This Initiative Bailed Black Mamas Out Of Jail For Mother’s Day

These women are disproportionately penalized by the system.

Mary Hooks (L), Kate Shapiro (R). Photo by Torraine Walker

The first woman released from the Fulton County Jail on a hot afternoon had a wide smile as she was guided to a table set up at a small, shaded rest area near the entrance. She was greeted with hugs, given a brown bag lunch and bottled water, then invited to sit and eat while “Fight the Power and “Freedom played on loudspeakers. Later, she was given a transit card and a ride to a nearby station by a volunteer.

Over the course of the afternoon, more and more women emerged from the jail and received the same treatment. They all had similar stories: They had been arrested for petty offenses like trespassing, loitering, and urban camping. They were all unable to make bail. And they were all black.

The action was part of the Black Mamas Bail Out, an initiative started by several groups including Black Lives Matter, Color of Change, and Southerners On New Ground (SONG) to bail out black mothers in time for Mother’s Day weekend, women who the groups feel are disproportionately penalized by the system of cash bail.

“We talk about what it means to organize not from a place of anger all the time, although we have every reason to be,” said Mary Hooks, codirector of SONG. “We wanted to embody our vision of liberation without wading through long policy fights. There are tangible things we can do right now to change the material conditions of our peoples’ lives and we explored the issues around cash money bail: what it means for people to have to sit in cages because they can't afford to pay. We moved in the spirit of our ancestors who used the tradition of buying each other’s freedom and we thought, Why not try it?”

In lower-income black families, women are often the sole provider. The poverty rate for African-American single mother headed households is 39.9 percent, and the effects of an arrest and extended jail stay can be devastating on these families.

“People are losing their jobs, people are losing their children, people are losing their homes, simply because they can't post bail.” said Kate Shapiro, SONG membership director. “There are other policies that would eliminate some of the real human costs of incarceration. It's a bleeding point in a broken system.”

The move to end cash bail has gained recent victories. In January, the New Orleans city council voted to end cash bail for minor offenses, and a similar measure is due to be voted on in Houston.

“Unfortunately in Fulton County, the bond process can take a while,” said Mawuli Davis, an attorney with Davis Bozeman Law of Atlanta. “First they have to identify the bond amount, you have to then provide that amount, and then they have to be processed out through Fulton County’s system. We have had it take up to 24 hours before someone has gotten out.”

Davis’ firm trains attorneys and activists to work with marginalized communities.

[quote position="left" is_quote="true"]When black mothers are in cages, everybody suffers.[/quote]

“In our practice we have found that people miss support systems,” Davis said. “They’re out here feeling alone, and when you can show someone that somebody cares about them, I believe it will increase the likelihood of them getting out and staying out.”

One freed mother mentioned that when she was arrested, her children were struggling to find money to bail her out because her family would always come together for Mother’s Day. She told them not to worry, because her “sisters outside” would take care of her.

“It's also an opportunity for us to expand what we mean when we talk about black mamas,” said Hooks. “We’re not just talking about those who gave birth. It’s those who mother the queer and trans folks in the ball and club scene. It’s the transgender women. It’s church mothers, it’s the mothers on the street holding down young people who don't have anyone else. So it's not just about blood family, it's about chosen family. When black mothers are in cages, everybody suffers.”

via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

Former Secretary of State, first lady, and winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, sat own for an epic, two-and-a--half hour interview with Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show Wednesday.

She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

In the far-reaching conversation, Clinton and the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" and, without a doubt, the best interviewer in America discussed everything from Donald Trump's inauguration to her sexuality.

Keep Reading Show less

Offering parental leave for new fathers could help close the gender gap, removing the unfair "motherhood penalty" women receive for taking time off after giving birth. However, a new study finds that parental leave also has a pay gap. Men are less likely to take time off, however, when they do, they're more likely to get paid for it.

A survey of 2,966 men and women conducted by New America found that men are more likely to receive paid parental leave. Over half (52%) of fathers had fully paid parental leave, and 14% of fathers had partially paid parental leave. In comparison, 33% of mothers had fully paid parental leave and 19% had partially paid parental leave.

Keep Reading Show less

Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger


Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head


Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor


Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

The Planet