Mary Beth Writes

(Our Brother’s back story is here:  https://www.marybethdanielson.com/content/what-happens-personal-finances-when-one-grows-poor-and-black-america )

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Our Brother is not in jail. This has been a challenge for him, for the people he loves, and for those of us who try to help and support him. Keeping O.B. out of jail is a modern-day Pilgrim’s Progress.

“Oh,” you ask. “Did he commit a crime?”

“No,” we say, “he has not committed a crime since 1995.”

In the past six months a lot has happened to O.B. He was working fulltime at a warehouse moving 40-50-pound boxes off a conveyor belt to stack them onto a pallet. In August, his bad hip gave out. He has no cartilage in that hip; it’s bone on bone. If you watch him, you will notice that he walks slowly and deliberately.

When his hip collapsed, he went to the hospital where they told him to stay off it for a while. He missed a week of work and thus a week’s paycheck. When he returned to work, the company said they didn’t need him anymore, so that job ended. It took nearly two months to get his next job. O.B.’s child support obligations, already behind, became even further behind.

He talked to child support at some point. I don’t know what he said or asked for. I do know from my years coordinating the Jail Employment Program that child support obligations stop for no one and no reason. If one is new in the system and politely verbal, and solidly middle class and probably (not always, but probably) white – one can usually stave off child support arrest warrants being issued for a while. If one is poor and has been in this situation before, there is very little adjusting done.  And by very little I mean I never saw it happen.

As a personal aside, I despise the phrase “Deadbeat Dad”.  Yes, they absolutely exist, and you may know women struggling to care for their kids. But don’t throw that phrase at men whose stories you DON’T know. Okay?

So warrants were put on O.B. last fall. He started work in early December as a machine operator. This was a better job. He didn’t have to twist and lift all day. He still had to stand in front of a machine, but that was more doable.

Then in December, the mother of his elementary school-aged son lost her life abruptly and unexpectedly. 

In the first week after her death, as he was walking his little son home to his maternal grandmother’s house after school, the son said he wanted to go home with O.B.  I wasn’t there, I don’t precisely know the conversation. I do know O.B. is a quiet and gentle man who listens more than he talks.

He called the grandmother and told her what was going on. She was not satisfied with this living situation for her grandson. As O.B. said when I asked, she and her family are not abusive. But she is the grandmother (also grieving for her daughter) and he is the daddy, and the little boy had stated where he wanted to be.

Soon after that, police harassment began. The timing is suspicious, but he has been harassed for weeks at a time in his past when cops seem to decide to do this. 

O.B. texted me one night that squad cars were driving back and forth in front of his house, officers were pounding at his door, lights were being flashed into his windows, and his kids were terrified. 

I didn’t know what to do so I texted three Racine friends. Over the next week, three times when cop cars were prowling past his home, and once circling his partner in her car – he would text and one of those friends would immediately drive to his address and park on the street to witness what was happening. The officers saw them. It was intimidating but once there were observers, this situation seemed to mostly stop. (I never responded since I live an hour from Racine.)

I don’t know what happened.  Don’t make assumptions that we, who have been dealing with this for more than a month, don’t assume. Justice doesn’t happen on top of rumors.

But it was real. O.B. was afraid to leave his house. He was afraid he would be picked up on his outstanding child support warrant and taken to jail for months.

He had an upcoming child support hearing. I misread it and thought the hearing was about the warrant.

I conferred with a friend, she talked to individuals in Racine’s NAACP.  YouTube videos were suggested about how to write a letter to a court.  I watched the videos, read some articles, and used my skill to write a letter. I explicated what we who have been his support people think needs to be addressed. He can get a job, but circumstances beyond his control happen and he can’t keep the job.

Ran the letter past O.B. and the others. Figured out to whom to send it. Mailed copies off to three relevant officials.

Last week we met at the child support department. By then we realized this hearing was about custody, not about the warrant. O.B. was afraid he would be arrested in the hearing.  We were afraid of that, too.

We had to wait in the lobby when he went into that hearing by himself; we were not allowed to enter the hearing room with O.B. We were all anxious. Had we made his situation better or worse?

A few minutes later he walked back out. O.B. was smiling. He was granted full custody of his son. Past child support and interest owed to the state for this child was dismissed.

The commissioner said that the letter from us was appreciated. He mentioned that he could see from our letter that O.B.’s character had won him support from helpful people. The commissioner also offered condolences to O.B. for the loss of his child’s mother. 

But, he said, O.B. still had the warrant for child support due for his other child and he should pay it as soon as he could.

The rest of this was huge but I will say it fast.  We know a woman (not rich!) who knew his story and was willing to lend the money to pay the amount needed to drop the warrant. It is a loan, he will repay at a rate he can handle among his other obligations.

It “only” took the child support department about an hour to accept that money on Friday morning.

Along this path we have found another supporting person; a retired attorney. It is helpful to have a person with legal experience also considering his whole situation. One friend has experience working with a previous person to get medical care. They will work on that. Friends are helping with food pantry and grocery store help. Everything is on-going.

But Our Brother is not in jail. There are no warrants. His son is with him in his home. He is waiting to hear about a job. We just heard that orientation for this job is Wednesday of this week.

Five of us are working to help one guy, who has not committed a crime in 23 years, stay out of jail.

This is nuts.

Black Lives Matter.

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Comments

You are awesome friends. Our system is so broken.

As one of the three I have to say that this is wonderful news for Our Brother... Back when OB contacted us that he was being harassed by the police I kinda took it with a grain of salt thinking surely the Racine PD has much more important things to do with their time. I didn't go that first night but because one of the other's responded that time. As I was on my way home a text message came in from OB saying that they were back again so I said that I would come over. I parked close to his house and texted OB that I was there. I turned my lights off and within a few minutes a car went by but I didn't think anything of it. When the same car kept going by multiple times I texted OB and asked if the cars were marked or unmarked. He told me it was both and within a few minutes the car drove slowly by my car to look inside. I texted OB that I had been spotted and that I would find another spot..OB said that a police car was sitting in the mall parking lot across the way with it's lights on and so I parked there. I spent some time sitting and watching and sure enough the unmarked car that had approached my car on the street drove over to the police cars drivers side and parked, they both turned their lights off while they talked... I stayed out there texting MB and OB until I again was spotted by the police when they drove slowly by my car... I reached in my pocket for my wallet in case I was asked for ID and realized that I had forgotten it at home and so I told OB and MB that I was going to head home so as not to get harassed by the PD. Had I not seen it with my own eyes I would have been skeptical, but now I'm a total believer. OB deserves a break and the RPD needs a new hobby...Black Lives Do Matter

Telling our stories is our power.

And helping to change someone's story for the better is not only rewarding but it's our civic duty and simply " Just The Right Thing To Do"

How sad to see this type of harassment among the police and how refreshing to see concerned citizens making a difference. Thanks to all of you.

I so appreciate all you and your posse are doing. Thank you. It is indeed sad that we need to protect ourselves in this way. I have experienced twice in recent years the brutal and intimidating manner of our police department to say nothing of their indifference and arrogance. Black lives do matter.

It's easier to just turn a blind eye to what is going on but I believe that you lose a piece of your soul everytime you knowingly do so. I applaud OB for having the strength to endure this ordeal...

I refer to the many hands helping OB as “ the ripple effect”. I saw this in action helping undocumented families in CO. Sometimes folks just have to be asked but then it takes off, someone always k owns someone.... We called to help each other and treat others as we would be treated. I am preaching to the choir here! Joyce

I'm sad for the loss of this boy's mother but am happy at the outcome O.B. -- with your help -- was able to achieve. Shame on the police and our justice system!

I enjoy reading your publication. Living on less and with less is a wonderful concept and one I enjoy focusing on. Given that prescription costs are so high for seniors even with good insurance, it is important for me to focus on the good around. Recently I was told that restasis, a drug will cost 350.00 every 3 months for the rest of my life. What!!! So living on less and finding alternative ways to really appreciate my day to day miracles is so much more satisfying than worrying about restasis. This is a gentle read about ourselves, the focus on what is important to us all around us. Thank you.

Hi Dixie! Check out this site for interesting solutions to expensive problems... https://www.peoplespharmacy.com/ I check it every week or so to see what ideas are out there I never heard of. And if what you have is blepharitis - check this: https://www.peoplespharmacy.com/2016/10/17/how-to-use-dandruff-shampoo-for-blepharitis/ I trust doctors. I also trust paying attention to what others are doing with non-lethal conditions...

My heart breaks every time. This week all I could offer O.B. was a ride...I had a shockingly large totally unexpected tax bill. I know he needs cash, every strike seems to land on this sweet gentle man. I am not enjoying the life lesson I am seeing...so contrary to “Black Lives Matter” that we believe.

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