The Friday night before Mother’s Day, Nita Mosby Tyler had an idea. “Let’s bail someone out of jail.”
So she grabbed $1,000 and called her friend and fellow Five Points neighborhood leader, Brother Jeff Fard. Together the two of them with her husband, Shorter Community A.M.E. Pastor Timothy Tyler, headed to Denver’s downtown detention facility on Colfax. That night they bailed three women out of jail.
While they never met the recipients of their kind acts, they still were imbued with a sense of satisfaction and a hunger to do more. They put out a call for donations on Facebook, and by 2 p.m. Saturday, they’d raised another $6,000. The three continue to bond low-level offenders hoping to grant families time together for the holiday.
Brother Jeff Fard runs a community center on Welton Street that he says preserves the heart of what his black community in Five Points “used to be.”
This year he began offering “Black Dollar Saturdays” in his photo studio, music and event space. The weekly setup of locals offering handmade products and food is one way Fard is working to stimulate what’s left of his neighborhood’s long-time residents, a community build around the A.M.E. congregation that predates Colorado itself.
This Saturday, after a personal finance class offered alongside the vendor tables, Fard announced his call for community help in identifying incarcerated mothers with low-level offenses.
“It’s a blessing,” he told a room about to burst into applause. “Just because you’re incarcerated doesn’t mean you’re not a part of our community.”
This announcement was made long after Fard and the Tylers had raised the $6,000. While people continued to file in with donations, the team was already hard at work on services.
By then their mission had expanded to three goals: bond out mothers for the holiday, make bags of food hearty enough to support a family of four and pay for summer camp for kids whose mothers are incarcerated long-term.
“All of us live in parts of a community where we see children without their mothers all of the time,” Nita Tyler said. “When you think about the women who are incarcerated on something low level and petty, is that really worth what happens to children on Mother’s Day?”
The “trauma” she says kids are subjected to costs far more than a couple hundred dollars.
What makes things more difficult, Fard said, are the processing fees attached to bond payments that make payment more difficult to the city’s poorest inmates.
It’s clear that bailing women out had much deeper implication than a simple holiday. Instead, both Tylers and Fard saw their effort as one battle in a long war against the consequences of racial oppresion. The “vicious cycle of poverty,” Fard said, further isolates people and breaks up families.
“If you think about people who are incarcerated, they’re mainly poor, they’re mainly of color, and they’re mainly those who have not achieved a high school diploma,” he said. “People who can’t afford $100 bonds, that’s a tragedy.”
By the end of Saturday afternoon, the Five Points community had already begun distributing nearly thirty bags filled with chicken, potatoes and green beans. The three community leaders left for the jail downtown equipped with a wad of large bills and text messages full of names. After pulling a couple tickets for a spot in line, they sat down with a clerk who remembered them from the night before and began reading off names.
It seems they were not the only ones who thought of paying bonds this year. Slate reports that a coalition of Black Lives Matter organizations have raised more than $250,000 and bonded at least 30 women.
At of the time of this publishing Fard and the Tylers had bonded 8 women. “We will go to the jail again today,” Fard said this morning, “pay bail, lay roses and say a prayer for those in jail.”