A coalition of national and local organizations across the United States are working on a national campaign to free dozens of jailed Black mothers in order to bring them home for Mother’s Day.
The National Black Mama’s Bail Out Day, an effort initiated by the Atlanta-based Southerners On New Ground, SONG, has been raising money and gathering resources for those incarcerated mothers for the past three weeks.
“When we say ‘Black mamas,’ we're referring to Black women, (including those who are) queer, trans, gender nonconforming,” Mary Hooks, codirector of SONG and the initial organizer of the action, told MTV News. “We want to be able to connect Black mothers to resources.”
These women are among the 62 percent of people in jail because they can’t afford bail as they await trial. Many of them are jailed for low-level offenses such as loitering or small-scale drug possession.
Organizers with SONG, the Movement for Black Lives, ColorOfChange, and other groups have reached their goal of raising more than US$250,000. It will free at least 30 women in Atlanta, Houston, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and other cities nationwide.
“This is an opportunity for us to free each other, and also to highlight the harsh impacts that cash bail is having on our people and, in the broader context, mass incarceration,” Hooks said.
In the U.S., nearly one-third of incarcerated women are Black, while Black women only make up less than 15 percent of the female population. Many of them are single parents and caretakers in their communities.
Mother’s Day, with its origins springing from a movement for peace and social justice to improve the lives of families, is the right moment to force an examination of women in jails, Arissa Hall, a national Black Mama’s Bail Out Day organizer and project manager at the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, told the Nation. “Black moms especially have not been granted that title of motherhood,” she added.
When single mothers cannot be bailed out of jail, their children may be sent to foster homes, where they may go hungry or miss school. Seeing a parent behind bars may also cause trauma to the children, according to Human Rights Watch.
“One out of nine Black children has a parent that is incarcerated,” SONG's Hooks said in another interview with Rolling Out. “When Black mamas are taken from our community and put in cages, we all suffer.”
Every day an average of 700,000 people are condemned to jail and separated from their families simply because they can not afford to pay bail. The Bail Out campaign is modeled after community bail funds that pay money for community members at no expense to the individual.
Opponents say the practice of requiring arrested people to pay money in order to get out of jail before trial is unnecessary and it often results in the detention of poor and working-class people.
In New Orleans and Houston, local communities are organizing efforts to end the cash bail system.
Hooks said after the bailout, they will help these women get the resources and information they need for the court. “I think it's a sign that our people want and need to be in formation.”
They are prepared to take the same step on Father’s Day or some other holidays that are coming up over the next few months. Hooks hopes other strategic actions will keep growing too.
“Being able to engage in transformative organizing practices makes your goose bumps come alive. And that can only happen when you do it from a place of love and desire,” said Hooks. “Because you love your people, your family, and the next generation.”