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There are fewer institutions more crippling to America than the prison industrial complex.  Families are torn apart on a regular basis, and many of these families are black.  One athlete in the Super Bowl is giving a face to the tragedy and he is prepared for the biggest moment of his life and a chance to make his family proud.
Damaryius Thomas of the Denver Broncos will enter MetLife Stadium knowing that his mother and grandmother won’t be able to see him play, at least not in person.  Rather than cheering for him in the stands, they will be cheering from their cell blocks.  Both women are part of a growing number of black women being taken from their children due to the pain of incarceration.
Like hundreds of thousands of other black inmates serving time in federal prison, Thomas’ mother, Katina Smith, and grandmother, Minnie Pearl Thomas, are both non-violent felons.  But they were hit with the charge of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine.  These conspiracy charges can often reap sentences of 150 years or even longer, sometimes after the offender has only been in possession of less cocaine than you might find on a college campus on the weekend.
Wall Street Bankers are notorious for using cocaine, as the film, “The Wolf of Wall Street” reminded us.  But most of them are not forced to be away from their children for decades, as has happened to the family of the Denver Bronco who will be on the field for the Super Bowl.
Thomas’ mother celebrates her son’s performances by taping her number onto her prison-issued jump suit.   She has been in prison since 2000 and is expected to be released in 2017 after not being able to see her son grow up.   Minnie Thomas, his grandmother, will never see the light of day unless Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama Administration are successful in changing the laws which led to the highest spike in human incarceration since slavery.
Demaryius’ mother has never seen him play in a football game in person.  She didn’t see him play as a child, in high school, college or as a professional.  But he has been a good one, making the Pro Bowl twice and becoming one of the best wide receivers in the NFL.
But despite having their family torn apart by prison, Demaryius calls his mother and grandmother after every single game.
“That drives me more, to know that they’re in there and they’re watching me,” Thomas said to USA Today. “I try to go out and play my best, because I know they’re going to talk about it to all the people in the jailhouse.”

Thomas was 12 years old when his mother and grandmother were convicted. He said they have still been able to keep a close eye on his career.

“They get to watch every game,” Thomas told USA Today. “They’ve got the T-shirts. All of the ladies have the T-shirts and watch me, so that’s special.”

IBW21 (The Institute of the Black World 21st Century) is committed to enhancing the capacity of Black communities in the U.S. and globally to achieve cultural, social, economic and political equality and an enhanced quality of life for all marginalized people.