America has always dismissed and treated black women like we’re disposable, so I’ve dedicated my life to being one of the few people who will say yes to black mothers, no matter their circumstances. During this year’s coronavirus pandemic, that means bailing mothers out so they can be safe and providing for their children on Mother’s Day.
In 2018, someone called the police for a sound complaint during an argument I had with my roommate. I was arrested and given a $10,000 bond. A judge ruled that I wasn’t a threat to the public, but because I couldn’t afford to pay bail, I was put in jail, leaving my five children without their mother in the middle of the school year. After a week in jail, a coalition of black prison abolitionists called National Bail Out bailed me out for Mother’s Day. They helped me get back on my feet and gave me a fellowship when it was hard to find work. Now I’m passing on the powerful favor and fighting to #FreeBlackMamas in East St. Louis, who are facing some of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the world. I hope you will help me free these essential members of our community.
Nearly 500,000 people are imprisoned in the U.S. each day because they can’t afford to pay bail. For anyone with a preexisting condition, jail can be a death sentence during the coronavirus pandemic when imprisoned people are unable to socially distance and often refused basic sanitary products like soap and hand sanitizer. I learned the hard way that even something as simple as toilet paper can be considered contraband in jail. For me, having two toilet paper rolls in my cell meant I was put on lockdown for 24 hours. For women in jail today, things like hand sanitizer is also considered contraband. The toll this takes on a mother is twofold. There’s the personal toll and then there’s the toll on our children.
To say a mother is essential to her children is an understatement. We work hard every day to provide for their every need. When I was in jail I continued to mother my five kids and relied on my own mother to handle the in personal aspects of being a parent. I called every day to make sure they had their clothes ready for school, didn’t eat too much junk food and did their homework. I relayed all the complex details of parenting to my mom: how to keep the bills paid, how to pick the kids up from school, how to handle the questions about where mom was. This work was ignored by the courts in favor of a money bail system that helps bail companies make a profit.
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I had worked hard in my 20s and 30s to set a good example for my children. I graduated from college, volunteered in our community, paid the bills, got them into good schools and in the end I was still treated as disposable.
So when America started calling nurses, janitors and delivery drivers “essential workers,” my experiences told me these heroes could expect to be worked hard and similarly dismissed, without the real support they need to perform their jobs and help our country thrive. This is the story of black women throughout our history. It’s not right.
When people work hard to take care of their families and their society, someone has to be there to say yes. Yes, you can be free to support your family. Yes, you can have the resources you need to survive. Yes, your community will support you. We need to say “yes, you matter” with our actions, not only our words.
This Mother’s Day I hope you will help me and the National Bail Out Collective say yes to Black mamas and caregivers who are separated from their families simply because they can’t pay bail.
This Mother’s Day, I hope you will help me and Color Of Change say yes to black mothers by taking action to tangibly support them during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Together we have the power to set an example and to demand better treatment for all kinds of essential workers during the pandemic.
Donate to or Join the #BlackMamasBailOut and help us reunited families this Mother’s Day.
Sign the petition to demand Safeway allow mothers to use their SNAP benefits to make online purchases during the pandemic.
Help families stay connected during COVID-19 prison outbreaks.
Tiara Moore is pretrial justice community organizer. Each week Color Of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization will bring you frontline stories from #TheBlackResponse to COVID-19, highlighting the ways black people are taking action and demanding progress during the pandemic and and beyond.