For the past couple years I’ve been doing something extra special for my mom on Mother’s Day. It’s not flowers, it’s not candy, it’s not even a card. I’ve been helping bail someone else’s mother out of jail. And I’ll be doing the same this year.
For the third year in a row I’m donating $50 in honor of my mom to National Bail Out (NationalBailout.org), an organization working to end the corrupt and broken system of bail money. Every year they do a campaign around Mother’s Day called #FreeBlackMamas where they focus on bailing out as many black mothers and caregivers as they can. Not only does it make my mom happier than flowers, candy, and cards combined, it’s helping free people that shouldn’t be in jail in the first place.
I first learned about #FreeBlackMamas a few years ago when I was scrambling to get a Mother’s Day gift. I’d been traveling out of the country for a few weeks and the holiday had completely slipped my mind (sorry mom!). Luckily I landed on an article in Slate and when I read the following paragraph, I knew what my Mother’s Day plans would be for every year going forward:
“Almost half of all single black and Latina women have a net wealth of zero or less. Once arrested, defendants face not just bail fees (often set without consideration for ability to pay), but public defender application fees, electronic monitoring fees if they’re released, and fees and surcharges to participate in payment plans if they can’t afford to pay a lump sum. About 70 percent of female offenders are mothers, and the majority of them are single mothers, which makes an extended jail stay more immediately disruptive to their children than the typical man’s confinement. “
I thought about how much I loved my mom and how important to me she was. I thought about all the sacrifices she made to help mold me into the weird creature that I am. And then I thought about the people whose mothers couldn’t do the same because unfair, discriminatory laws were keeping them behind bars. After that, how could I ever waste money on overpriced flowers again?
While there’s a lot of talk about Social Justice these days, what’s not being mentioned nearly enough is that you can’t have Social Justice without Economic Justice. It’s no secret that the rich aren’t just getting richer, they’re getting exponentially richer. All while wages stagnate for working people and the middle class disappears. And this hits communities of color the hardest because, through a history of discriminatory hiring practices, lending practices, and housing policies like Redlining, they’ve already been disenfranchised. According to Forbes, the median white household has 86 times more wealth than its black counterpart, and 68 times more wealth than its Latino one.
And our horrendous criminal justice system is the strong arm that keeps it all together. There are currently hundreds of thousands of people sitting in jail as I write this, simply because they couldn’t afford bail.
What happened to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? National Bail Out doesn’t stop at freeing people from jail. As a black-led and black-centered collective of abolitionist organizers, lawyers and activists, they also focus on supporting ongoing bail reform efforts around the country and creating resources for folks interested in ending pretrial detention. Part of this is the Free Black Mamas Fellowship where women who’ve been bailed out through NBO’s efforts are given paid fellowships to learn how to educate and organize their own communities around bail reform.
Now think about what an impact NBO would be able to make if every single one of us honored our mother’s each year by donating to them. That kind of momentum and that kind of money could be a huge first step into creating both cconomic and social justice.
So, please join me in donating this year and every year going forward. Your mama will be proud of you.
Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com and join his mailing list: http://bit.ly/BrokeAssList. He is a guest opinion columnist and his point of view is not necessarily that of the Examiner.