Racial Justice Corner
Imagine giving birth to a child and being accused of neglect for requesting that your newborn remain in your hospital room during a pandemic. Imagine that same newborn baby being violently ripped from your arms while you are being choked, restrained, and arrested because you had the nerve to attempt to leave the hospital with your son after you both were discharged. As unrealistic as it sounds, this is exactly what happened to Ms. Sellers as she attempted to leave the hospital following the discharge of her and her two-day-old newborn, Zephaniah Brown.
On May 16, 2021, Ms. Sellers arrived at Baptist Hospital Lexington located in Lexington, Kentucky. She gave birth to her son, Zephaniah, without complication, on the morning of May 17. Following his birth, Ms. Sellers requested that her son remain in the room with her to reduce his chances of being exposed to COVID-19 - the fourteen-month-old disease that shut the world down and was responsible for the deaths of more than 1.8 million people worldwide by January of 2021. Nursing staff, on the other hand, insisted that Zephaniah be taken to the nursery. However, because Ms. Sellers was not receptive to the suggestion, she was immediately labeled as “angry” and “overreactive” and a report of risk of neglect was made by one of the hospital’s social workers. It is of note that the social worker who made the report had never met nor interacted with Ms. Sellers.
Ms. Sellers and Zephaniah were ultimately discharged on May 19. Before leaving, she decided to breastfeed Zephaniah. At that time, Kamika Joyner, a CPS social worker, arrived at the hospital to speak with Ms. Sellers. Upon entering Ms. Sellers’ hospital room, Ms. Sellers requested that Ms. Joyner leave so she could breastfeed her baby and continue preparing for departure. Ms. Joyner left and immediately called the police with accusations of neglect.
As Ms. Sellers was walking through the hospital towards the exit with Zephaniah secured in his car seat which she was holding, she was confronted by police and several others. Rightfully so, Ms. Sellers, an individual who had done nothing wrong, continued to walk down the hall where the impending confrontation would ensue. Upon meeting the group of individuals waiting for her, Officer James Cooper stopped her so that he could “speak” with her. Clearly frustrated, Ms. Sellers stated that they could speak where they were, stated and even yelled that her son was leaving with her several times, and then questioned their authority for trying to take her son from her. Several moments later, Officer Cooper violently grabbed Zephaniah’s car seat out of Ms. Sellers arm, and then a hospital officer ran up and began choking Ms. Sellers while attempting to place her in handcuffs and threatening to charge her with “resisting arrest as well.” As she was restrained, Ms. Joyner began explaining that this was happening because she refused to speak with her. Following this, Ms. Sellers was taken to another room where a conversation occurred off camera, and then taken to jail at which time she was charged with second degree disorderly conduct.
A video of this encounter can be viewed at: https://youtu.be/S0JJrAfKh_M.
Please stay tuned for an update on this story and further discussion!