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When Voucher Funded Private Schools Fail BIPOC Children

Written by: Jamesina Greene

Private school funding is an extremely controversial topic. Each legislative session sparks loud voices for and against. 

In 2016, here in Maryland, our then-governor, Larry Hogan introduced the Maryland BOOST Scholarship Coalition. It was funded by the Maryland legislature and In spring 2022, received bipartisan support from the General Assembly. 

Yet, statistics show that the voucher Initiative is a huge failure. Many believe that the failed voucher program should be eliminated. Largely due to the shifting of taxpayer’s dollars from public to private schools, and leaving public schools to struggle. 

Facts show that these types of programs overwhelmingly help students already in private schools and for the small minority who move from public schools, their academic performance generally drops.

My then six-year-old son, Tre’ and I experienced that truth firsthand. 

In general, society’s viewpoint regarding education is that private school is a better alternative to the public school system. Here are some of the reasons why:

∙ Private schools provide a more comprehensive education

∙ Private schools provide superb academics, sports, and extracurricular activities

∙ Private schools educate the whole child as it has smaller classrooms, promoting more teacher and child interaction

∙ Private schools guarantee individualized and personalized attention

As a mother, I too wanted the best quality education for my child. I did not want the fact that he was an African-American male in this country to prevent him from receiving that. 

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Tre’ began attending a local private school as a toddler. Each year he continued to advance till the age of 6. By then, he was a 2nd-grade student. It is important to share with you that Tre’ was a normal, active, talkative, interactive, and often entertaining six-year-old. However, as a family, we began to notice that he was becoming withdrawn and sullen. Initially, when asked if he was okay, he always replied “Yes” but we had our doubts. 

While at work one day, a co-worker, whose daughter was in the same class as my son, asked me a question that shocked me to the core. She asked, “Jami, has Tre’ said anything to you about the teacher calling him stupid? 

She further stated that her daughter told her that some of the kids won’t play with Tre’ because some of the brown might get on them. You see, Tre’ was the only African American student in that class and probably one of 10 in the entire school. 

I mentioned this conversation to my family and my mother who sensed something was wrong. She told me that as they were in the car together, Tre’ said, “Mom-Mom, I’m stupid.” She asked him who told him that, and he dropped his head and said, “nobody.”

After immediately reaching out to his teacher, multiple times, I received no response. My father and I went to the school and met with the principal, sharing our concerns including the lack of response from the teacher. 

The principal did not respond to those concerns. Instead, she suggested my son be put on Ritalin because in her words, “He’s very active and disruptive.” I responded that since she was an educator and not a child psychologist, her diagnosis was irrelevant. 

Her refusal to address the issues revealed a lot. I went to retrieve my son from the classroom and as I opened the door, a visual manifestation of the words previously shared with me was revealed. Tre’ was seated a great distance from the other students and not being included in the class activity. 

I asked the teacher why and her response was, “Tre’ is disruptive. After he does his work, he gets up and talks to other students, just doing whatever he wants.” I asked her why I had not been contacted by her about this, and she shrugged her shoulders and said that she was too busy to deal with him.

I sent Tre’ to get his belongings and we left that school never to return.


Jamesina Greene is the founder and executive director of “A Mother’s Cry.” A community-based outreach and advocacy organization whose mission is to support women and mothers affected by social inequalities and injustices. Jamesina says that “A mother’s cry is not just about her tears, it is about her voice. This voice raises awareness and nurtures. It crosses ethnic, social, and geographical barriers.”

U.S. Prisons Fail Inmates During the Pandemic

By Jamesina Green

State prisons are known for a lot of things—overcrowding; subpar medical care both physical and mental; consistent human rights violations with little to no rehabilitation.

It has been consistently documented that United States prisons are unsanitary breeding grounds for bacteria and germs—Petri dishes if you will. So, when the COVID-19 virus made its presence known, it is no surprise that prisons were hit hard.

Some prisoners may not have been sentenced to ‘Death Row’ but the pandemic made it feel that way.

The death rate was higher for incarcerated persons than any other population. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, from March 2020 to February 2021, nearly 2,500 incarcerated persons in state and federal prisons died of COVID-19. I believe the numbers are much higher due to the lack of accurate reporting of COVID cases.

As luck would have it, I live near one of the largest medium-security state prisons in Maryland. And like most prisons, when the pandemic began, the prison went into lockdown mode.

Family members were not hearing from their incarcerated loved ones and the prison’s administration was not answering calls. The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services went silent.

My organization, “A Mother’s Cry” was bombarded with calls from distraught mothers worried about their children, and rightfully so. It had been weeks since I had any communication with my own incarcerated son.


The only information we received was the periodic TV news reports. The panic and anxiety levels were intense. Families were asking, “Is my child infected? Is my child dead?” I even wondered about the well-being of my own child. On behalf of the families we serve, I sent emails and social media queries to our Governor, and it would be months before anyone from the governor’s office responded.

By some kind of divine intervention, an incarcerated person at the Eastern Correctional Institution was able to contact a family member. The stories he told were jaw-dropping. Not only did he describe worsened living conditions due to the pandemic, but he also shared about the lack of safeguards or concern about the prisoner’s health and well-being.

He described two individuals locked down in a space about the size of a small bathroom. One had a high fever, severe cough, body aches, and other COVID symptoms. The other individual who had no symptoms was forced to share the space because there was nowhere else for him to go!

All the things recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention such as safe distancing were ignored. Hand sanitizer is not allowed because of its alcohol content. And the face masks were nothing more than strips of the material that the State uses for prison uniforms. Not much protection there. And the sanitation is woefully inadequate.

Aware of all the atrocities, we urged the family member to contact the local news media. And because of this family’s news tip, the media covered the story, and some changes were made.

Incarcerated persons are more suspectable to COVID-19 because:

  • The stress of incarceration affects the immune system.
  • The medical care is inadequate on a regular basis, then you add in a deadly virus that the staff is not equipped to handle. Remember, prisons are warehouses for humans and are not equipped for a medical crisis of this magnitude.
  • The food that they are served has low nutritional value and the water is often contaminated.

As the world carries on, the COVID-19 virus is still very much alive and infecting bodies. Society tends to forget and ignore the prison population, however, COVID has not forgotten them.


Jamesina Greene is the founder and executive director of “A Mother’s Cry.” A community-based outreach and advocacy organization whose mission is to support women and mothers affected by social inequalities and injustices. Jamesina says that “A mother’s cry is not just about her tears, it is about her voice. This voice raises awareness and nurtures. It crosses ethnic, social, and geographical barriers.”

The Plight of Black and Brown Birthing Individuals

By Kay Matthews, Founder of The Shades of Blue Project, and Kimberly A. Baker, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Health Promotion & Behavioral Science

After seeing how policies were directly impacting the lives of the people we served, my collaborative partner Kim, my team, and I made the decision to focus on public policy. To plant ourselves at tables where the well-being and livelihood of the families we serve were being decided.

Since making that decision, we’ve had the opportunity to work on the Momnibus, particularly the Moms Matter Act. That piece of legislation was in Biden’s Build Back Better Plan and would have expanded access to treatment for maternal health conditions.

The passage of that bill would have provided funds to diversify the workforce and hire more therapists of color, and expand access to culturally competent care. The bill would have also allowed for investment in community-based programs to support those who are expecting and in the postpartum period.

Now we’re working with Representative Lauren Underwood of Illinois on the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021. We’re extracting key pieces from the first bill and we’re hopeful the legislation will pass and get funded. What we’re excited to see in this bill is the inclusion of maternal health issues related to COVID-19.

Two more pieces of legislation we’re carefully watching are the Into the Light for Maternal Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders Act of 2022 and the TRIUMPH for New Moms Act of 2021.

Into the Light would reauthorize through FY2028 a program that addresses maternal depression and expands its scope to include mental health and substance use disorders. It would also require the Department of Health and Human Services to maintain a national hotline to provide mental health and substance use disorder resources to pregnant and postpartum women and their families.

TRIUMPH would amend the Public Health Service Act and allow the establishment of a Task Force on Maternal Mental Health.

I don’t know if there’s ever been a time when three different bills centered around maternal mental health have been part of the legislative consciousness. Especially since we’re seeing an about-face on women’s reproductive rights.

We’re trying to implement acts to ensure that women have affordable access to healthcare and childcare. We see this gap in the families we serve and with the possible repeal of Roe v. Wade, that gap will widen. Black and brown women and poor rural communities will certainly be negatively impacted.

And for us being in the middle of this crisis, we’re going to have to find new ways to respond. Find new solutions and ask, “what do we need to do now that we weren’t doing before?”

Here again, we find ourselves bridging things together that no one is correlating. Like, abortion care or the lack thereof, and the maternal mental health impact that will likely worsen once these new laws go into effect.

We’re seeing it firsthand but others in our communities are slow to see and respond. Why do we have to wait another five years for experts and legislators to see how abortion care impacts maternal mental health? We’re telling you now because we see it and SB8 isn’t even a year old.

There’s even research that supports this correlation called, The Turnaway Study. This study followed women who were seeking an abortion. They followed women who were able to receive those services and the ones who were turned away—thus the name, The Turnaway Study, Researchers wanted to know what social impacts, what social determinant impacts, what happened to those women who were turned away, including what happened to their mental health.

The tenfold increase in long-term mental health effects of the women who were turned away from having an abortion is apparent. It is in the research. And mind you, this study only included White women. Imagine if the study had included Black and Brown birthing individuals.

His Name is Byron! One Mother’s Cry!

Written by: Jamesina Greene

On June 16, 2006, my 25-year-old son was escorted into the courtroom. He looked handsome in his starched white dress shirt and new jeans. The ankle chains, and handcuffs, however, reminded me of my ancestors being led to the slave auction blocks. A mother observing her child being led into a room like an animal, surrounded by pistol-wearing individuals with blanket authority to harm him, was traumatizing. This day would begin one of the most heart-wrenching phases of my life’s journey.

He sat next to his court-appointed attorney, head held high, shoulders squared, looking his accusers in the eye, I could see the regal and highly intelligent warrior that he was raised to be. Still, my heart was gripped with fear. Statistics show that young Black and Brown men experience harsher sentences way more often than White men of the same age in this country. The tension and even hatred in some of the faces in that room were palpable and were directed at my child.

My mother’s heart hurt.

I watched the system fail yet another young Black man and his loved ones. With no physical or forensic evidence, no eyewitness, and a recording proving that the victim lied, my son was found guilty and sentenced to 50 years for ASSAULT. Not murder. Not attempted murder. Not rape of a child. ASSAULT.

This is our so-called justice system at work. When you give a 25-year-old a 50-year prison sentence, you are saying to them, “you are useless, you do not matter and we are throwing you away.”

These excessive sentences are unfair and damaging. It has been well-documented that the development of the human brain is not complete until the age of 25. So these extreme sentences for young Black and Brown men and women are an abuse of power. They are intentional acts that destroy families and the lives of our youth.

Not Just Another Statistic

My son is not just another statistic in a very broken system. He has a name and a story. His life matters and I always tried to convey this to him.

His father died when he was 10 months old and the family all but abandoned him. Not only did my son lose his dad, but he also lost the benefit of extended family. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who could have stepped in and helped raise and guide him. This lack of connection and support made my son angry. When he was a teenager, that void became evident.

Photo courtesy of Jamesina Greene. Jamesina with her eldest son.

The judge presiding over his case was previously my divorce attorney. And if that weren’t reason enough to recuse himself, my mother used to babysit his step-children. When I was called to the stand, he remembered me. Shocked, he asked me how I’d been and to send regards to my mother.

For a moment, I was hopeful. I thought perhaps there would be some mercy shown during sentencing since again, he failed to recuse himself. A mother never stops hoping and praying for the best outcome for her child. No such thing happened. My son was sentenced to 50 years in the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

Photo courtesy of Jamesina Greene. Picture of her son on a call during the pandemic.

Seventeen years later, I still cannot verbalize the disappointment and shock of hearing that asinine sentence. He was not allowed to hold or kiss his two young sons who were in the courtroom. Further actions of manipulation and control by the State. I asked his attorney about filing an appeal and he informed me that he could not even discuss it without receiving $35,000 first. More systemic injustice and inequality for single, poor mothers such as myself. I left that courtroom speechless. How was I going to tell my family what had just happened?

Many people say that the system is broken and cry out for reform. I say that it is working just as it was designed to. Our children are introduced into the legal system at earlier ages and with harsher sentences than their white counterparts. Politicians offer next to nothing to provide stable environments and/or options to keep them off of the street. Yet, they are ready to lock them up at the first sight of wrongdoing.

The Prison Industrial Complex is a multi-billion dollar business and offers the least amount of opportunities for rehabilitation. Poor nutrition, polluted water, sometimes no water, and minimal to no educational opportunities—this is America’s prison system. There is the continual use of lockdown time which limits fresh air and sunshine, much less human contact outside of a cage. The daily violation of basic human rights disturbs my soul. Mass incarceration of Black and Brown youth is a reality and families are being negatively impacted.

Mine was.

And it’s why I fight for mothers and families just like mine.


Jamesina Greene is the founder and executive director of “A Mother’s Cry.” A community-based outreach and advocacy organization whose mission is to support women and mothers affected by social inequalities and injustices. Jamesina says that “A mother’s cry is not just about her tears, it is about her voice. This voice raises awareness and nurtures. It crosses ethnic, social, and geographical barriers.”

Extend Postpartum Care to Mothers of Stillborn Babies

By Kay Matthews, Founder of Shades of Blue Project and Black Maternal Mental Health Week


I delivered Troya Simone stillborn on May 29, 2014.

And it is in the late night hours when I think about my daughter the most. 

Even though I delivered her naturally I have no recollection of doing so.

My body does.

My heart does. 

When my husband then boyfriend asked me if I held her, my knee-jerk answer to him was, “Why would I want to hold a dead baby?”

By the time I fully understood what happened, Troya had already been taken to the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office. 

So there would be no photographs.

No footprints on parchment paper that I could frame and hold on to. 

I never even saw her.

I didn’t get to mourn her at that moment.

Instead, I was handed a pamphlet on grief and sent on my way with only the clothes I wore to the hospital that day.

I trashed them.

I was a new mother, who had just delivered a nearly full-term baby—stillborn. 

But since I had no baby to show for my labor, the hospital staff didn’t treat me as a new mother whose body would undergo the same changes any new mother would undergo.

The next few years were a blur.

I was angry.

I was depressed.

There were bouts of rage and extreme sadness and family and friends didn’t know how to help me. 

And if I’m truthful, I didn’t know how to ask for help and wasn’t sure what I needed. It would have been nice to be asked. It would have made things easier if people acknowledged my pain and suffering—my mental decline. To friends and family my name was no longer, “Kay” but “Kay You Know She Lost Her Baby.”

Somehow, I was able to piece together resources that would help me manage day-to-day life. Because you don’t ever get over the loss of a child. You learn how to manage your grief. Some days are easier than others and then there are the other days. The days where all the emotion and grief grip your heart and the tears fall uncontrollably.  

And even though my birthing experience didn’t produce the outcome I desired, I started to piece back the fragments of my life. 

Black Woman and Postpartum Care

Unlike Denise Williams, a 29-year-old mother of two who went to the hospital for the postpartum depression she was experiencing. Within 48 hours of her hospital stay, she died. How does a mother experiencing postpartum symptoms die just two days into a hospital stay?

It’s a question maternal healthcare professionals should be asking themselves. 

Denise took the appropriate response to the pain she was experiencing. And that’s not always easy for Black women. Seeking help for stress and other mental health issues has always been taboo for we Black folks. Admitting that we need help goes against the strong Black woman standard we ourselves, our families, our communities, our churches, and even our nation holds us to. We are the saviors of so many but who will save us?

Especially when biases and systemic racism plague our healthcare system. And not only health care but the very support systems designed to assist mothers and families can do great harm. 

Researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York found that African American women were more than twice as likely to experience postpartum depressive symptoms as white women. 

And recent studies also show that Black women are 57% less likely to start treatment for postpartum depression. Why? Fear. Fear that they will not be heard. 

Sigh…The Biases Continue

If world tennis champion, Serena Williams was dismissed by her medical care team after giving birth to her daughter, what hope do the rest of us have?

Serena knew her body. She had suffered from blood clots before. She knew the symptoms and the remedy. When she reached out to her nurse, her complaint was brushed off as simply the pain of childbirth. Advocating for herself, she finally got the CT scan of her lungs and she was right—right down to the medication needed.

But this callousness towards Black birthing individuals is woven into the very fabric of the system. This dismissive behavior by those who are supposed to care and the internal and external pressure to shoulder so many burdens is adding to the rising number of Black morbidity.

Another reason why Black women shy away from postpartum depression treatment? We fear that our children will be taken away from us by state agencies. And this fear is not unfounded. A national study and news reports found that child welfare workers deem black mothers unfit at a higher rate than they do white mothers.

The maternal mental health of Black birthing individuals cannot be ignored. 

Reproductive Rights Under Attack

Especially now with women’s reproductive rights under fire. 

The Supreme Court’s possible reversal of Roe v. Wade will immediately impact poor women of color. The mental health of birthing individuals forced to give birth will have dire consequences and we’ll see these Black morbidity rates continue to rise. 

We’re already seeing the impact of SB8 on the families and communities we serve.

The Black maternal health conversation must include mental health. The two are linked and to try and separate them is a disservice to the Black mothers who find themselves struggling. 

I created the Shades of Blue Project and Black Maternal Mental Health Week for these women. Women like me who had less than favorable outcomes from their birthing experiences. Women who struggle to connect with their babies because they’re stressed about their domestic situations or abusive relationships.

Sometimes I don’t have the words to express how I feel about losing my daughter but what I will never hesitate to do is speak my truth in hopes that it helps the next woman or family push through their experience.