We submit these letters as mothers, advocates and organizers in solidarity with Shanesha Taylor. Shanesha is a mother who was convicted in Arizona last year for child abuse, for being homeless and having no childcare available to her while she interviewed for a badly needed job. She got the job, and her children were unharmed in the car, (their home at the time), but still she faces a decade of probation, payment to the state of thousands of dollars in what is being called “restitution”, and the threat of jail. Shanesha returns to court Friday, May 15th.
I’m writing you to let you know that you are not alone and that there are countless other women out there that has done, are doing and probably will be forced to make the choice to do what you did on that fateful day last year.
Until Society as a whole can come to grips with the tremendous amount of pressure that Single Motherhood has on us without any type of viable support system in place, I really don’t think that they will ever get it. I feel that Mothers such as yourself and I and the countless others will continue to be demonized and ostracized while Society continues to ignore systemic issues and provide as well as implement solutions.
One thing that you have to remain cognizant of and that is, the internalization of criticism is personal. None of your harsh critics has walked a day nor lived one moment of your life, so their labeling and branding of you is a moot point. You have many people that are rallying behind you and in full support of you and your cause. Be encouraged and stay focused. Keep the faith because I truly know your struggle and if I made it through, Beloved so can you.
aka Momma Jo
Dear Shanesha Taylor,
You should not be condemned because of your situation of being homeless. Homelessness is an economic problem: The lack of affordable housing and the limits that are placed on people. The high cost of living and high unemployment rates force people to choose between food, housing and other expenses. A home is not just a bed or a roof. A home is stability, security, and the foundation upon which people can build their future. A home is, quite simply, the most basic of human rights. Shanesha, you left your children in a place that you called home, a place that was your security. If anyone failed in this situation, then it was our government that did not help you with affordable housing and basic childcare while you searched for a job.
We live in a society where women are condemned for having children. We need more child care services that will support mothers who DO NOT want to live in a car with her children, and who want a better life and future for themselves and their children. Shanesha, I understand your situation completely from all angles. I have two children, and I have been incarcerated as a teenager, meaning that I was a mother trying to improve her social status for her children, but my marked X on my back made it almost impossible to make changes. Not only was I denied Affordable Housing due to my decisions as a child, but I was also denied employment, and I had little to NO access to childcare.
Our country should not be this way. I shouldn’t have went through the sufferings and trauma of living in a country that did not care about my children and I. It will be cheaper to help mothers with free childcare opposed to condemning them for trying to find a job to support her family. This whole situation is obscene, and it breaks my heart that my sister served as a Marine to protect this country, but this country refuses to protect their own people. You did not fail your children, your country failed you. I cannot stand by your conviction, again having to have walked in your shoes, a mother who will stop at nothing, and say anything to be united with family. I stand in solidarity with you, Shanesha and I back up any decision that you made on that fateful day. Shanesha, you are no longer walking in solitude.
Mother, Social worker, College student, Medical-aid worker
I’m writing to you to let you know that I am proud to know you, even at a distance. I am encouraged to know that you are in the world and that you are fighting for your freedom and for your kids’ right to have their mother. I know your fight is going to inspire many mothers who have experienced criminalization because they have so few choices available to them. Because they are trying to survive in a world that is not hospitable to poor mothers, to single mothers, and to Black mothers especially.
But, I am angry for you too. I am so angry that the prosecution punished you further for the fact that so many women could publicly relate to your experience, and that people were so moved by your story that they pitched in to ensure that you had the resources you needed. The plea deal that, once again, gave you so little choice, is meant to keep you in fear of jail, and to bind you to a conviction that will limit your job and housing options. Add to that, they are forcing you to turn over what resources you have to the system that injured you to begin with. All this with no concern for the needs of your children right now, or in the future.
Not only this, but that plea deal was an attack on an important tool used by grassroots organizers, social justice fighters, and for individuals who have desperate needs not being met by the system. By going after your crowd-sourced survival funds, the State’s Attorney sent out a strong message that only the rich can pool their resources to make change, and that if poor and working class people try it, it will be scrutinized and even confiscated. That’s something that should offend any and every grassroots organizer, any parent who has ever had to raise money for their child’s emergency medical expenses.
So, Shanesha, I want you to know that there are many, many people who support you, and who will stand by you no matter what the prosecution says. We know that trying to protect and support your children, trying to survive is not a crime and should never be. I wonder what would have happened on that day you raced back, having gotten the job you wanted so badly for your family, if the police officer would have just asked, “are you ok, is there something you need?”. And, what if, in general, rather than calling the police on people, we asked those questions first, while fighting for a world that is more survivable for us all, more survivable for Black mothers and their babies in particular.
Love and solidarity with you, Shanesha. I am with you, and I look forward to standing alongside you as a fellow mama in that fight to survive and thrive and celebrate Black Motherhood!
Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration