This short story begins around 2003. It was in that year that a hard-working mother, a full-time college custodian coming home daily to clean and cook for a growing son and granddaughter, began to show the signs of cancer. After some testing it was clear that the cancer was located in her stomach, and in the daily anguish of her nausea and pain. This was something that at that point could not be avoided and which had to be dealt with as best as possible. She went to work when she could, unable and unwilling to use her limited amount of sick days, working through her pain, hair loss, and against all odds. This mother’s strength, hope, and faith was too strong to be beaten by cancer, and so through the radiation treatments, chemotherapy, and regular visits from Coney Island to her Manhattan doctor, she came out victorious in her year plus long battle. From 2005 on she would make regular visits to her “cancer doctor” as a recovering cancer patient making sure the last traces of her painful illness, the illness her entire family and community felt, faded into a distant memory.
Fast-forwarding to 2008, the sister of the hard-working, cancer-surviving mother just mentioned, took on the shared responsibility of a newborn dog, a pit-bull. A hard-working mother herself, also a college custodian, also of Puerto Rican descent, she struggled day in and day out to provide for her growing son in the housing project environment that everyone in this story shares. One day, while taking the then grown pit-bull for a walk, it got loose from her for just a moment. No soon as she regained control of the dog (the dog did not harm any persons, or property for that matter), a police officer appeared and began to question her on the fact that the dog did not seem to have a license on its collar. Since she was in fact still in the process of receiving the dog’s license, the police officer was able to give her a ticket, for $50, for having an unlicensed dog. Being the hard-working, low-income mother that she is, with a son unable to find a steady job in the declining economy, leaving him unable to support, the ticket was innocently forgotten about as she went on her daily struggle to make ends meet.
Now to the main part of this short story, which must begin with January 11, 2010. On that day the hard-working cancer survivor went for another endoscopic biopsy, where a camera is inserted into her stomach to not only allow a doctor to look for any abnormalities, but to also extract a piece for detailed testing. As one might expect, this procedure, though 99% safe, leaves one with a considerable discomfort and on-and-off nausea. This time around, these after effects would persist well into the next week, which brings us to the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., on January 18, 2010. After a routine follow-up, during which blood was taken, the two sisters and hard-working mothers decided to visit their mother in East New York. On their way home, on the train, no seats were available in the car they were in, but a few were clearly visible in the next car when they looked through the train doors. With the cancer survivor feeling discomfort in her stomach from the prior week’s procedure, and the blood tests of that morning, they decided to go through the train doors, behind another gentlemen, as the train was moving. Little did they know that, 1) this is considered unlawful to do, and, 2) that two black male police officers were watching them as they did this.
Making their way to their much-needed seats, seats deserving of hard-working mothers, one police officer signaled for them to “come here” by curling his index finger. Getting off at the next stop the mothers, sisters, were questioned (with the police officers using aggressive and obviously intimidating tones). Using computer systems to keep track of persons with outstanding warrants and such, police officers routinely put the names of people they stop through the system so that should they have any outstanding warrants, they can be taken in for processing. Of course warrants were the last thing on these mothers’ minds. However, little did they know that if a ticket is not paid for in the time given to pay it, that ticket then turns into an outstanding warrant. Under this context, the mother who shared responsibility for the pit-bull, which had long since been given away to the ASPCA due to her being unable to care for it (due to financial reasons), was “taken in” for processing. The other sister was given a $175 ticket and desk appearance.
In a time when the city is strapped for money, when it is sending workers formerly on desk duty out onto the streets as patrolling officers, it is clear why the two mothers were stopped, instead of the one man who had went through the train doors as it moved just before them: double the money for the city. Why they would decide to do this to two mothers specifically, on Martin Luther King Jr.s birthday no less, is less obvious and up for discussion. What is clear, what is fact, is that these two hard-working mothers were targeted for moving from one train to another looking for a needed seat to rest on. While one sister was able to go home shortly after the incident, she went home nevertheless with a $175 ticket, and the pain of knowing her sister, innocent as innocent can be, was being “taken in.” There is much more to this story, considering her sister ended up spending a night, over 24 hours, in a jail environment she never dreamed she’d experience. Nevertheless, the story ends here. Why are hard-working mothers being targeted by a major city as potential sources of money? How often does this happen in our communities? This is something we need to address, for the sake of peace.