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Marissa Alexander was a Mother’s Day symbol for Black women victims

Marissa Alexander           COURTESY PHOTO

Marissa Alexander COURTESY PHOTO

By Zenitha Prince
Special to the Trice Edney Newswire from the Afro American Newspaper

Mother’s Day is an annual day to recognize all mothers, but a group of activists this year asked the special day for mothers be used to acknowledge two special groups — mothers who are victims of domestic abuse and those who are in prison.

“Mother’s Day is special time to remember all mothers no matter where they are,” said Sumayya “Fire” Coleman, national organizer of the African American/Black Women’s Cultural Alliance.

Black women are victims of domestic violence homicide two-to-three times more than other women, and the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that 1.3 million children have mothers who are in prison, jail, or on probation.

“Mass incarceration devastates families,” said Aleta Alston Touré, a fellow organizer, in a statement. “Black mothers are particularly at risk for being criminalized because of conditions of poverty, violence and punishment rooted in racism and sexism. We have the right to parent our children in peace and safety, not behind bars.”

A symbol of those statistics and the centerpiece of their campaign is Marissa Alexander, the African American mother of three who was convicted in Florida to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot at her husband Rico Gray, who was allegedly abusing her. Her retrial is scheduled to begin in July. Although she faces 60 years in prison — though she didn’t injure anyone — the prosecutor announced she would be seeking the maximum penalty.

Alexander has become a poster child for the inequities of Stand Your Ground laws: The outcome of her case is a stark contrast to that of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who said he shot and killed unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, but was acquitted of murder charges in the 2010 case.

Sumayya said she imagines the last few years have had a toll of Alexander and her children.

“Marissa spent almost three years in a Florida prison away from her children, which impacted all (of them). Her children came with family members to the trial that sentenced her and then visited her in prison,” she recalled. “These are images and questions her children will have, always. Since Thanksgiving Day 2013, Marissa has been under house arrest with an ankle monitor and can’t leave the house. She can’t visit her children’s school events, take them to church or to the movies.”

To support Alexander and her family Sumayya, Touré and other women organized the Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign, which is calling for a Mother’s Day Week of Action from May 9-18 to build support for Alexander’s emancipation.

“Our goals are: To see Marissa Alexander exonerated, vindicated and restored to her family and community; to send a message to victims of crime, especially (those of) domestic and sexual violence, that self-defense is not a crime; to change the impact of mandatory minimum laws on victims of domestic and sexual violence and to maintain protection remedies for victims of domestic and sexual violence under the Stand Your Ground law,” Sumayya said.

Though Mother’s Day has passed supporters can still send cards to Alexander (P.O. Box 23872, Jacksonville, Fla., 32257) and donations to her legal defense fund (

Interested persons can also invite their faith communities to send their cards and donations, send support to other mothers who are in prison or experiencing violence, organize community events that highlight the issues impacting Alexander’s case, and use social networking to help get the word out.

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