Durham County

Mother’s Day gift: Get-out-of-jail card for moms

Southerners on New Ground, SONG, member Serena Sebring stands between fellow organizers T.G. Nichols (left) and Kifu Faruq (right) outside the Durham County jail next to a “Welcome Home Table.”
Southerners on New Ground, SONG, member Serena Sebring stands between fellow organizers T.G. Nichols (left) and Kifu Faruq (right) outside the Durham County jail next to a “Welcome Home Table.” Special to The Herald-Sun

Local members of Southerners On New Ground (SONG) raised more than $40,000 to bail African-American mothers and “caregivers” from the Durham County jail just in time for Mother’s Day.

SONG activists define “caregiver” as any woman that looks after, cares for or is a motherly figure to a child in their lives.

The initiative intended to raise enough money to bail out as many African-American moms and caregivers as possible. Women who would otherwise have spent Mother’s Day behind bars can now spend Mother’s Day on Sunday with their kids.

On Wednesday, SONG members bailed out eight women from the Durham County jail. SONG member Serena Sebring said that the women hadn’t believed “we” were real — at first. On Friday, they freed an additional five “mamas.”

“They had gotten our letters but were kind of like ... ‘Yeah. Right ...’” Serena Sebring said.

Local efforts and fundraising are part of a nationally organized campaign called National Mama’s Bail Out Day, orchestrated by SONG, the Movement for Black Lives, ColorOfChange and other social justice-oriented groups to liberate women who otherwise could not afford bail.

Across America multitudes of people are arrested on charges stemming from low-level offenses and linger in jailhouses solely because of an inability to post bail.

“As a black organizer I can think of no better way to celebrate my love for my black mama than working towards liberation with this action,” said Courtney Sebring, co-chair of the Durham chapter of Black Youth Project 100. “Over 70 percent of our people in the Durham County jail right now are there simply because they cannot afford their bail. While money may be keeping them in, Black love will get them out.”

Courtney Sebring’s mother, Serena Sebring, said, “We investigated the negative impacts of money-bail as a system and found that it has very negative impacts on people’s lives and particularly on poor people. We wanted to create a way to call attention to that and also find a way to make some direct intervention into the system.”

SONG co-director Mary Hooks, based in Atlanta, came up with the idea of bailing out “black mamas” for Mother’s Day, Serena Sebring said. The concept turned into a national project that has bailed women out of jails across the nation.

Local SONG members worked with the Inside-Outside Alliance, writing letters to incarcerated females inside the Durham County jail inquiry about their status as mother figures and their interests in being bailed out for Mother’s Day.

“We also had a powerful group of clergy come through,” Serena Sebring said. “Because they have much greater access to the jail.”

Serena Sebring said, the she and SONG members had a “magical” experience in the Durham County jail Friday morning. When she and others were posting bail in the magistrate’s office, the activists witnessed a woman being booked into the facility.

“We just happened to over here because the magistrate has two windows, the case of a mama who was on the other side who had just found that she had a failure to appear warrant and was facing immediate jailing,” Serena Sebring said.

Serena Sebring leaned her head through the magistrate’s window and told the soon-to-be prisoner what she and SONG were doing.

The woman burst into tears, Serena Sebring recounted, the then-soon-to-be released African-American woman told her, “This is such a blessing.” Her bond was low, in the ballpark of $1,000, Serena Sebring estimated.

Six African-American women were bailed out in Charlotte and five African-American women were bailed out in Kinston on Thursday.

On Sunday, local activists will host a “Homecoming Ceremony” from 3-6 p.m. in Hillside Park, 1301 S. Roxboro St.

Colin Warren-Hicks: 919-419-6636, @CWarrenHicks