Last week was the Black Mamas Bail Out. Across the country, organizers worked to free black mamas and caregivers “who otherwise would spend Mother’s Day in a cell simply because they cannot afford bail.” In Asheville, members and supporters of Southerners on New Ground (SONG) were able to bail three women out of the Buncombe County Jail.
This action helped raise awareness about the fundamental injustice of cash bail, and of the criminal justice system as a whole, specifically the ways it preys on people of color and people with low income. As the National Bail Out site explains, “Everyday tens of thousands of people languish in jail simply because they cannot afford bail. In addition to the over $9 billion wasted to incarcerate people who have been convicted of no crime, pre-trial incarceration has catastrophic impacts on families and communities. Even a few days in jail can ruin a person’s life. They may lose their job, their family may lose housing and some even lose their children.”
Significantly, “Black people are over two times more likely to be arrested and once arrested are twice as likely to be caged before trial.”
I will also note that, as we engaged in the bail out process, it was made blatantly apparent that it is arbitrary and inefficient. It took our team over 15 hours of navigating some seriously frustrating bureaucratic barriers to make the bail outs happen.
The SONG AVL Bail Out team was terrific, with strong leaders of color coordinating the work. I was proud to be a part of it. My role included generating media coverage for our action. The Asheville Citizen-Times, WLOS TV, AshevilleFM, and JMPRO TV all covered the bail out. Click here to read the Citizen-Times story. Excerpt: “‘When you take black women out of the community everything starts to fall apart,’ said Lexus Walker, who helped organize the event.” Click here to watch the WLOS story. Excerpt: “‘It’s part of a deeper history of black liberation and freeing our people,’ SONG member Lexus Walker said.” SONG’s message shone through in these stories. My hope is that the coverage helped to raise awareness and increase support for ending money bail.
JMPRO TV provided livestream coverage in Spanish and English. (Shout out to the Cenzontle Interpreter Cooperative.) Visit the AVL Bail Out FB event to watch the livestream videos. You will also find photos of the day there. This was just one many community events and issues the JMPRO TV team has covered in recent weeks. I am so impressed with the work they are doing, and happy to be part of their team. Click here to follow Julio’s page to catch the latest livestreams. Also, JMPRO now has a weekly radio program on Tuesdays at 7 pm on AshevilleFM. Tune in!
The mamas who were bailed out will receive continued support from members of SONG. If you’d like to contribute to SONG’s ongoing efforts “to expose the crisis of cash bail and the beast that is the criminal-legal system, to change hearts and minds, to make real and material impacts on the lives of our people, and to build power,” click here to make a donation.
“If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.” — The Combahee River Collective
The title of this post is “Actions.” Participating in powerful public actions like the Black Mamas Bail Out is one way to contribute to the movement towards collective liberation. It is also important to engage in actions in the places you already are – your workplace, church, synagogue, mosque, etc. One specific action you can take is to be intentional about purchasing from black- and Latinx- owned businesses.
Systemic racism has created significant economic disparities. This manifests in many ways. If you work in Asheville, my guess is that most or all of the vendors your company or organization uses are businesses owned by white people. These statistics support my hypothesis: in the Asheville Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), the average annual sales of a white-owned business is $428,000, for Latinx-owned businesses that figure is $163,000, while black-owned businesses make an average of $40,000 a year.
The April 2018 issue of the Urban News has a piece I wrote for Buncombe County about an initiative the WNC Diversity Engagement Coalition has undertaken to help their members increase supplier diversity. Click here to read the article, which includes useful insights and best practices.
One of the challenges in our segregated city is finding and connecting with diverse vendors. It would stand to reason that low annual sales of black-owned businesses limit their ability to invest in marketing and outreach. Language barriers may come into play when searching for Latinx-owned businesses to work with. Still, where there is a will there is a way.
A starting place for finding black-owned businesses is colorofasheville.net. There are also these Facebook groups: Black Business Network of WNC, Asheville Area Black Business Owners, Professionals & Entrepreneurs, Local Black Business, Vendors, and Crafters, and African American Business Association (by the WWBC). Another resource is the Hood Huggers Green Book. [As a sidebar, there is an opportunity to volunteer to help Sasha Mitchell update and maintain the Color of Asheville business directory, including adding vendors that post in those Facebook groups. If you are interested in this project, contact me. Experience with WordPress would be a plus.]
For Latinx-owned businesses, check out the ads in Hola Carolina Magazine, La Noticia, and La Voz (you can find the latter two publications in front of Pack Library downtown).
Related, if your workplace or place of worship makes donations to nonprofits, consider directing those gifts towards organizations led by people of color. I have a few listed on my community page, there are others listed in the Hood Huggers Green Book.
These posts are created to contribute to transformation and collective liberation in our community. The more people who resonate with this vision I can reach, the better. If you see value in the information and perspectives I write about, please share these posts with your network via your social media pages, etc.
A reminder that the Asheville SURJ weekly email offers a great list of ideas actions, particularly in terms of local government. Click here to find out how to sign up.
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