Mother Lillian Mobley, the community treasure
To Lillian Mobley, the community was her child and she was a mother to ‘us’–a comforter to the afflicted, the protector of the innocent, a defender in times of peril, a teacher, a guide, and the epitome of Black Motherhood.
Mother Lillian Mobley was a mother to the community; she was always there, front and center, to protect and serve, defend in good times and to fight in times of trouble, she was there for the community–in the streets or the suites; in City Hall, Sacramento or Washington D.C. and with the powerful and the powerless. When the community calls for help, Mother Mobley answered that call and she has left a legacy that will live on for generations to come. She transitioned peacefully Monday evening surrounded by her family, friends and supporters … all of whom she loved and who in turn loved her tremendously.
Born Lillian Harkless in Macon, Georgia on March 29, 1930 to Charlie Harkless and Corene Basley Harkless. She graduated from Hudson High in 1948 and married James Otis Mobley that same year. Together they have four children: Phillip, Charles, Kenneth and Corene who preceded her in death.
Known as Mother Mobley, she was a community activist and was affectionately known as the “Community Mother”. She was founder of the South Central Multi-Purpose Senior Citizen’s Center on Central Avenue in Los Angeles, which services people in the community of all ages. She was realizing her dream of bringing a chapter of the Birthing Project USA to South Central with the Grandma’s Hands Los Angeles Birthing Project. It is a volunteer effort put forth to encourage better birth outcomes by providing practical support to women during and after pregnancy. Mother Mobley worked tirelessly to bring equality, justice, and resources to the South Los Angeles and Watts neighborhoods.
Mother Mobley served on several boards of directors, councils and committees, and was a current board member of Brotherhood Crusade, Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC), and Tessie Cleveland Community Services Corporation. She was the co-founder of Mothers in Action, the chairperson of the Watts Towers Community Action Council and the Black Women’s Forum Health Task Force. Mother Mobley was also a member of the Black Community Health Task Force and the Black Education Task Force. She received a Doctorate of Humane Letters from Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science in 2007.
Each day presented itself with a new challenge for the 81-year, young great-grandmother, as she continued to do as much as she could despite tremendous odds. Even with the challenge of having dialysis three times a week, Mother Mobley mustered up the energy to go in to the office, attend meetings and many community events.
Sadly, Mother Mobley passed away Monday, July 18, 2011 at 7:00pm with family and friends by her side. She will be sorely missed by all who knew and loved her.
According to her great niece, Chioma, “Being recognized is not her first priority; it never has been;” Mother Mobley is known for what she has done for others–with no fuss, no fanfare, she just did for the community. “Her priority is getting things done and finding resources … getting access to resources that are out there that the people in Watts and South Los Angeles know nothing about. That’s her main goal,” Chioma continued.
As one of the most beloved activists in South Los Angeles, Mother Mobley had a hand in most of the projects that were meaningful to the community–be it social services, healthcare issues, funding for community organizations, police brutality, senior citizens (notwithstanding that she was a senior, it never stopped her), she kept right on pushing for a better quality of life and for the betterment of her beloved community.
Many of her remarkable accomplishments can be seen and there are lots more that are not readily seen, but work for the community. After the 1965 Watts Rebellion, she joined with a host of other community giants–including the later Mary Henry, Caffie Green, Johnnie Tillman and Nona Carter–to fight for a hospital–Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Hospital–and the Charles Drew University Medical School, monuments which stand today, despite problems, as a testament to the leadership and courage of Mother Mobley.
Those who knew, loved her and worked with her expressed their love in the following way
CONGRESSWOMAN MAXINE WATERS (CA-35)
Just one day before she passed, Congresswoman Maxine Waters was asked if she would be willing ‘to provide a few words about her friend, Lillian Mobley.’ The Congresswoman immediately took a pen and paper, and wrote the following: “Lillian Mobley is one of my closest and dearest friends. We have worked together over the past 30 years in saving MLK Hospital. We founded Black Women’s Forum together; we have marched, fought and sacrificed for our people and our community. She is my ‘shero.’ I love her, I honor her and I look forward to working with her for many years to come.”
Though she will not be working with Mother Mobley personally, the Congresswoman would still be able to work with her through the lasting legacy she has left for all of us–at the Brotherhood Crusade, Grandma Hands, Mothers in Action, the Lillian Mobley South Central Multipurpose Senior Citizens Center, Southwest College, Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC) and Watts Learning Center, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and many more.
CONGRESSWOMAN LAURA RICHARDSON (CA-37)
Congresswoman Laura Richardson released the following statement regarding the passing of Southern California advocate, icon and community hero Lillian Mobley, who died on Monday, July 18, 2011.
“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Lillian Mobley, affectionately known as ‘Mother Mobley,’ who served as a community caretaker for more than 30 years. Mother Mobley knew the value of our community and was determined, without hesitation, to ensure that much needed services and resources such as the Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital would no longer be ignored or delayed. Lillian Mobley stood strong and tall like others before her like Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman. Mrs. Mobley’s life embodied the 1990’s theme: ‘Speak to Power,’ and, I would add, without fear. Mother Mobley leaves us with a long legacy of work, but a call to keep pushing. I will miss her deeply.”
SENATOR RODERICK WRIGHT (S-25)
“I grew up in this community being raised by Ms. Mobley, Abbey Robinson, Mary-Henry, Johnny May Tillman, and these women were just stewards. She and Abbey ran the program together when they were on Broadway for a number of years, NAPP, Neighborhood Adult Participation Program, and then her own center down on Central, when the Brotherhood Crusade moved out of that space. But still just working with people. You just take the longevity of her life and you celebrate what she has accomplished. But, the community certainly mourns losing a warrior like Ms. Mobley. She is entitled to her just reward, because of what she gave, and what she did, and what she endured. Ms. Mobley saw the first African- American Mayor of Los Angeles and she saw the first African American President. She lived through such a dynamic part of history for Black people and for Black people in Los Angeles. She deserves rest. You mourn for yourself for not seeing her. But you have to thank God that he gave her to us for so long, and let her accomplish, and see so much. We are talking about a lady who made change in this community. As they would say in the old days, ‘she never took the big piece of chicken’. Ms. Mobley never had a driver’s license. Ms. Mobley had people take her around; she never had a car. And that is kind of what I said in a metaphoric sense, ‘never took the big piece of chicken.’ Even if you tried to give it to her, she would never take that. The accolades that we were able to do for her in later years were more than deserved, because so many of us stood on her shoulders, and were supported by her. Ms. Mobley said, “You know, I’m ready for the fight.” That was her! I can only imagine that yesterday she decided that I have done what I could do here.”
ASSEMBLYMAN MIKE DAVIS (A-48)
Assemblyman Mike Davis reflected on the passing of Mrs. Lillian Harkness Mobley and the tremendous loss to the Los Angeles community. “Lillian Mobley was a staunch supporter of the underserved citizens of Los Angeles and is credited with the earliest support of the development of Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital,” he said.
“She was committed to quality health care for residents of South Los Angeles and served as Founder of the Black Health Task Force for Los Angeles County. Mrs. Mobley could be found fighting for equality on every major policy issue impacting the underserved in South Los Angeles. She “walked with kings but had the touch of the common man.” Named in her honor is a hospital wing at Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital. Mrs. Mobley could always be seen caucusing with Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Congresswoman Diane Watson, Mayor Tom Bradley, Danny Bakewell, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and many more, while working on how to improve the quality of life for residents in her community. Along with Mrs. Mary Henry, Mrs. Caffie Greene, Mrs. Wilamena Shamberger, she made Los Angeles a better place. It is fitting that the Board of Charles Drew University bestowed her with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters for Service and Achievement for 40 years of commitment to the university. She has received numerous awards and special honors for her vision, volunteerism, community leadership and political activism. Mrs. Lillian Mobley was a proud resident of the 48th Assembly District.’
ASSEMBLYMAN ISADORE HALL (A-51)
“She is an icon in our community. She help paved the way for so many of our local elected officials throughout the Los Angeles County area. She also advocated for health and education. Thus serving on the Charles Drew Medical Board, Charles Drew University Board of Directors. Obviously, our community will be impacted by her loss, because she is a thunderous voice for equality and justice in Los Angeles County. We stand on her shoulders.”
Congresswoman Diane Watson (emeritus)
“I can’t remember many that exceeded her community involvement and dedication. It’s almost an end of an era. The Mary Henrys of our large general community have all gone. But, it’s up to the younger generation to carry the torch and to be the kind of committed representative that Lillian Mobley was and that Ms. Aliewine, and all those who have gone before us were.”
COUNCILMAN BERNARD C. PARKS (C-8)
“Councilwoman Jan Perry did a motion today (Tuesday) in honor of Ms. Mobley. She was one of the many people in the community including Mary Henry and Edna Aliewine that when you think of Ms. Mobley, you have to think of Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital. She was a mother to everyone. When she saw something wrong, she did something about it or called someone to do something about it. She was a genuine leader and a great human being.”
DANNY J. BAKEWELL SR.
“The passing of Lillian Mobley is like something in nature has stopped; the community has lost its mother, protector and defender, and now the community feels like an orphan without Mother Mobley to protect, defend and nurture us. However, in going away, she has left us treasures abound which she helped prepare, nursed and support in the form of King Hospital, Charles Drew Medical Center, Mothers in Action, the Brotherhood Crusade, Grandma Hands, senior citizens centers housing units knowing that this day would come but that we’d be taken care of in her absence. She was a mother to the community and we are better off because she was a part of our lives. We thank her family for sharing her with us and we will miss her dearly.”
REV. ERIC LEE
“She’s my strongest advocate; I love her dearly. As long as I am serving my people, she is my strongest advocate.”
REV. CECIL MURRAY
“Lillian Mobley was the Rosa Parks of the West Coast Civil Rights Movement and Era.”
REV. MARK WHITLOCK
“Lillian Mobley was my play mama and my mentor.”
“The community has lost another great warrior! Lillian Mobley was a true champion for equal justice for all people. She was the voice for those who were “forgotten” by the system. When she spoke, folks listened from the President of the United States to local politicians. She was never afraid to speak her mind, and she knew just what to say, and whom to say it to. Ms. Mobley was a force to be reckoned with. She was known throughout California for her strong advocacy for poor people, and she had the ear and attention of most community leaders. In fact, Ms. Mobley helped shape policies for the many issues facing the community. She had earned the respect of many politicians and provided counsel to some.
Ms. Mobley’s legacy is her unrelenting love of her community and courageous fight to make it a better place for everyone to live. She will be truly missed.
And like many who have worked with her, Jackie Dupont Walker was eager to show the love and appreciation she felt for Mother Mobley. She issued the following statement: “Mz. Mobley taught me to face each adversity as an opportunity. She is an unapologetic voice for her people and an unashamed Christian soldier. She just gets it! She speaks for women without widening the gender divide. Mz. Mobley has been a role model for me in community service, faith based advocacy, and speaking truth to power. Mz. Mobley correctly warns that we need a boot camp for prospective public servants, and a graduate of the Lillian Mobley School of Servant Leadership is destined to be a ‘winner.’ When she believes in what you are doing, she never says “no.” When Rosa Parks Villas was dedicated, she came from her dialysis treatment to be with Ward EDC. She was there 20 years earlier when some opponent of affordable housing wanted Ward Villas to become housing for students and faculty of USC. She has taught all of us how to “hang” to get the job done.”
For me personally, Mrs. Mobley has been like a grandmother to me. She has been there for me through the good times and the bad. She has always believed in me and always wanted the best for me. She has given me wonderful advice and guidance throughout my life and still does. She is a big part of me, and is a big part of how I carry and respect other people. Mrs. Mobley is a big part of my heart and I will cherish her always and forever. I love you, Mrs. Mobley!
Lillian Mobley’s Funeral Will Be On Friday, July 29, 2011 at Ward AME Church,
1177 W. 25th St, LA, CA 90007 AT 11:00 AM.
Please Send All Condolences to 1111 W. 51st Street, Los Angeles, CA 90037
Mother Mobley has left large footprints for ‘us’ to follow.