This Sunday people around the world will come together for Mother’s Day, a holiday celebrated in more than 40 countries from Antigua to Zimbabwe that recognizes the universal bond of motherhood.
But for some mothers across the United States, this day of celebration will be dampened by the harsh reality of being in jail, unable to spend time with their families because they can’t afford bail.
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That’s why several social justice organizations — Southerners on New Ground, the Movement for Black Lives, and ColorOfChange — have started an initiative to bail Black mothers out of jail in time for Mother’s Day. Called “National Mama’s Bail Out Day,” the campaign has already raised $250,000 and is still accepting donations.
According to The Nation, the funds raised will be enough to bail out more than 30 women in Atlanta, Houston, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and other cities across the country who were detained for low-level offenses, such as loitering.
The campaign also raises awareness about racial disparity in women’s incarceration rates.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, three in 10 incarcerated women in the US are Black, despite the fact that that group makes up less than 15% of the overall female population.
Many of the women in jail (roughly half) remain incarcerated because they are unable to post bail, and therefore must await trial in city and county jails.
Across the country, two thirds of women held in prison are mothers of a minor child, according to the ACLU, and 1.5 million children nationwide have at least one parent in prison.
Incarcerated mothers make up just one part of a vast incarceration system that locks up around five times more people than most other countries around the world.
But the National Mama’s Bail Out Day initiative is beginning to address this national problem, albeit it on a much smaller scale. The campaign, according to one organizer quoted in The Nation is about “using our collective resources to buy each others’ freedom.”
For the mothers and children who will be reunited this Sunday, this freedom is the best Mother’s Day gift imaginable.