence. We’ve had way too many here over the years, and this past year has been especially rough it seems. Let’s wrap them in community and provide access to layers of selfcare and wellness in community.
Love Sum Mommas is a collaboration between cared for and caring service providers, the collective providing support, and the individuals receiving care. It is garden of healing. Will you contribute to the healing?
The full description is in the Etsy listing for Love Sum Mommas, if you would like to read more about what is included.
To drop $ in any amount, cashapp ➡️$sumloveworld ⬅️
To Sponsor a package for a local Knoxville mom, you can purchase on Etsy or email Sum Love firstname.lastname@example.org (please put ‘Love Sum Mommas’ in the subject line).