by Asra Q. Nomani and Debra Tisler
STAFFORD, VA — “They are not taking my baby girl!” cries Sean Jackson, the black father of a beautiful girl, Amoria Adams, 10 months old, holding his beloved daughter.
This week, a school board member from Fairfax County, Va., Karen Keys-Gamarra, put in motion a judge’s order that tonight took a beautiful baby girl from the home of her doting father and paternal grandparents. At this moment. At 8:33 PM.
“You guys are taking my child,” says Jackson, distraught.
“No!” cries the paternal grandmother, Kimberly Jackson-Makle.
Three Stafford County sheriff’s officers moved tonight — Monday night, to seize this baby, nicknamed “Mori,” because of a judge’s order put in place by Keys-Gamarra on Monday without the father’s or paternal grandparents’ awareness.
Then, in the darkness of the night, little Amoria was strapped into a car seat in a white car and driven away by a stranger. Her father and grandparents have no clue where she is tonight.
How did this miscarriage of justice happen?
The writing on the wall was written on May 4, on the fourth floor of the Arlington Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, a bailiff held Amoria as a three-month-old baby girl and shouted, “Father? Where’s the father?”
Jackson, 28, a paramedic in nearby Stafford, Va., stepped forward and declared, “I’m the father.”
The bailiff thrust the baby into his arms.
Ever since Jackson had learned through a paternity test that he was Amoria’s father, he had been trying to win visitation. It seemed his case might have suddenly been strengthened. A few feet away, Arlington police led away the baby’s mother, 21, in handcuffs, arrested on an outstanding warrant for alleged assault and battery involving abuse of another of her daughters.
What are you? Retarded?
In the confusion, Jackson wondered what happened next.
But when he sought advice from the person who would know, Karen Keys-Gamarra, Amoria’s court-appointed attorney, he got a shocking answer – one that he says telegraphed her bias against him.
“What are you?” Keys-Gamarra snapped: “Retarded?”
While Keys-Gamarra denies using the term, it wouldn’t be the first time the lawyer, a Black activist and Fairfax County School Board member who ran as a “voice for the voiceless,” used the slur. On Thursday, Oct. 20, at a public meeting of the school board of Fairfax County Public Schools, Keys-Gamarra blurted out at one point during a dispute, “We cannot be this retarded,” in a hot-mic moment. The next day, disturbed by the use of the word, school board chair Rachna Sizemore Heizer told a local WUSA9 TV reporter, “That is actually the third time she’s used it.” Little did Sizemore Heizer know that a young father had also heard the word used to demean him. And according to someone close to Amoria’s mother, Keys-Gamarra refused to give Amoria to Jackson once when the baby was sick, saying: “He is retarded.”
For Jackson and his parents, the case illustrates the biases of a system rigged against fathers even by so-called progressives. Amoria’s mother, who is also Black, was three months pregnant with her when she was jailed in July 2021 for felony charges of possession of controlled substances and “gross, wanton or reckless care of a child.” Continue reading