Resources for Leaders

Remembering Emmett and Mamie Till

How can a leader use even the worst trauma as an inspiration for freedom and equity?

In 1955, Jet magazine rested on tabletops in many homes of Black people, including the home of my grandmother where I saw it when visiting with my mother. It was in the pages of this magazine that I first saw the brutalized face of Emmett Till. He was 14. I was 9. My mother, in her rendition of the talk that is commonplace today between Black parents and their sons, explained what had happened to Emmett.

What she couldn’t explain was who Emmett Till was. I have come to learn more about his life over the years. Emmett was very intelligent and curious. He was a boy with a quick wit and great sense of humor.  Emmett loved people and loved life.

Now, we are learning more about Emmett’s amazing mother, Mamie Till, who was a positive force in Emmett Till’s life, and our appreciation and respect for her continues to grow. If it were not for the bravery of Mamie Till and her declaration that she wanted the world to see what they did to her son, the death of Emmett Till would have easily been lost in time, just another death of a criminalized Black boy.

Emmett Till, like Kevin Johnson, my mother, and others, was one of my inspirations in starting COSEBOC. Now, I am called to lift with due honor and respect, Emmett’s courageous mother, Mamie Till. COSEBOC is proud to endorse the recent release and premier of the film Till. It is time to remember the brief life of Emmett by learning about the life and actions of his ardent advocate, Mamie Till. I encourage all who see themselves as Freedom Dreamers and equity warriors to see Till, the movie. You will not be disappointed. I anticipate that you will return to the battlefield of justice, freedom, and equity with renewed energy.