TAMPA — Following the 2016 presidential election Katie Habgood, chair of the Social Action Committee at Tampa's Congregation Beth Am, decided to take action and educate herself further regarding racial injustice in America.
She and the rest of the Beth Am committee spent a year learning more, reading books and watching documentaries. They examined how their personal privilege as middle-class white Americans limited their understanding. They held a discussion group after a screening of Oscar-nominated director Ava Duvernay's 13th, the Netflix documentary which focuses on the high incarceration rates of African Americans.
The film inspired Habgood to research ways to help people stuck in an unfair system, she says.
Habgood recently teamed up with Faith in Florida to launch a pilot project to help jailed women (living at the poverty level) post bail.
On Sunday (May 6), she will host a private fundraiser to raise funds to cover one Hillsborough inmate's bail and insure their release in time for Mother's Day.
Others can donate to the cause online or by contacting Congregation Beth Am.
"I had always thought if someone was in jail that meant they had done something really bad but that's not always the case," Habgood said. "Many are in jail for things like unpaid parking tickets or something where they couldn't pay a fine. Then, they are arrested and can't post bail, so they are stuck in jail for something I or someone else in the middle class could just write a check and be done with."
Faith in Florida is currently working with Habgood to select a beneficiary for any bail funds collected. The individual will be released May 9. If all goes well, Habgood will consider expanding the efforts to help more inmates.
"When someone remains in jail, the result is often job loss and a decline further into poverty," she said. "I picture this project being successful. I think after people see what a direct impact it has on someone's life, others will want to continue it."
For more information or to donate, contact Katie Habgood through Congregation Beth Am at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (813) 968-8511. You also can donate here at tinyurl.com/y8wyy38e.
Contact Sarah Whitman at email@example.com.