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The violent Separation Nation didn’t begin with this generation --- with these babies --- or their incarceration --- The Separation Nation began with the theft of Turtle Island --- and the humans who lived here and thrived on it. As we grieve, show up, demand and scream for the freedom of these incarcerated babies, please don’t get confused by the blur of this present genocidal history. Take a refresher course with me through the violent herstories that built this stolen land – and continue to assist in the realization and manifestation of the most important aspects of what I call the Separation Nation.
It was September of 2016. I was currently under CPS supervision from an unfortunate case that had been opened due to domestic violence (I was the victim) and substance abuse. Initially, CPS was going to award me full custody but chose to place my son in foster care after I allowed my domestically-abusive husband to see our son on my birthday. After Maryela Padilla was assigned to our case, things changed for the worst.
In 1984, in San Diego, I was born to two parents with mental health problems. My parents put myself and my siblings through severe neglect, sexual abuse, physical and verbal abuse. I am the oldest of six children. My dad was a Vietnam vet. At age 12 I broke away from my parents and turned myself over to Child Protective Services thinking they could help and were the only answer.
Parents are people. We are imperfect. We make mistakes. We struggle. And, sometimes, in the heat of the moment we say and do things we do not mean. For Donna Levey, her mistake was calling San Francisco Child Protective Services, or CPS, for support when her family was in crisis. If only she had known that that phone call would come to represent the point of no return. If only she had known that CPS would catapult their family crisis into a life-altering nightmare.
Our children are our future. We must nurture them, protect them, give them the tools necessary to survive in this harsh and unforgiving world. What if I told you that the very system designated to care for and safeguard abused and neglected children is in gross and willful negligence of its role as “protector of innocence?” Why would Child Protective Services remove children from parental custody that have not been abused or neglected? The answer is simple and incredibly sad: financial incentives.
Elaine Brown’s “A Taste of Power,” a memoir which chronicles her leadership of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense when co-founder Huey P. Newton is imprisoned, still resonates with me. The idea that a Black woman is nominated to the leadership position of the most powerful civic organization in the country at that time is still remarkable and speaks to what Kathleen Cleaver calls revolutionary imagination.
Too often, organizing work done by incarcerated women goes wholly unrecognized. In her book, “Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women,” Victoria Law focuses on the many forms of activism happening inside of women’s prisons, most of which never reach the dominant media. In the following interview, Law shares ways in which individual acts of resistance are building toward a transformational new reality.
On Feb. 22, Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco-San Mateo, chair of the Senate Committee on Human Services, introduced legislation to assist pregnant teens and young parents in the foster care system. Legislation helps ensure access to child care, offers support to pregnant foster youth, and provides reproductive health education.
Imagine you were framed again by prison gang officers using a tattoo you got as a child and a symbol in a birthday card to “validate” you as a “prison gang associate” and label you “worst of the worst” and placed in segregation in a Security Housing Unit, or SHU, for years on end. That is what happened to my childhood best friend and husband, Robbie Riva.
Continuously over the last four years, Jessica Comstock, 22, has been homeless, relying on a network of local emergency shelters for her survival. She is just one of a growing number of young people between the ages of 18-24 who are slipping into homelessness in the city of Richmond.
Despite the city's considerable wealth, our local economy is suffering. Ten thousand more San Franciscans are unemployed than a year ago, 1,000 families have lost their homes to foreclosure and more people are waiting in lines for free food than anyone has seen in a generation.