Low Voter Turnout for Nevada Primaries and General Elections

The poll numbers continue to suffer for Nevada primaries and general elections. Is this a result of turnout or burnout? Traditionally Nevada voters are known to be lackluster concerning their civic duty to vote, however, some are wondering if it is just due to turnout or burnout. Low voter turnout in the United States as […]

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The Sad Decline of Barnes & Noble

Reports of Barnes & Noble’s imminent demise have long been foretold—and not necessarily exaggerated. The bookstore has been on a downward slide for years. In 2013, its CEO resigned amid the company’s Nook expansion failure. At the time, Idea Logical’s Mike Shatzkin alleged that Barnes & Noble would not recover; it could only hope to “make the slide into oblivion more gradual.”

Five years later, Barnes & Noble is still around. It’s now outlived Borders to become the last national bookstore competing with Amazon in the retail space. But survival does not necessarily mean flourishing: at the beginning of the month, the company’s stock plunged nearly 8 percent. According to the Guardian, the bookstore has lost $1 billion in value over the past five years.

“It’s depressing to imagine that more than 600 Barnes & Noble stores might simply disappear,” New York Times columnist David Leonhardt wrote a couple weeks ago. “But the death of Barnes & Noble is now plausible.”

Visits to Barnes & Noble were one of my favorite occasions as a child. Back then, there was something nostalgic yet stately about the bookstore. It seemed like a gem of grace and sophistication, a place not just to browse but to learn. I remember distinctive elements that still set the store apart in my mind: the hunter-green wallpaper, the woodcut and art deco feel of its literary decorations, the old-fashioned chairs and quiet corners suggesting a respect and reverence for the old and the classic. The store evoked the same “feel” I got when I handled an old antique hardback. Back then, the bookstore’s coffee shop had a few tidy tables where patrons could sit, but there was no wifi. I would grab a stack of five or six books and read the first chapter of each one before deciding which I wanted to buy.

Then there was Barnes & Noble’s children’s section, with its old-fashioned Winnie the Pooh prints and large, open stage for readings and play. The children’s book section felt like a fantastical wonderland: a place of discovery, serendipity, and beauty. Even when I got too “old” for it, this was always the part I gravitated to.

Of course, it’s important for a store to update and improve its style and form. I’m not saying Barnes & Noble should have stayed in the 90s and refused to renovate. The real problem is that they never seemed to prize their own distinctive beauty, and always sought to make themselves more like technology stores rather than emulating the success of their smaller, indie-bookstore counterparts.

Do you remember the Nook? The company is still selling them, though it has been ages since I’ve seen one in-store (and even longer since I’ve met somebody who owns one). Barnes & Noble jumped on the e-reader bandwagon in 2009, hoping to compete with the Kindle and the iPad. But while Amazon and Apple were obviously and entirely digital companies, and their e-readers fit their image and model, Barnes & Noble’s Nook pursuit always felt a bit dissonant and off-color. In many ways, the Nook was the beginning of the store’s end—because it signaled that the company would always try to play “catch up” with the newest fad or trend rather than focus on its own secret sauce: physical books.

Compared to the old Barnes & Noble of my childhood, the new bookstore that just opened in Ashburn, Virginia is almost unrecognizable. It is large and minimalist, bare of decoration or color. There are only a few chairs scattered throughout, and little room to sit and read in the children’s section.

Instead, this new Barnes & Noble is half bookstore, half café: it features a souped-up Starbucks, bar, and a kitchen offering items like charcuterie and avocado toast. The theory here appears to be that, if you’re going to sit and read a book or magazine without buying it, they’re at least going to make you pay a hefty sum for wine or a croissant. But as Eater notes, “entering the restaurant business, with its notoriously low profit margins and high rate of failure, is an unlikely Hail Mary for the nation’s largest bookstore chain.” Many of the people I have seen parked at tables inside this Barnes & Noble don’t have books or magazines with them; instead, they’re plugged into computers and headphones, teleworking or doing conference calls.

Although this Barnes & Noble still hosts readings and book signings according to its website, there’s no obvious advertising for them in the store—and it’s difficult to determine where they are, considering the significant lack of sitting space. The children’s section boasts one table laden with Legos, with a few cushions surrounding it. There are no armchairs to sit and read a book with my toddler. Instead, we had to crouch on the ground next to a shelf of Dr. Seuss books in order to read together.

Perhaps it’s this—the table full of Legos but absence of chairs for reading—that best marks Barnes & Noble’s drastic transformation. For a long time now, the bookstore has seemed to emphasize everything but books: its puzzles and DVDs and records, gadgets and greeting cards and plush Harry Potter sorting hats. As one analyst told the Guardian, “The stores just look like an enormous Aladdin’s cave of all sorts of random products, including departments selling CDs and DVDs that are never crowded.”

It is sad that Barnes & Noble believes it must add all these other perks to get people to frequent their stores. It seems that, for a long time now, they’ve ceased believing in the power of their own product. Perhaps this is what really drives customers away: why go to a store that doesn’t really seem to love or understand its own telos?

It makes sense that, in this absence of love or mission, customers would increasingly turn to the indie bookstores Barnes & Noble was once driving out of business. These smaller stores still get it: although they’ve also had to be inventive in order to survive, they’ve stayed true to their mission and their product. As Guardian reporter Edward Helmore put it, “innovation is where Barnes & Noble went wrong. Other big booksellers have tackled Amazon’s onslaught by doing precisely the opposite—going back to basics and putting the books first.”

If Barnes & Noble were still a place to pause, to savor, and to experientially luxuriate in the codex itself, I don’t think it would be struggling as much as it is. If the store had put greater emphasis on book clubs and special memberships, story hours and author signings (as many indie bookstores have), it would have given readers a space that celebrates the book, its creation and its consideration, as well as the membership of bookworms. If the store had put more emphasis on hiring and training book lovers who were passionate about their product, it might have wooed the suspicious and the hesitant to buy more books. If it had invested less money in gadgetry and more in its volumes, as well as in the style and form of its shopping and reading space, it could have successfully differentiated itself from Amazon and emphasized the things that set it apart: physical interactions with physical books (and physical people, for that matter).

But as it is, everything that Barnes & Noble does today is done as well or better by someone else. You could go to its café and get a Starbucks coffee and croissant—or you could go to the nearest indie coffee shop and get higher-quality versions of the same things. Nearly every café and coffee shop offers free wifi and space to work these days. And indie bookstores usually offer both new and old books at the same (or better) prices, while providing their customers with a greater sense of passion and reverence.

Barnes & Noble has long been a place of learning and love. But in its determination to innovate, it has forgotten its telos. Which means that it won’t survive much longer unless it can rediscover what made it special in the first place.

Gracy Olmstead is a writer and journalist located outside Washington, D.C. She’s written for The American ConservativeThe WeekNational Review, The Federalist, and The Washington Times, among others.

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Italy’s First Black Minister Fears Far-Right Party’s Government Influence

Italy’s first black cabinet minister has expressed deep concerns about the entry into Italy’s government of the League, as the far-right party and the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) revealed plans for more detention centres to be built across the country.

Cécile Kyenge, who has been a regular target of racial abuse, said the League’s position as a coalition partner in the incoming government made her less hopeful about the possibility of Italy passing immigration reforms or other changes that would ease a path to citizenship for thousands of undocumented minors.

“Many members of the League accept that they are racists,” she told the Guardian. “It is very difficult for me to see that a party that accepts it is racist is going to manage law, which is supposed to protect all the community.”

On Friday the League – a secessionist party previously known as the Northern League – and the Five Star Movement unveiled a power-sharing agreement for a new populist government. The deal calls for changes to fiscal policy and a €780 (£680) monthly basic income for poor families.

It also spells out a new crackdown on immigration, including a “serious and efficient” programme to drive out migrants who arrive in Italy illegally. The plan calls for more detention centres to be opened in every region, in which migrants could be held for up to 18 months.

The agreement calls for an overhaul of the Dublin treaty, so that asylum seekers would be distributed across the EU instead of being required to stay in the country where they first arrive, and it calls for religious leaders to be registered with the state. All camps of “unregistered” Roma would be shut down under the plan.

Italy’s general election on 4 March resulted in a hung parliament. Matteo Salvini, the head of the League, and the Five Star Movement’s Luigi di Maio have been locked in negotiations for weeks to agree on a common set of governing goals. The pair have still not agreed on who should serve as prime minister.

The new government’s platform is expected to be approved by M5S members late on Friday in an online poll. On Monday, Di Maio and Salvini are expected to meet Italy’s president, Sergio Mattarella, to formalise the launch of the government. Once a prime minister has been nominated and ministers sworn in, the government will face a vote of confidence in the parliament.

Both parties ran campaigns that vilified migrants, and Salvini has attacked Italy’s Roma population throughout his political career. It is not clear whether Italy has the legal right or resources to follow through on some of the radical ideas that were agreed, but the League vowed during the electoral campaign to institute mass deportations of asylum seekers to Africa as part of a reshaping of migration policies.

Immigration experts said the new agreement meant programmes seeking to integrate new migrants could be closed. “They campaign against any positive actions or programmes, which are the very basis for any minority. This keeps them in a structurally backward position,” said Francesco Palermo, a former senator who was a vocal proponent of Romany rights in Italy. “It is more populist than racist, they feel this is what the voters want, and unfortunately average Italian society is against Roma, against migrants, against sexual minorities.”

Kyenge, who now serves as an MEP, has worked for years to try to change Italy’s citizenship laws so that children of migrants can be recognised as Italians. Last year the government failed to pass a law that would have eased the path to citizenship for 800,000 minors who were born in Italy or came as young children.

Kyenge said these children were unable to fully participate in schools and in society. “The identity of a person begins when you are little and it is then you must have an opportunity to say ‘I am an Italian’.”

The Congolese-born doctor has lived in Italy since 1983, and has been on the receiving end of deeply offensive racist slurs. Roberto Calderoli, a senator and former minister under Silvio Berlusconi, likened her to an orangutan and told her she should be a minister “in her country”.

Mario Borghezio, a far-right MEP, said Kyenge would impose a “bongo-bongo” administration on Italy – comments that led to him being expelled from a Ukip-led group in the European parliament. In 2017 a judge ordered him to pay €50,000 to Kyenge for his racist remarks.

Kyenge still has bodyguards to protect her when she is in her home country, as a result of racist abuse from politicians. “People want to attack me because of the colour of my skin and many of those are politicians and it is very sad because politicians should give an example,” she said.

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Assange’s guest list: the RT reporters, hackers and film-makers who visited embassy

Secret logs reveal list of visitors to Julian Assange before leak of Democratic party emails

Julian Assange received more than 80 visitors in the seven weeks leading up to the release of hacked Democratic party emails by WikiLeaks, including two journalists from the Kremlin-backed broadcaster RT, the documentary film-maker Michael Moore, the philosopher Slavoj Žižek and a German hacker.

Visitor logs seen by the Guardian and Focus Ecuador show a frenetic period for the WikiLeaks founder in the summer of 2016, around the time he declared that he would release emails from Hillary Clinton’s US presidential campaign. Assange has been holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy since 2012.

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The new OPCW report on chlorine use in Idlib is another disgrace: Inconsistent, incomplete, implausible

On February 4, two days before a UN Security Council meeting on chemical weapon issues, a Syrian army helicopter flew into Idleb governorate which is held by al-Qaeda. Escaping the quite effective air defenses of the terrorists it dropped two chlorine gas cylinders near a militarily irrelevant agricultural warehouse 40 kilometers away from the front line of the war. Eleven men of fighting age who are living in the al-Qaeda ruled territory were allegedly impacted by the released gas but none of them was seriously hurt. The implausible story above is the base of a recent report by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. All ‘evidence’ for the tale comes from organizations which tightly cooperated with al-Qaeda and other militant ‘rebel’ groups in Syria and are paid by ‘western’ governments opposed to Syria. The implausible story is repeated in the ‘western’ press without any journalistic skepticism. The British Guardian writes: The fact-finding mission by the OPCW on the Saraqeb attack determined that “chlorine was released from cylinders by mechanical impact on 4 February,” it said on Wednesday. The team’s conclusions were based on finding two cylinders that were determined as previously containing chlorine. … The incident is by no means the worst chemical weapons attack during the seven-year civil war, but it led to 11 people being treated for breathing difficulties. Western observers said the use of helicopters in the attack suggested Syrian government involvement since the opposition did not have access to helicopters. Saraqib in Idleb governorate has been in the hands of the Syrian ‘opposition’ since late 2012/early 2013. In April 2013 Syrian ‘rebel’ forces alleged that a chemical attack with Sarin took place in Saraqib. However only one person died, allegedly from of Sarin intoxication, while no Sarin traces were found on two other affected persons.

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How big is the Taliban threat in Afghanistan?

Taliban insurgents this week abandoned a short-lived bid to take over the capital of the western Afghan province of Farah. The group flooded Farah city early on Tuesday, “forcing the governor to flee and driving security forces and officials into a handful of besieged compounds”, reported The Guardian .

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“Black identity extremist” jailed for anti-police brutality Facebook posts speaks out

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File

This article originally appeared on Raw Story

rawlogoThe first known “black identity extremist” jailed after making pro-black and anti-police brutality Facebook posts has spoken out following his release from jail.

In an interview with The Guardian, activist Rakem Balogun discussed the ways in which the government’s surveillance of his political activity were a form of “tyranny.”

Balogun, who co-founded the revolutionary black power group Guerilla Mainframe and Huey P. Newtown Gun Club that promotes black gun ownership, was arrested in the middle of the night by the FBI in December 2017 after being surveilled for more than two years for what the government considered anti-police sentiments.

During Balogun’s trial, special agent Aaron Keighley testified that the government first became aware of a March 2015 rally the activist participated in from an Infowars video about it.

“They’re using a conspiracy theorist video as a reason to justify their tyranny?” Balogun said. “That is a big insult.”

In court, the agent cited Facebook posts Balogun made saying murdered police officers “deserve what they got” in justifying the bureau’s middle-of-the-night arrest that left the activist and his 15-year-old son freezing in just pajamas in December, but ultimately admitted they had no evidence he was planning on attacking police.

“They were really desperate,” Balogun said of his arrest where his guns and books about black self-defense were seized. “This is pretty much like Stalin 1950 – ‘You show me the man. I show you the crime.’”

In his one-count indictment, federal prosecutors alleged Balogun — whose legal name is Christopher Daniels — was not allowed to own firearms “due to a 2007 misdemeanor domestic assault case in Tennessee.” A judge ruled in the beginning of May that the law did not apply, effectively killing the government’s case against Balogun that had uprooted his life and led to him losing his home.

“Since his release one week ago, Balogun has also been forced to confront the harsh reality of life post-incarceration,” the report noted. “He lost his vehicle, job and home; his son was forced to move and transfer schools and Balogun missed much of the first year of his newborn daughter’s life.”

“It’s tyranny at its finest,” the 34-year-old told the Guardian. “I have not been doing anything illegal for them to have surveillance on me. I have not hurt anyone or threatened anyone.”

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Remembering and celebrating incarcerated mothers on Mother’s Day

In preparation for Mother's Day, Evelyn Fulbright would get someone to wash her outfit by hand for some "extra care," she said, maybe even with some bleach. She then would fold the newly clean clothes as precisely as possible, and place them underneath her mattress, so the creases would be sharp. She might even borrow some makeup and find someone to braid her hair. Anything to look "the best for that day," she recalled.

Fulbright's daughters, Brittany and Jazmine Barnett, would drive the three and half hours to Lockhart Correctional Facility, a prison about 30 minutes from Austin, Texas, every month. But especially for Mother's Day, they would make sure to get there well before visiting hours began. The line can get long and the two-hour visiting hours already felt too short.

After the pat-down search and metal detectors, and once her daughters were in the visiting room, Fulbright said that the first part of the visit was always joyful. You can hug for the first two minutes, then there's no touching after that. Fulbright and her daughters would laugh, and catch up, and munch on a Mother's Day meal of overpriced junk food from the prison vending machines (outside food is not allowed).

During the final 30 minutes everyone's emotions would erupt — the fact that Fulbright's daughters would have to leave; the fact that Fulbright would have to return to a cage; the fact that Brittany and Jazmine Barnett had to press on without their mom. "It was always difficult to have to leave my mom behind the barbed wire," Barnett said. "Sometimes we would look back, to blow her a kiss or something, but then it just got too hard to look back."

Women have become the fastest growing segment of the prison population, a number that has ballooned since 1980, reaching to about 220,000 incarcerated women today. It is a growth rate that has outpaced men by more than 50 percent, according to the Sentencing Project. Just 5 percent of the world's female population lives in the U.S., and yet this country incarcerates one-third of the world's female prison population. The Vera Institute found that 80 percent of incarcerated women are mothers, the overwhelming majority are mothers of minors, and most were primary caregivers before their detainment.


With the rising population of incarcerated mothers, disproportionate among low-income women and women of color, many groups across the country are organizing around their cause and in honor of Mother's Day.

In Chicago, Reunification Ride provides a monthly bus for children to visit their mothers nearly 200 miles away at Logan and Decatur Correctional Center. The bus cost used to be covered by the state, but in January 2016 the budget was slashed, and the monthly bus — which for some children and their caregivers was the only way to visit their moms in prison — was eliminated.

Since May 2016, organizers from Cabrini Green Legal Aid, Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration, and Nehemiah Trinity Rising were able to raise the funds to bring back the monthly bus service from Chicago to Illinois' women's prisons. In celebration of Mother's Day, Reunification Ride sends two buses this month instead of one. "If people don’t make it to a prison any other day, they’re going to try to make it on Mother’s Day," Barnett said.

Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration also staged their fifth annual incarcerated Mother's Day vigil and toiletry drive May 12 outside of Cook County Jail in Chicago. Organizer Monica Cosby, a formerly incarcerated mother of three who spent 20 years behind bars (three of which were pretrial), said that a lot of the work that happens outside of prisons or jails doesn’t reach inside. "So that’s why we do it outside of the jail, so the women will know we’re out there, caring, on their behalf."

For the second year in a row, the National Bail Out Collective will continue its Black Mamas Bail Out campaign, featuring more than a dozen groups to bail out as many black women as they can in various cities, "to give incarcerated mothers an opportunity to spend Mother’s Day with their families," the website says. This includes trans women and other black women who may not have given birth, but are caregivers or mothers in their communities, the organizers say, giving credence to the additional trauma LGBT incarcerated women often face.


"There was a sense of wanting to do something around a holiday that’s beloved in our country, but that we know everyone isn’t celebrating the same way," Arissa Hall, co-coordinator of the National Bail Collective, said. "When we think of Mother’s Day, we do have an ideal or prototype of mothers that should be celebrated, and oftentimes they aren’t black women. And definitely, we aren’t as a culture or a society thinking about black mothers that are incarcerated."

Last year, the campaign, which is now year-round, raised funds to free over 100 black mothers and caregivers who were sitting in jail because they couldn't afford bail. These women were also provided or connected with additional support and life-sustaining services after their release. Many of the local groups are planning homecoming celebrations this year for the newly freed mothers, their children and their communities.

"I think that black women are triply marginalized in the criminal justice system as a whole, but in the prison system particularly," said Breea Willingham, PhD, who is an assistant professor of criminal justice at Plattsburgh State University of New York. Her research focuses on women in the criminal justice system and the impact of mass incarceration on black families. "They are often pushed so far into the margins of society that they're rendered invisible," she continued, "and so what these efforts are doing, or what they're saying, is that 'we see you. We care, and we're here for you.'"

In Texas — the state that incarcerates more women by number (not per capita) than any other state — Fulbright's daughter Barnett, 34, started her own organization five years ago called Girls Embracing Mothers. The program supports girls whose mothers are incarcerated and brings them to visit their mothers in prison. Girls Embracing Mothers takes a group of girls between the ages of 5-18 on the first Saturday of each month.

But instead of the typical two-hour bloc, the group gets to stay for four hours in a private room and bring into the prison arts and crafts and food. For Mother's Day, Barnett had the women reflect on what it means to be a mom in prison on this holiday, while the girls pretended they were journalists and wrote advice columns to another girl their age who is struggling to cope with an incarcerated mother.


From all these groups — and there are many more committed to organizing around incarcerated mothers and their children on Mother's Day and beyond — their message is a larger one about policy and reform, questioning why we as a country incarcerate so many mothers in the first place. But there's also a more sentimental one for the incarcerated mothers and their children — that as we celebrate mothers nationally, those behind bars are not forgotten or overlooked, as well as their children enduring the holiday without them. "These women are still our mamas," Barnett said.

"People who are locked in cages are often rendered one-dimensional, as far as the statistics or the numbers," Marbre Stahly-Butts, co-director of Law for Black Lives and co-coordinator of the National Bail Out Collective, said. "Saying these are our moms, and these are our sisters, and these are our children, and that we recognize them and we see them, as opposed to 'this percentage of people'. . . We want to change the narrative around who it is that we’re literally spending billions of dollars every year in the country to put in a cage."

Incarcerated women are split almost evenly between jails and prisons. And according to the ACLU, 60 percent of women in jail are awaiting trial. Women's lower economic status in this country, with women of color earning even less than their white counterparts, makes it that much more difficult for them to afford cash bail. "The intersection between poverty and prison is a strong one," said Monifa Bandele, Senior Vice President of Maternal Justice Programs at MomsRising. "You lose your job, lose your house, lose custody of your kids, all because you’re waiting to make your case."

The Vera Institute conducted a study on women in jails and found that "Women often become involved with the justice system as a result of efforts to cope with life challenges such as poverty, unemployment, and significant physical or behavioral health struggles. Most are jailed for low-level, nonviolent offenses." ACLU verified that drug and property offenses make up more than half of the offenses for which women are incarcerated. However, it is vital not to exclude the women incarcerated for violent offenses when considering reform and efforts to reduce the female prison population.

"They're doing crimes that may just be a matter of survival, especially for women who are on lower social economic statuses," Willingham said. "So when we talk about women's incarceration and mothers in particular, it's important to understand how they even got there. By the time incarceration hits, they've already been trying to survive. So they've already — in some cases — exhausted other modes of survival."


Given the statistic that 80 percent of incarcerated women are mothers and most of them single mothers, their incarceration, no matter how long, can have a traumatic and wide-reaching effect on a child. A report via the Annie E. Casey Foundation says more than 5 million children have had a parent incarcerated at some point in their life, which is more than 7 percent of the child population in the U.S.

But a black child is nine times more likely than a white child to have a parent in prison, even though when it comes to drug offenses — a driving force of the over incarceration of black people and black women specifically — data reveals that drug use is comparable across racial lines or, even higher for whites. Though arrests and convictions do not reflect this. And while the emotional trauma for a child of an incarcerated parent is substantial, including increased risks of suffering from PTSD, depression, anxiety, having trouble at school, being suspended or expelled, and a 40 percent higher chance of being incarcerated themselves, an incarcerated parent is devastating to a family's economic status.

"Incarceration of a family member is associated with 64 percent decline in household assets, so it just magnifies the poverty and race gap," Jessica Jackson Sloan said, national director and co-founder of the criminal justice reform organization #Cut50. "Many of these families are already behind, and now they’re being set even further behind by the parent’s incarceration."

These problems don't necessarily dissipate when a mother is released either. Fulbright was sentenced to eight years for a drug addiction, two and half of which she served in prison. She worked as a nurse making about $27 an hour prior to her conviction. When Fulbright was first released, the only place where she was able to gain employment was at a Walmart earning minimum wage.

Eighteen years after Fullbright's conviction and 10 years home, she still has to check the convicted felon box. "The criminal legal system is just an extension of the way that the culture treats women generally and judges women generally," Cosby said.

Zach Whelan, executive director of Project Avary, a Northern California organization that assists and intervenes in the lives of children with an incarcerated parent, said that having a parent in prison mirrors the loss of a loved one, and there's "profound trauma and grief that happens to these kids." Willingham added that there is often an additional stigma placed on incarcerated mothers, the "What-type-of-mother-takes-herself-out-of-her-child's-life?"

But that shame and stigma reaches a child, often no matter which parent is sent to prison. "They become ashamed of who their parent is and what their family has gone through. And they’re told to keep that quiet, so then they have to live this life of a lie," Whelan said. A teenager in California, whose mother was incarcerated for most of her childhood, said that when she younger, growing up with her grandmother, she would rehearse the explanation that her mom was on a business trip, or out of town, whenever someone inquired about her mom's whereabouts. But as the years went by and the barrage of questions continued, sometimes two or three times a day at school, "the secret" was harder to keep and her classmates labeled her a liar. "Overcoming that shame and stigma is really key to their healing," Whelan said.

Holidays often exacerbate the grief and stigma of separating a mother from her child. Sloan, whose own family experienced incarceration, says it can be another reminder that you are not normal. And it can be made worse when a child doesn't have the ability to visit.

Women, especially in the federal system, can be moved hundreds of miles away from their families and rarely is proximity to one's family taken into account. Cosby, whose kids were one, four and seven when she was arrested, never saw her children once she was transferred to prison. The cost was prohibitive.

"Visiting someone in prison is expensive," Willingham said. "It's the cost of the transportation, it's when you get there, do you have the money to feed the vending machines with the products that are overpriced, and it's getting back home. So if the guardian doesn't have the financial means to accommodate that, then she won't get to see her child."

Programs like Reunification Ride and Girls Embracing Mothers help to subsidize this hurdle, and there are many more, while the National Bail Out Collective brings mothers home — stepping in to keep families connected in a way the state or system never has. "For groups, for communities to come together and say, 'we see you, we're here for you,' that is extremely powerful," Willingham said. "Because it says something that the criminal justice system has never said to these women."

And it is the women who are formerly incarcerated and those most affected by incarceration who are leading this work, Bandele said. "The fact that it’s on the radar for everyone else really has to do with the groundwork they’ve been laying," she added. "The people who experience the issues are the most intellectually suited to solve them. Solutions come from people who have the most intimate interaction with an issue, and that type of leadership is usually overlooked, but there’s been a shift."

When the Girls Embracing Mothers' holiday visit concluded — after the mothers and daughters finished their writing prompt, after the open discussion about what everyone was feeling and enduring, and after several rounds of Uno — Barnett noticed how much longer and connected the embraces were at the visit's end. "It was just more intimate, the hugs were longer," she said, "it was heartwarming."

Before they left the prison, Barnett reminded the girls that Mother's Day was the following weekend, but they didn't need the hint. "Happy Mother's Day!" they said vigorously, over and over again.

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