Mama Dreads For the homeless

The first time I saw her I wondered, “Is this crazy lady for real?” I knew everyone called her “Mama Dreads” and the reason was obvious. Her long auburn dreadlocks burst out from under that signature straw cowgirl hat she had festooned with fake flowers. She was a blur of bright colors, always in motion, dispensing hugs and street wisdom in equal measure.

Mama Dreads

Her retro clothes suggested she may have been at a Grateful Dead concert last night. The multicolored bracelets hinted interest in many worthy causes past. Her tattooed forearms were messages from a past life, maybe indiscretions at Woodstock. Her glasses were a little too big because they slide down her nose when she smiled. She was animated, alive, always willing to talk. Mama usually had an opinion and she was not afraid to tell you just what she thought.

Artemis Marnie Butti Moonhawk, aka “Mama Dreads” is unforgettable. She has been a force for fair treatment of the homeless for many years. She has been on the street herself, and has had her own battles with addiction after her divorce. She showed me a picture of the dark crypt at Dyrer Point Cemetery where she spent winters when she was homeless. She knows what it’s like to be cold and hungry. She’s been there.

Mama Dreads slept here.
Mama and friends distribute lunches to the hungry men and women of Providence.

That was then, this is now. Mama Dreads has made it her personal mission to help those who live on the street. She has fed them, clothed them, marched for them, and mourned those who have passed. She knows and truly loves her people. She fights for justice for them, be it with the police or “The Suits,” anyone who tries to take advantage.

Mama Dreads stands with the homeless.
Mama fights for justice.

Lately Mama has been picking up used needles around Providence. She is incensed that AIDS Care Ocean State's $65,000 legislative grant was not renewed. Last year, they said they kept 43,808 used needles off the streets.They helped stop the spread of Hepatitis and HIV/AIDS thoroughout the state. Now that help is gone.

Mama collects used syringes.

Mama received The Red Bandana Award in 2016 “for the tireless compassion, aid to and advocacy for the health and welfare of the homeless in Rhode Island. Humanity is measured by our care for the last, which she exhibits gladly, joyfully and continually on the streets of our communities. We are all better for her presence in our midst.” This award is a rare honor for which she is justifiably proud.

Artemis Moonhawk is the real deal, a true advocate for the homeless in Providence, Rhode Island.

Face Book post: “I have had the honor of knowing Mama Dreads for the past 2 years and there is no doubt that this woman loves helping people. Mama has a fabulous crew that goes out with her to do outreach on a daily basis. Mama takes her crew to all the city meetings. If there is a protest for a good cause, Mama is there. It is wonderful to see COMMUNITY being built from the ground up.” Bella Robinson

Face Book post: “This is the best example of grassroots community action I have ever seen. If you aren't helping Mama Dread Mission of Love by donating, volunteering or giving her free space to do this work - then - at the very least - get out of her damn way.” Alex Andrews

Created By
Jan Armor

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