A Florida woman is fighting for her mother’s release from prison
While many mothers and daughters are out enjoying boozy brunches or shopping with their moms for Mother’s Day, Gemena Taylor will spend her’s in a Florida prison.
Gemena’s mom, Gloria Taylor, is serving a life sentence for a nonviolent drug charge and has been behind bars for over 30 years. But Gemena has refused to stop fighting for her mother’s freedom.
“I usually go see my momma on Mother’s Day,” said Gemena over the phone to theGrio. She admitted that growing up and not having her mother on the holiday didn’t really impact her, but that doesn’t mean she survived her mother’s incarceration unscathed.
“One day didn’t really affect me, it was everyday life,” said Gemena. “I have stains on my brain that I can’t seem to wipe away.” She confessed that if she would have had her mother growing up, it would have made a significant difference in her life.
“My mother was very militant,” she recalled, “I felt like I needed that.” Gemena was in the fifth grade when her mother went to prison. She reflects on the time she had with her mother and referred to her as a “provider.” She said she felt protected when she was with her mother.
“She used to dress nice in heels, silk blouses and kept her hair and nails done,” said Gemena. “My momma was like that, she didn’t do drugs or alcohol, she was not a slum mom.”
The 42-old began raising awareness about her mother’s case about 10 years ago. Gloria was sentenced to life at the height of the war on drugs back in the early 1990s. She was caught with just 56 grams of cocaine which is about a fist full. But because she had previous drug charges, she was eligible to receive a life sentence.
The mother of four was 34 at the time of her arrest and 6 months pregnant when she was sentenced to life.
“I was in such a shock I just stood there,” said Gloria, 67, in a low slightly raspy tone. She recently beat coronavirus, but still sounds like she is struggling to breathe.
Gloria, who is serving her time at the Homestead Correctional Institution FDC in Florida takes accountability for her crimes, but said she did not deserve to have her entire life snatched away from her.
“I paid my dues so it’s time for me to come home now. I love and miss my family so much.”
She mentioned that it is unfair that inmates all around the country who were sentenced under racially unjust drug laws are being released, but Florida refuses to change course.
According to her attorney, MiAngel Cody, Florida is resistant to criminal justice reform.
“Florida has been particularly draconian, even among the red states,” said Cody. The attorney was also responsible for helping win the freedom of Alice Johnson. Like Gloria, Johnson was sentenced to life in prison on drug changes, but she was pardoned back in 2018.
Cody said that the state’s current governor, Ronald DeSantis has shown no interest in granting clemency. Florida has pushed through harsh drug laws and applies mandatory minimum sentences, which means a judge has to dish out a one size fits all punishment regardless of the circumstances surrounding the crime. And on top of that, Florida abolished parole in 1983 so inmates are not able to have their cases reviewed for resentencing.
“They can’t get back in court they can’t get a parole hearing and they can’t get help from the governor,” said Cody. “So I think that trifecta of circumstances makes Florida difficult.”
But those obstacles have not deterred Gemena from fighting for her mother. She said back in 2017 when people were advocating for rapper Meek Mill to come home after he went to jail for a parole violation, she used that opportunity to raise awareness for her mother’s case.
She started ranting in celebrity comment sections on Instagram and it worked. She created a petition about her mother’s case which has collected over 8,000 signatures.
“As I would rant I would direct people to go to my page to sign the petition,” said Gemena. She also began using the hashtag, #FreeGlo.
She began meeting people who were willing to help her fight for her mother’s freedom, which is how she met Cody.
“I never used to talk about my mother, I used to be afraid and I didn’t want to be judged,” said Gemena. “But I got past the pride part and I learned you can’t be afraid to tell people your story.”
Despite the circumstances, the two will still celebrate Mother’s Day. She said she likes for her mom to make her a salad while they are on visitation. Gloria tops them off with salad dressing, chicken bites, sunflower seeds, Fritos and cheese strips.
“That salad is so good,” recalled Gemena. She added that they will both get juice to drink — a Tropicana for Gloria and a strawberry kiwi for herself.
Gemena has tried to make the best out of the bad situation, but said it is time for her mother to come home.
“She does not deserve a life sentence. She committed a crime and deserved to be punished, but the judgment should be done with at this point.”
Have you subscribed to theGrio’s podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!
TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Roku. Download theGrio today!