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Black Mama Bailout Means Being Intentional in Freeing Our Mamas from Cages This Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a special opportunity for mothers to spend time with their children, receive tokens of love, and enjoy moments of relaxation. However, countless mothers and caretakers who are behind bars simply because they cannot afford bail are deprived of that opportunity. That’s where Out For Justice and other members of the Free Black Mamas DMV Collective come in. For the last five years, we’ve bailed out Black mamas across Maryland and Washington, DC, for Mother’s Day so they can be with their families and showered with love.

Free Black Mamas DMV members ready to provide support to bailed-out mamas in 2020

The Call to Bail Out Black Women

Free Black Mamas DMV launched in 2017 when Mary Hooks, then Co-Director of Southerners On New Ground, urged organizers across the country to bail out Black women before Mother’s Day. Grassroots organizations led by Black justice-impacted individuals in Maryland and Washington, DC, responded to the call by forming Free Black Mamas DMV as part of the National Bail Out Collective. The collective includes Out For Justice, Life After Release, Harriet’s Wildest Dreams, and other Black-led organizations.

Every year, Free Black Mamas DMV raises funds to bail out Black women and caretakers who are held in cages (typically in the pretrial stage) for Mother’s Day. We also raise awareness about the inhumanity of money bail and pre-trial detention, with the goal of ending these systemic injustices that keep people caged and separated from their families. The bail system disenfranchises families, especially Black mothers who are incarcerated and their children.

Beyond bail, Free Black Mamas DMV provides mutual aid in the form of gift baskets, essential supplies, food, clothing, referrals to service providers, and support for other needs they have. We celebrate our Black mamas and show our appreciation for everything they contribute as pillars of society. Caring for Black mamas is caring for our people.

From L to R: Tresa Brown, Elaina McWIlliams, & Nicole Hanson-Mundell prepare the house for released mamas in 2020

Free Black Mamas DMV: Then and Now

In 2020, unsanitary conditions, crowded facilities, and lack of PPE put incarcerated women and caretakers at high risk for contracting COVID-19 when it started spreading uncontrollably. Out For Justice responded to the urgent need to free them by fundraising over $25,000, bailing out 21 caretakers, referring them to service providers, and giving them essential supplies. We also rented a house where Black mamas and their families lived and were safely isolated, in addition to furnishing and stocking the house with supplies.

The following year, Out For Justice and the Free Black Mamas DMV elevated the Black Mama Bailout to a week of action honoring Black women and caretakers impacted by the carceral system. We hosted virtual panels centering directly impacted individuals and their experiences, conducted a warrant recall event to assist people who needed warrant recall or expungement assistance, and organized a book drop to donate books to people behind the walls. The week was capped off with a celebration filled with guest speakers, music, food, and gifts for Black mamas who had been freed. This video by Grassroots DC encapsulates the joy, empowerment, and dedication of those working to bring mamas back into our community.

Gift baskets for Black mamas

Money Kept Them In, Black Love Will Get Them Out

The tradition of loving and pampering our Black mamas continues this year from May 6 – May 13. We’ll be freeing Black women and caretakers from cages and showering them with care packages, gift cards, transportation, and assistance with accessing services. During this beautiful week, previously bailed-out and newly-released mamas and their loved ones are invited to kick back and enjoy fun activities in community with each other. Below is our current schedule of events:

  1. Saturday, May 6: At the Black Girl Magic Art Exhibition in Washington, DC, mamas can express their mood and creativity through painting canvas, glass, or making jewelry. Learn more and register.

  2. Sunday, May 7: At the Free Black Mamas Skate Party in Washington, DC, mamas can show up and show out for skating, food, music, and activities. Learn more and register.

  3. Tuesday, May 9: During a Teach-In at Red Emma’s in Baltimore, we will engage and educate each other about the history of criminalization, the implications of bail reform, and how it affects our black communities through a fun, interactive workshop. Did you know Black people are 2.5 times more likely to be arrested than whites? They are also two times more likely to be detained than whites, and Black men, on average, face bail that is 35 percent higher than white men. Come learn what you can do to raise awareness and affect change around our people in cages. Vegan food, courtesy of Red Emma’s, will be available, and participants will have the opportunity to write our Mamas at Behind the Walls Love Letter stations. Learn more and register.

How You Can Give or Receive Help

We’re breaking open cages. Are you with us?

Our goal is to fundraise $25,000 to free Black mamas during this year’s Black Mama Bailout. Help us reach our goal by MAKING A FINANCIAL DONATION or donating supplies listed in the image above (email, call 443-600-2495 to arrange a supply donation pickup or dropoff, or bring donations to the workshop at Red Emma’s). You can also sign up for our newsletter to stay updated on events. If your female-identifying loved one is seeking bail in the state of Maryland or in need of home detention support, please submit your request here. Together, we can bring Black mamas back into the community.

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