The Struggles of Father’s Day
By Alexandria Pech, Shalei Heflin & Ebony Underwood
As children of incarcerated parents we often cope with having to carry a lot of emotional
pain, stigma and trauma. For many, those emotions are especially triggered during Mother’s
Day and Father’s Day. WE GOT US NOW Actionists Alexandria, Shalei and Ebony, each give a
glimpse into the personal struggle that children and young adults have with parents behind bars
during Father's Day.

Ebony’s Story

Father’s Day usually consists of spending the day on a visit with my Dad in a federal prison. Although my father received a life sentence under harsh draconian drug laws made in the early 1990s, he has consistently maintained a supportive, loving relationship with my 3 siblings and I despite prison walls. 

This Father’s Day has taken on a whole new meaning . COVID-19 & protests have caused a national prison lockdown that will prevent me and many daughters and sons quality time with their parents behind bars this coming holiday. When I actually take a moment to think about my Dad,  at 66 years old, being amongst the most vulnerable population to COVID-19 according to the CDC, I am frightened.  He is a model prisoner with zero infractions and has continued to mentor so many young men inside the prison industrial complex. I am disheartened because not only has he maintained a wonderful emotional relationship with me, my siblings and his grandchildren, but now we have not been able to physically connect with him in months. 

This pandemic has created another devastating layer of separation for children of incarcerated parents to endure. After 30 years locked away from me and my siblings and our commitment to remaining connected as a family even it means having to travel across the country to connect we have done so for over the last several decades. The one time of year that we get to actually all be together, well somewhat, was Father's Day. Now, as young adults, the prisons won't allow more than 4 people and that includes our children, so we go into the visiting room 3-4 at a time. There is no real opportunity for a complete family photo, but we have made the best of it because that's just what we do. As I sit here and write this, I recognize how abnormal this is for so many children and families. Meanwhile, this is just a peek into the rippling effects that mass incarceration has caused to children and families. I continue to Hope For Father's Day and pray that my Dad is finally reunited with me and my siblings in 2020.

 

This guest blog is part of the series: Missing Dad Incarceration and the Difficulty of Father’s Day. We invite you to follow the link to read all of the contributions in the series.

 

Arizona State University, ASU, #1Innovation, Children of Incarcerated Parents. CIP, Be the Solution , Fathers Day, Parenting in prison, celebrating holidays with a parent in prison, incarceration, COIP, Dads in prison, moms in prison

Ebony Underwood , is a social entrepreneur, content creator, daughter of incarcerated parent
and founder/CEO of WE GOT US NOW, a national nonprofit nonpartisan organization build by.
led by and about children and young adults impacted by parental incarceration with the mission
to ENGAGE, EDUCATE, ELEVATE & EMPOWER this historically invisible population through
the use of digital narratives, safe-spaces & advocacy led campaigns to ensure their voices are
at the forefront of strategic initiatives, practices and policies that will help to keep families
connected, create fair sentencing and end mass incarceration. Ebony is a herald voice
championing for the millions of children and young adults impacted by parental incarceration
speaking nationally including Yale Law School, Columbia Law School, NYU Law School,
American Law School, John Jay School of Criminal Justice, Sing Sing State Correctional facility,
Google, SXSW, YouTube and has been invited to the White House several times on their
behalf. Her personal mission is to help heal and eliminate the devastating impacts of parental
incarceration for children and young adults by building an empowered community of allies and
directly impacted leaders.