NEW YORK • The Sweet Maple Cafe in Chicago, famous for its grilled cheese sandwiches and sweet milk biscuits, typically closes each day after the lunch rush. But one evening in November, the restaurant opened for an unusual private dinner.
The mothers of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, and a half-dozen other black women who had lost children in clashes with the police or in gun violence, were flown in from around the country and invited to gather around a table. They were joined by Mrs Hillary Clinton, who asked them, one by one, to tell her their stories.
"She took her pad and her ink pen, she wrote her own notes, and she asked us what did we need," said Ms Maria Hamilton, whose son Dontre was shot 14 times by a white Milwaukee police officer in 2014.
Mrs Clinton appeared "visibly hurt" as the mothers spoke, said Ms Lucia McBath, whose 17-year-old son, Jordan Davis, was fatally shot after playing loud music in his car in 2012.
The gathering, held without aides or journalists present, stretched into a nearly three-hour dinner. After dessert, Mrs Clinton encouraged the women to organise and travel the country with her campaign.
At campaign stops, Mrs Clinton introduces them as "a group of mothers who belong to a club no one ever wants to join".
The mothers will arrive in New York this week to help Mrs Clinton compete for the April 19 primary.
Having these women by her side has provided Mrs Clinton with powerful and deeply sympathetic character witnesses as she makes her case to African-American voters.
The mothers have allowed Mrs Clinton to "really tap into the pulse of the black community", said Ms Yvette D. Clarke, Democratic representative from New York, who has endorsed Mrs Clinton.
NEW YORK TIMES
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