This week dozens of black mothers who are currently awaiting trial and cannot pay their bonds will be released just in time to celebrate Mother’s Day. The movement entitled, Mama’s Bail Out Day, was organized by many groups including Black Lives Matter Atlanta, Healing Hearts of Families, Southerners on New Ground, Color of Change, and local churches and businesses. Joining forces, the groups raised $250,000 to pay bail for black mothers in 16 cities. These women have not been convicted of any crimes and have been jailed for low level offenses like loitering and small drug possession. 62% of people in jail are there because they cannot afford bail. The system has negatively affected women of color and poor women across the nation with black women making up 44 percent of women in jails.
Arissa Hall, an organizer for the event and project manager at the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, told The Nation that Mother’s Day, with its idealized notions of family and womanhood, is the right moment to force an examination of women in jails.
“All mothers are not celebrated, this is especially true of women who struggle with poverty, addiction and mental-health issues—in other words, the women who fill our jails.”
“Black moms especially have not been granted that title of motherhood,” Hall added going on to describe how slavery shredded kinship bonds. Black women, have historically taken on caretaker roles that have put them in charge of other people’s children and away from their own.
Mary Hooks, co-director of the Atlanta-based LGBTQ organizing project SONG, was one of the first people to brainstorm an idea with other activists on how to combat against the money bail and jail-related fine issues specifically for the LGBTQ community. The activist and organizers understood the ways race, class, and gender identity all play a role in criminalization so they decided to expand on who qualifies as a mother. “When we talk about black mamas, we know that mothering happens in a variety of ways,” Hooks said. “Whether it’s the mothers in the clubs who teach the young kids how to vogue, or the church mothers who took care of me.” Women who are birth mothers and chosen mothers are eligible to be bailed out.
The organizers are still raising money so they can release more women and are planning on possibly having a similar bail out for black fathers for Father’s Day.
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