Who We Are

While a Black death at the hands of police is the subject of national outrage, the numerous Black deaths that occur every day in our communities are ignored. The victims are often children, and their mothers are seldom given a platform to voice their opinions.

The Woodson Center is partnering with groups of Black mothers across the country to create a movement known as Voices of Black Mothers United. Voices of Black Mothers United strives to unite mothers of fallen children and community partners to amplify their voices to the nation, to heal and strengthen communities, and to create an environment of hope and opportunity.

Help fuel the movement to heal and transform our communities.

What We Stand For

Our mission is to assist individuals and organizations in the areas of family advocacy, community intervention, and promoting positive policing (PPP). Voices of Black Mothers United will build and sustain strong relationships by uniting Black mothers, fathers, and youth (siblings), as well as business and faith leaders, and law enforcement to work together to end violence in our communities.

Our Leaders

Our team consists of Black mothers and community leaders. We have united nationally to raise our voices and create change. The VBMU team shares a passion to empower community collaboration in order to foster safe environments for all.

Sylvia Bennett-Stone


Sylvia Bennett-Stone serves as the Director of the Voices of Black Mothers United initiative. After losing her daughter to senseless violence in 2004, Sylvia began her life-long commitment of helping uplift the lives of others by founding the Innovative Approach Foundation and chronicling her own healing journey in her book “Mindfields: A Healing Journey to Survive the Murder of a Child”. It is from these committed efforts to serve the community that she started Voices of Black Mothers United. With Sylvia at the helm as Director, the VBMU initiative has grown to service thousands of mothers who have lost children and are implementing solutions to address community violence.

Mary Nelson

State Lead

Mary Nelson is the President/CEO of the Mary Nelson Youth Center, a center offering a food pantry for families, computer classes, and after-school tutoring. Mary’s community efforts have grown the center to be a community resource agency for education, health, career services, violence intervention, mentorship and financial literacy. Mary is excited to be a part of the VBMU movement in order to give mothers a voice, resources, and support through the grieving process and helping transform their lives into service. She serves as the State Lead for New York. 

Carolyn Johnson Turner

State Lead

Carolyn Johnson Turner is the State Lead in Alabama for VBMU. Carolyn has started several community initiatives including the Parent Against Violence foundation and the “Who Killed my Child” campaign to bring public awareness to unsolved homicides through public rallies, flyers, posters, and billboards. When Carolyn’s son was killed, the Birmingham Police Department did not have a cold case unit. But as a result of her persistent and determined efforts, one was established in 2005 and is part of Turner’s lasting legacy to the city. When Carolyn heard about the creation of Voices of Black Mothers United, she was eager to join this unified nationwide effort to pursue the goals she had been working toward and she became the lead mom in her region. 

Donita Royal

State Lead

Donita serves as the State Lead for VBMU in the Indiana region. Her community engagement includes launching the Mothers Against Violence Healing Ministry to provide hope and comfort to bereaved mothers and to meet their practical needs as they make their journey through the grieving process. She lost her son and her best friend to gun voilence and, out of her pain, she started Mothers Against Voilence Healing Ministry Donita is excited to be a part of the VBMU initiative and continue the work of supporting mothers.

Shirley Muhammad

State Lead

Shirley serves as the State Lead for VBMU in the Pennsylvania region. Her experience in community engagement includes founding Your Sister’s Project in order to parlay her expertise in accounting to a financial literacy program for low- to moderate-income families. Shirley has been active in the full range of VBMU efforts, including initiatives to provide outreach to other grieving mothers, serve as their advocate and empower them to have a voice, establish peace and safety in their communities, provide intervention services for bereaved families, and promote positive policing. 

Beverly Smith-Brown

State Lead

Beverley serves as lead mom in the DC-Maryland-Virginia area for VBMU. Her experience in community efforts includes launching Momma’s Safe Haven, which would grow to become a multi-faceted hub of programs and services that offer grief support, counseling, nutritional guidance, educational opportunities, and the unconditional love that can make uplift and transformation possible. The loss of her nephews further fueled Beverly’s commitment to provide the support that was needed for children, youth, and adults to deal with trauma. Today, she is proud of her work with VBMU in providing a platform for the voices of mothers to be heard in all arenas.

Bettye Sweet

State Lead

Bettye is a part of Voices of Black Mothers United to promote healing among other bereaved moms and to give them an opportunity to be heard in the public and policy arenas. After the death of her son, she has started several programs in her community including Home Sweet Home Youth Build. She has also authored several books including “Survivor to Thriver: A Mother’s Journey toward Peace after her Son’s Murder”, “Growing Up LA Style: Byron”, and “Adversity’s Child”. She is the State Lead for the Southern California region.

Rhonda Knight

State Lead

Rhonda Knight’s enthusiasm and gratitude for her role as a lead mom in Voices of Black Mothers’ United in Georgia is rooted in personal experience. She had suffered, survived and emerged victorious after the horrific experience of being the victim of attempted murder and rape. Her deep experience in community efforts includes founding a non-profit organization, Uplifting Hearts, Minds and Souls (HUMS), to meet the needs of survivors of violence, primarily women, but also men, youth, and children. Today, Rhonda serves as a motivational speaker and continues to bring hope and inspiration through her personal account of healing and resilience, with an impassioned commitment to uplift those she reaches and inspire them to help others in return.

Help fuel the movement to heal and transform our community.

Your contributions help empower family members of victims of violence and provide them with resources to cope and heal.