How long has your chapter been in your city/town? How has your work with chapters looked like over that time frame?

The chapter has been in Birmingham since 2015. It started out as a political education group that met up every month.

How many active member leaders does your chapter have? 

We have two active member-leaders right now, we’ve had people move away and internal conflicts that have hindered the progress of the membership over time.

How many active members does your chapter have?

We have at least four active members in the chapter currently. People are involved in many established organizations around Birmingham so people’s capacity are limited in how they can get involved long term.

Has your chapter done the Black Mamas Bail Out Action? If so, what have y’all learned about money bail and pre-trial detention in your city? 

Our chapter has participated in Black Mamas Bailout, this year was the first time that it was led by the SONG BHAM chapter. We have learned that if people have certain misdemeanors they are able to sign a signature/recognizance bond and are usually out within a few days of seeing the judge and handling any requirements the court sees they need help with addiction problems. 

What are your specific demands for your Free from Fear campaign? 

We demand counties, cities, and municipalities — controlled by decolonized communities, and not elitist private industry — are allowed to make their own rules as it pertains to bail.

  1. Prosecutors must not push for bail; They must service restorative justice with respect to radical identity politics.
  2. Judges must not require bail in assessing someone’s ability/probability to get back to municipal courts to account for misdemeanors, infractions, predetermined circumstances, generational Jim Crow, and so on. In these cases, Judges must offer Release on own Recognizance to our families, within the best interests of communities. 

We demand an increase Pre-Trial Diversion services by installing Community Oversight, and Community Health and Human Services councils throughout municipalities/cities, funded by the defunding of the militarization/multiplication of police officers, and disinvestment of the Prison Industrial Complex.

We demand the following of the frameworks and tactics of Bail Reform in the regions of our comrades in SONG Atlanta, Georgia and New Orleans, Louisiana. Affirm our kindred’s legitimacy through the power of their successes, and our organized radical activism.

We demand Needs Assessment in determining someone getting back to the court, and also the prerogative of  keeping them from the courts, especially with petty fines:

  1. Increase ability and access for people to get to court: Provide representation and more communal based (and not capitalist private industry) legal assistance; Provide transportation assistance (Example: Present a stub of court ticket to be able to ride a designated express bus for free; Run shuttles to the court from various municipalities); Protect self-determination and policies that restore that — give people ability to reset court date due to understandable and verified inconvenience. 
  2. INVEST in grassroots community structures and centers, and partner with legal shops, that have clear intent to save our people’s’ lives and ameliorate societal epidemics and conditions of employment, housing, healthcare, mental health, addiction etc. DIVEST in age-old companies that work in conjunction to privatized, outdated and harmful state apparatus. INVEST in our future and DIVEST in past enslavement tactics.

Who are your targets? 

Our targets during the electoral experiment were the District Attorney, Sheriff and various judges. We were able to have a candidate forum with many other organizations in Birmingham around criminal justice reform. We have met with the sheriff on two separate occasions after he was elected, he was able to help us get a list of women’s names to be bailed out of jail for Black Mamas Bailouts. We’re looking to speak with Judge Boohaker and District Attorney Danny Carr since they have been pushing the risk assessment the hardest and were able to implement it. 

What wins or successes has your chapter had?

Our wins are small in comparison to other chapters,  one win was holding consecutive events and workshops during the electoral experiment. We only held two events during the Black Mamas Bailout actions. Another win was being able to help people understand the bail system in Jefferson County even if they had never been to jail before. They were most likely impacted by paying the bail of someone else and saw it as something that had to be done to get their person free. 

What does political education work look like for your chapter? 

Political education looks like doing more than one session of Our Safety, Our Selves workshops in different neighborhoods of Birmingham and also doing them for our coalition partners just to see how an abolitionist framework looks for people deeply impacted by the prison industrial system. We’re looking to partner with Adelante Worker’s Center soon around Our Safety, Our Selves workshop for latinx folx. See how they intertwine and how we should not only melt ice but do away with the apparatus of the police.

What does arts & culture work look like for your chapter?

Arts and Culture looks like having at least one performance of Cash Bail Blues performed outside the Jefferson County Jailhouse which is also connected to the Jefferson County Courthouse. We also want to integrate some form of guerilla theatre in different parts of town where power is being contested daily. For instance, outside of Birmingham City Council chambers. The Sheriff’s office is also close by the Jefferson County jail/courthouse so we could perform the cash bail blues or guerilla theatre at either of these locations. People are always coming in and out of these sites of power. 

What to join the Birmingham Chapter?

Contact our Birmingham fellow, Mars Mwenja and follow SONG Birmingham on Facebook!