Every Kid Deserves a Future – End Juvenile Life Sentencing Without Parole in RI!

What is RI General Assembly Bill H5333 / RI Senate Bill S0341?

In the 2012 Miller v. Alabama decision, the Supreme Court ruled that sentencing juvenile offenders to life without the possibility of parole is unconstitutional. Black and Pink is joining activists in states across the country to ensure that Rhode Island has policies in place to prevent caging children for life. This bill would ensure that people under 18 years old who were sentenced as adults are given a parole hearing after serving 15 years of their sentence, with the parole board making a call on whether or not they are ready for re-entry. The State Senate passed the bill in 2017 but we need to work together for it to pass in the House General Assembly (H5333) and again in the Senate this year (S0341) to become law.

There are currently six people at the ACI in Cranston, including one Black & Pink member, who would be affected by the passage of the bill. Each of these people were given one or more life sentences when they were under 18 years old. We also know that the regions of adolescents’ brains that deal with impulse control and long term thinking are not as developed as they are in adults. Additionally, young people who have experienced Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) or traumatic events early in life are more likely to be less developed in those regions of the brain than their peers, due to toxic stress. People incarcerated as juveniles are also more likely to age out of crime and rehabilitate than adults are.

We at Black and Pink believe everyone is more than the worst thing they’ve ever done. We believe in the power of people both young and old to change and grow, and we hope that Rhode Island House of Representatives and Senate Representatives will pass H5333 and S0341 to allow people who made mistakes in their youth a second chance at life.

Two ways Rhode Islanders can help pass H5333 and S0341:

  1. Show up to the bill hearings at the RI State House (82 Smith Street in Providence). The most crucial hearing, H5333, is happening Tuesday, March 5 at 4:30. When you arrive, we will help you sign your name to mark yourself in support of the bill. You can stay to listen to testimonies and show the general assembly that their constituents are counting on them to vote yes. Stay tuned to our Facebook page and Instagram for an announcement about the date for the hearing for S0341.
  2. Contact your representatives to encourage them to vote YES on these bills. Here’s how:

Step 1

Enter your address on https://vote.sos.ri.gov/#officials-search to find 2 names – your “Representative in General Assembly” and your “Senator in General Assembly”

Step 2

Find your Representative’s contact info here: http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/Email/RepEmailListDistrict.asp – this is the person to contact in support of H5333.

Find your Senator’s contact info here: http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/Email/SenEmailListDistrict.asp – this is the person to contact in support of S0341

Step 3

Call and/or email both of them! This takes just a few minutes and makes a big difference. When you call, you may be speaking directly with your representative, someone in their office, or an answering machine.

Sample script:

Hello, my name is _______ and I live at *street address* in your ward. I ’m calling/writing for Rep./Senator [rep/senator name] to vote yes on [H5333 (for house version) OR S0341 (for senate version)]. This bill would ban sentencing juvenile offenders to life without the possibility of parole; it would also allow current juvenile offenders serving life sentences to be eligible for parole after serving 15 years. If passed, this bill would only affect 6 offenders- granting them the possibility of a parole hearing, not a guaranteed release.

*state any other reasons for supporting the bill, or you can keep the call brief*

Thank you for joining me and our neighbors in support of bill H5333/S0341.

Further reading on the issue of juvenile sentencing:

Press Release from this bill’s introduction in RI last year

The Sentencing Project – Juvenile Life Without Parole: An Overview

The Marshall Project – Juvenile Life Without Parole: A Curated Collection of Links

ACLU Report – Racial Disparities in Sentencing (October 27, 2014)

National Center for Youth Law – The Case Against Juvenile Life Without Parole

The Sentencing Project – The Lives of Juvenile Lifers: Findings from a National Survey

2019 Updates From NYC

Hello! The NYC chapter is active! The current iteration of our chapter is about to have its one-year anniversary on February 4. Woohoo!

You can get in touch with us via nyc@blackandpink.org
Please follow us on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter at @blackandpinknyc

Here’s info on what we’re up to:

MONTHLY NYC GATHERINGS

Penpal Matching

Our Penpal Orientation & Matching gives an overview of Black & Pink’s work, our prison abolitionist mission, and guidelines to being a penpal. You’ll get an opportunity to be matched to one of our NY inside members. We’ll have inside member bios and first letters available for you to read so that you can easily sign up for a pen pal friend.

    • Contact: Isaiah isaiah.dupree123@gmail.com
    • Typically every 2nd Monday of the month, 6:30-8:30 PM
    • Sylvia Rivera Law Project
      147 W 24th St, 5th floor
      New York, NY 10011
      Elevator access, no ID required

 

Mail Processing

Twice a month, we gather to read and respond to letters from our inside family members. This is a core part of the work we do. If possible, we ask attendees to please bring a laptop or other internet-connected device that can be typed into. Cellphone is not ideal. If you don’t have a computer or are fed up with staring at a screen, you can still come and handwrite letters or draw pictures to send to our inside members. We strive to respond to every piece of mail we receive.

Local NYS Mail Processing

      • Contact: Alex alexschmidt87@gmail.com; Lena lenasradnick@gmail.com 
      • Every 1st Wednesday, 6-9 PM
      • Sunview Luncheonette
        221 Nassau Ave
        Brooklyn, NY 11222
        One step to access, no ID required
        Free food provided (suggested donation $5)

National Mail Processing

 

Chapter Organizers

Core outside organizers of our chapter meet about once a month to plan and make decisions, usually over a video-conference call and sometimes in person. Email nyc@blackandpink.org to find out when and where!

 

ESTABLISHED WORKING GROUPS

  • Inside Member Support Working Group
    • We plan and run programs to give direct and advocacy support to our incarcerated members while they are still inside.
    • Contact: Tanya tanya@blackandpink.org
    • Prison Visitation Program: We organize outside volunteers and penpals to come meet our inside members in person
    • Solidarity Packages Program: We organize filling and sending custom boxes of food, toiletries, and other requested items
    • Ideas for the future: Grievance Advocacy Program, Legal Referral Program, Writing/Book Club
  • Coming Home Support Working Group
    • We communicate with our incarcerated members starting from six months before their release dates to give community referrals, limited material support, and ongoing social connection to ease transition to the outside world (re-entry).
    • Contact: Veevee veevee@blackandpink.org
    • Re-entry Questionnaire: We collect information from inside members who are getting out in 6 months to have a clear idea of what they need upon release
    • Re-entry Resources Guide: (in-development) We will send inside members who are getting out an in-development list of organizations and resources who we vet for being LGBTGNCQ+-friendly for support in housing, health services, jobs, etc.
    • Welcome Home Program: (in-development) We will meet people coming home and give them material support (re-entry kits) and community connections, in partnership with The Suitcase Project by Witness To Mass Incarceration

 

 

2019 Updates for SF Bay Area B&P/Flying Over Walls

In 2019, we be hosting 2 events every month:

Every 1st Thursday from 6-8pm

Wicked Grounds Cafe – 289 8th St, SF, near Civic Center Bart. Wheelchair accessible. 

Every 3rd Monday from 6-8pm

Farley’s Cafe – 33 Grand Ave in Oakland, near 19th St Bart. Wheelchair accessible, though outlets for laptops are on the 2nd floor only.
We always welcome new individuals into our local leadership circle, and the dates our our monthly leadership meetings vary each month. We also coordinate visits to see our penpals and have t-shirts by donation to help with our costs. Email for more info, or drop by an event.

Letters from Our Family (December 2018)

I want all Black and Pink Readers to know that you do not have to hide who you are or what you like; if you are in prison you don’t have to hide it from anyone either because in the end you are the one who has to deal with it everyday not anyone else so remember- fuck what others think, do you regardless if you love a man, be faithful to him or her whichever they are. Don’t be afraid to show the real you. Blessed be, blessed be, blessed be.

With all my love, Jordan (MD)

 

I’ve been receiving this great publication for more than a year now. You’ve managed to touch every emotion I have. I’ve been in TX prisons for 24 — going on 25 — years. Texas is by far the most oppressive state in the union. If you aren’t a conservative Republican — then by God, you are the enemy and the enemy is to be enslaved. That is exactly what the Texas Prison System is, legalized slavery. If you believe it’s justice or rehabilitation — then you are a fool — or one of them.

We are fed so bad on this particular “farm” that one of the COs actually went and complained to the Major. We work in industries where we manufacture goods that are sold at profit to outside agencies and other countries. We actually make the majority of the non-food items that are sold in our commissary. Our pay is fictional work and good time that in theory should be applied toward early release. But it’s discretionary. Therefore it’s worth nothing more than wasted ink on our time sheet.

If we fail to show up to our job that we’re not paid for, we receive disciplinary. Where we could lose our much coveted work time or good time or lose our privilege to go to commissary and purchase the items we failed to go help manufacture as our punishment. We would be excused from work for being sick if we go to medical and pay a hundred dollar co-pay. I am award of the state, I labor for free, eat gravy as a main course at least three meals a week, and yet I am charged for medical. a medical bill paid by our families because we have no source of income. And the icing on the cake is that we are charged a sales tax on certain items we purchase. That is taxation without representation. Think American Revolution.

I never had to endure a lot of what most of you would have faced. I was a 6’6’ white man from the trailer park covered in tattoos and I should have won the Academy Award. I faked it to make it. I stood my ground and never betrayed the real me. Ultimately, I am paying the price for it now. I should have been true to myself and fought the good fight. I was so scared of disapproval — well, my fears would take 10 pages to list. Now, I am ready to become who I was mean to be.

anon (TX)

 

Well, I’ve been in the custody of my legal kidnappers for (8) years strong for a petty crime I didn’t commit. My situation was not about the charge. The District Attorney told me at court that he had strong feelings that I didn’t do it. But, he couldn’t let me go home, because I was a threat. I knew too much and I opened too many peoples eyes as to what was going on. I helped over (20) people get out of the parish jail and I had info on how to obtain my own paperwork, which contained the info of my accusers. In Louisiana, if you know how to do stuff like that, they roast you – no mercy — too smart. I watched guys take 30 to 80 years on no evidence. Court appointed lawyers manipulating dudes with detectives present to give forced confessions out of fear. Now they are never going home. Most of the LGBTQ prisoners are already full of fear once they come to jail anyway. So the police, judges and attorneys use that fear to their advantage. In the south they hate the LGBTQ having any rights or say so anyway. In the Louisiana prison system, it’s not cool to be smart of a thinker. But that’s what I am. I know that I don’t need anything from this broken system to go home and function. But they want you to feel that way.

I want the world to know how they rock in Louisiana and how they kidnapped me legally and took me to all of these plantations where all of these slaves let them violate their rights daily without rising up. I want everybody to know about Gregory O. Harrell vs. the State of Louisiana. I put up my best fight and lost, but in the end I’m gonna win! I am a firm believer in the fact, that one day we will change all of this. To all of my Girls locked up going through it, stay strong!

Hope this motivated somebody,
Sincerely I am,
Lois Lane

 

Dear Black $ pink Friends

It’s Lee again Just checking in to see how everyone is. I’ve been super busy in My Recovery groups and Vocational class. I wake up at 6 Am and My Day Starts. Monday – Friday from 8am – 2pm, I’m at my vocational class. Electrical. I study for Tests, both hands on and written. Then Tuesdays & Fridays From 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm, I have my youth offender programs. (Y.P. class) On Friday Nights , I’m in Al-Anon that’s my other Recovery class. My Lunch Starts at 11 or 12. Dinner or chow starts at 6 pm. Night yard & Dayroom is from 7 – 9pm. My weekends, I have to either walk for 2 Hours around the yard or prison gym and I’m in there for a solid hour doing a work out, or volley ball. After that I Like to come in, shower and stay in the cell to relax since My Week Day was so busy. I make sure to check My Tablet For Any Emails that might be there. It’s a Jpay Tablet. Friends & Family can Email me willingly and I get them directly. Jpay.com/Media. Sign up and have my info on hand as well as yours.

Other than this, I’m happy, safe, and healthy. Working hard to be better than before. Let the old me go. One step at a time.

Well Black and pink, hope to hear From you soon in the near Future.

Take care.
Your Friend,
Lee (CA)

Message from Dominique (December 2018)

Hello Family!

Well darlings – another year down! My goodness it feels like it was just January and we were in a very bleak space. Fast forward and I feel so alive with appreciation and excitement for what is in store for Black and Pink.

This is a special issue! We heard your feedback about submissions being published and we have worked hard over the last 6 months to get up to date with processed letters! We can say that we are very close to achieving that goal.

I think about being inside during the holidays – waiting for Holiday Boxes from the canteen (when I had the money), commiserating with my sisters cooking burritos (one day I’ll share my fab recipe) and finding what traditions would be come my new normal. I want to say to you all that no matter where you are – it’s okay to find joy. You may be creating a new normal but it’s yours and that’s special. We on the inside love each other in ways others can’t understand.

I send the gift of peace. Peace of your heart and mind.

I send the gift of contentment. Being at the pinnacle of happiness isn’t always feasible. Continuous contentment is a blessing I promise.

I send the gift of renewal. Tomorrow is a new day. No matter how bad today is or was – you have tomorrow boo. I held on to that and still do.

Holiday card parties are happening so look out for those! As long as we have each other as Black and Pink family we’ll never be alone in this thing. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year.

Oh PS – I’m adding a vision board template. Dreaming is good for the spirit. Trust me.

Love,
Dominique Morgan
National Director
Black and Pink, Inc
Omaha, Nebraska

Hardcore Correspondence

Dear Family

Today is Halloween and sitting down here thinking about the Inside members and none members, I can remember all the days I wished I was outside celebrating my only favorite holiday of the year. When you go to prison young, all you think about is the trick or treating, the Halloween parties that come with being a teen. Yeah I trick or treated until I was 18, it was mainly to accompany my younger siblings but Sh**t, I also like candy. After dropping them back home I would go to a Halloween party were only a few of the people in there had costumes, the rest… well we came to party, I’m sure y’all know what that means. But equally sad are the parents who are missing that chance, some might not even ever get the chance to take their kids trick or treating, some even after coming home will have to be home under penalty of prison if they leave their homes or put up Halloween decorations. They sit there waiting for a team of officers to cell check their homes just like the shakedowns in prison. Even if they have kids they are not allowed to partake in this American tradition.

I say all that to say that knowing this, it motivates me to help people out here get pen-pals or at least attend and/or host a card party. This month I went to a Birthday Card party for NYC inside members who’s B-Day is in October at our comrades in the struggle the A.V.P. ( Anti Violence Project ). We had a good turn out and were able to send B-day cards to our inside members. I also attended a pen-pal orientation at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, where one of our organizer, Alex, has a great exhibit. Not many people showed, there’s never enough, but the good thing is that 5 of them went home pen-pals!!!

On top of that, our organizers hold a constant mail sorting every month in two locations and  pen-pal orientation once a month. So If anybody is ever within the battle field of NYC, come and support. Every first Wednesday of the month at the Sunview Luncheon, 221 Nassau in Greenpoint from 7-9pm. Every third Sunday of the month at the Bluestokings Bookstore, 172 Allen on LES from 3-5pm. Every second Monday of the month from 6:30-8pm at the Church of the Village. We’re preparing for the upcoming Holiday card parties, hopefully many other organizations decide to join us and individuals with positive hearts.

Our NYC organizers have also been working hard to help answer back the national mail at their mail sorting, which end up being somewhat of an event, can’t really say how much mail, but it was a lot. Like… a lot. I believe we can actually say we’re somewhat caught up. Family, remember that sometimes a letter from a stranger may actually save the life of somebody captivated by the P.I.C. Sometimes it brings hope for a better future, sometimes it’s the letter they needed to deal with their loneliness. Thank You all who are trying to make a difference, specially those who know that this is not the whole of our struggle, the ultimate will always be prison abolition.

Letters from Our Family (Oct. 2018)

Dear Black and Pink,

Hi fam 🙂 my name is Jenna I’m a 22 year old male to female transgender, currently finishing up my last 16 months on a 4 piece here in TCDJ. I’m sitting in solitary today as I write this letter waiting to be shipped to my new unit. I am being moved because I was drugged and sexually assaulted by a rather prominent high “ranking” gang member on this unit, so yeah safety issues and all that. Since being here in Seg the last week I’ve had lots of time to sit and think, lots of random stuff going on in my brain it’s like all the news channels at once, on acid, after being up for 48 hours. So yea, stressed out random thoughts, but one thing that keep coming to mind over and over again, is all my brothers and sisters out there who are going through the same thing but are afraid to speak up about it. At first I was afraid to tell anyone what happened. I told one of my sisters on the dorm and she urged me to go to the officers with it, so I did. After I was scared that I’d done wrong by telling on the guy and yeah I felt like I was a snitch because of it but this week I had to be escorted to medical for blood test to make sure I didn’t get anything from “him”. Well, i passed two of my sister one told me “You did the right thing by speaking up I’d have done the same thing.” and the other told me she was “proud of me for being brave enough to admit that something happened and get help.” So now I’m not gonna lie I’m glad I brought it to light and to all my family out there don’t be afraid to tell someone they have to help you if there is a real problem, don’t be afraid to ask for help. SPEAK UP! Because it might just save your life. I love you all and I hope you all will stand in solidarity when things like this happen to our family around us.

Sincerely,
Yours in Solidarity,
Jenna (TX)

PS I learned today that I contracted Hep C from this incident. I’m sad yea but I’m so very happy I didn’t end up with something much worse.

 

Dear Black & Pink

I pray and hope you receive this small note and card everyone be blessed with the greatness of God. I received the wonderful cards from Shelley and Sunshine which I was very happy because I have been alone for a very long time, since my mom past away 2014. My girlfriend left me because the sentence was too much 19 years. However I am in the process of proving my innocence in a 440 motion. I am happy that theirs wonderful people out there that actually cares for people like myself and honestly I am innocent but the system is cruel and any matter, I have been sad for a long time and being alone for the holidays is not a good thing. I often pray to find someone good in my life but it has really been impossible but I guess is ok and I thank Black & Pink for not forgetting me.

The New York State Prison is very cruel on all genders and is something that I want to fight because N.Y.S. is killing us slowly, the medical, the officers abusive manner towards inmates is so incredible that is out of control. Green Haven is one of the worst officers here do what they want against inmates. In the last year over six inmates of this prison have died because medical does not provide any help.

Anyway thank you and my love and respect to all at Black & Pink.

God Bless,
Frankie (NY)

 

Dear Black and Pink,

Thank you for all you do for us LGBTQ family. Your hard work is appreciated, you make things so much better for the LGBTQ community, with your open arms, extended hands and unconditional love and support. When I think about Black and Pink and Hearts on a Wire etc. it’s an empowerment to see and hear people come together to help, support, care and love each other equally. In 1956 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fought against the same racism we face today history repeat itself, but as long as we have unity we will thrive and prosper. Let me tell you all as a man who embrace his sexuality, it’s not easy for me or men like me, why because the world is so judgemental and homophobic. I have to fight a war just because I’m being myself and not what ever one else think I should be. Some might think it’s exaggerated but it’s not it’s my reality I face every day. The only things that helps me keep my sanity is the faith I have in God and the loving LGBTQ community that I so dearly love. I encourage you all to shift your focus away from the problem to the ones who can give you good advice, answers, solutions, or next steps to take. Family find your happiness and what makes you happy, your life is just as precious
as anyone else. And know that if you have faith in yourself, you don’t have to live up to or down to anyone else’s expectations, faith in yourself allows you to truly own who you are. LGBTQ we all are BEAUTIFUL.

Well until next time I’ll be praying for you beautiful people.

Sincerely yours,
King B.R. 2 Star (PA)

 

Black&Pink,

Hey friends!!! I just thought I’d write to express a few things! As I write I currently have 32 days left to discharge this 15 year sentence. :-)) My name is Jesikah F.! A Transwoman. And tho I’ve not been “out” all my life, or all my time, I’ve had my share of issues during my incarceration and I choose to write now cause it breaks my heart to see these young transgirls having to deal with these hateful situations thru out this system.

My issue goes out to “Isabella” fromWalla Walla! Everything you wrote makes complete sense. It’s nice to see a girl down for the cause. & all it takes you having to get saucy just to get a point across, you gotta do what your heart desires. Everything we (LGBTQIA) have, we’ve had to fight for. This ain’t came free & its a continuous fight, so Baby, you better file them nails & get ready for the war. Our fight is not always physical, & you are on the right track. Put that pen to work & file that paperwork. If they hate you for it, oh well, cause you know what, you’re making a difference for yourself & for all the girls that come after you. It’s gonna storm before it shines! As you say, “wounded I may be, weak I am not” you’re only weak if you have no defense. & you have a heart. That’s all the defense you need. So let these boys think what they want, if they don’t “fuck around” then whats they concern.
If a person doesn’t like what they see, then they need to find they own business cause us girls got our own, feel me?

So this is to the whole B&P family. As long as we stand tall & as one, our situations is as a barrier to slow us down & not a dead end stopping us. With 32 days left to go home, I plan on going out & helping contribute to girls in need as I know our needs in these prisons. So all who need the sincerest support, I am here & willing to help coming October & to start I’ll needing assistance. Feel free to write & express your needs & to my best abilities, in my power I will advocate for you . But a close mouth can not be fed.

To all my sisters, keep yalls heads up. Every plant begins with a seed, just tend to it & watch it grow. True beauty is within & always remember theres beauty in the struggle.

xoxo
In sisterhood,
Jesikah F. (TX)
#TransLivesMatter

Message from Dominique (September 2018)

The Day I Almost Quit Black & Pink

I found out about Black & Pink January of 2016. We had traveled from Omaha, Nebraska to Chicago for Creating Change that year. There was a blizzard and after crowdfunding to be able to attend— there was nothing in the world that was going to keep me from attending Creating Change that year. It was known as the Mecca of networking for LGBTQ+ folks who wanted to magnify their work—and I was tired of being the kid from Nebraska who couldn’t get in the room to do the work I knew I was meant to do for the rest of my life.

I remember meeting Jason for the first time. Being so surprised how down to Earth he was. How dope this organization seemed and angry that for the 8 years I’d been in the Nebraska Department of Corrections, I wasn’t connected to Black & Pink and their work.

30 days later I’d accepted a job with the Nebraska Democratic Party. 5 months later I’d graduate with a degree in Public Health from Southern New Hampshire University and a month after that I began my career as a Sexual Health Educator at Charles Drew Health Center.

Fast forward to the summer of 2017—Black & Pink National Gathering in Chicago (I’m a huge believer in full circle moments) Meeting Jason again. Meeting so many Black & Pink members. Learning that I was going to be involved in the Leadership Circle. There was so much joy I received from those 3 days.

Then November of 2017 it was like the sky started falling. What had I gotten myself into? Who were these people we had to love as members but battle to save our organization from? What had I gotten myself into?

At that point I was the President of the Board of Directors. By default it seemed. But I had a responsibility nonetheless. December 22nd 2017 I boarded a plane to Boston. Our ground zero. I was scared and alone. In a new city. It was the anniversary of my Mother’s’ death. It was a cold and few days before Christmas. Did I mention I was alone?

But I had a job to do. I had an organization on the brink of destruction and more people than I could imagine who were depending on us to make it right. That evening I received a call about a healing circle that I was asked to attend to represent Black & Pink. I’m going to be honest. I’d been molested as a child. I’d been raped by a correctional officer the last 6 months of my sentence. My husband had cheated and had a baby on the way—This healing circle ranks up there as an experience of violation to my body, my mind and spirit. Being attacked in a space that was the office of the organization that historically had been known as a harbinger of peace for LGBTQ+ folks. A radical space. This abolition nexus of Boston. I was told I didn’t love black women. I was lied on. My character was attacked by people who knew me from email exchanges. I left there over it all. I wanted to fly home and go back to my house and deal with my failing marriage and eat my way through my feelings. It was over.

I thought—this is what advocacy looks like? This is what an amplifier reach was going to cost me? If this is what the work looks like—I wasn’t fit for it.

I walked out of the city school building and up the street to the pizza parlor where I would meet members of the Boston chapter for the first time. I smiled and chatted my way through the meeting while I mentally crafted my resignation letter that I would send when I got back to the hotel.

I went back and cried myself to sleep. I woke up the next morning— Sunday and it was a light snow covering the city. I decided to leave the hotel and find a place to have breakfast. I ended up at this small diner and sat down to begin my resignation email. It was then a few things happened—the jukebox began to play a Whitney Houston song. “How Will I Know” to be exact. I’ll never be in a space and hear a Whitney song and now stop in my tracks. Then I scrolled through FB and saw the post that I made December of 2009 thanking people who had reached out after my Mother had passed away. I instantly heard my Mother’s voice say “Don’t let anyone steal your joy”.

Regardless of everything we had went through as a Board—I was doing the work I had dreamed of and had prayed for. How was I going to let anyone take that from me? I’d always been a fighter. Why would I stop now?

January 22nd, 2018, I accepted the position of National Director permanently. I can say 9 months later I don’t regret stepping into this roller coaster at all. Is it easy? Absolutely not. We are still working to rebuild what some tried to destroy. Are we growing and thriving in the midst of it all? ABSOLUTELY.

New funders. New programs. A renewed organizational spirit. Over the next few months we will be doing a complete mail catch up in Boston. Our Reentry program launched this summer. Our reconstituted Leadership Circle will launch this fall as well.

At the end of the day I get up and get going in the morning for you all. I have a responsibility to you. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Thank you for allowing me to be the captain of this ship. I can’t promise calm waters at all times but I can promise that we will always move full speed ahead and stay on course.

With Love,
Dominique Morgan,
National Director,
Black & Pink,
September 6th, 2018

Letters From Our Family (July 2018)

To My Beloved Black & Pink Family:

Peace & Blessings to all you beautiful souls. My name is Bobbie V. soon to be Arya Serenity. I am presently being held in the Rhode Island Adult Correctional Institution (A.C.I) in Cranston. I am a 5’3”; 145 translatin@ and happy to bring forth some good news from the smallest state in the union. I’ve been reading Black and Pink for many years now and am a very active member in our Providence Rhode Island Chapter and proud to say that this small community has the biggest heart, love an compassion and understanding and were making moves out here slowly yet precise and with that being said the good news is that in the state of Rhode Island at the Rhode Island DOC/ACI I am the first openly transgender woman to transition behind the wall and to my surprise I’ve been met with great support by the RI-DOC’s medical staff Dr. Jennifer Clarke, MD MPH and my physician Dr. Radha Sadacharan, MD and will be receiving feminizing hormone therapy April 19th 2018 (estradiol) and hormone blocker (spironolactone).

I come to bring this good news to my family not to boast but to bring hope into the hearts of those who live in doubt and are struggling in their transition behind the walls. I read the horrid stories of pain and hate and it’s the struggles and achievements of those who preserved and endured in other prisons that made it possible for me, for it was your cases in the courts that won and your prison system that the RI-DOC went to consult asking how they deal with issues of transitioning in their prison system that has allowed for me here in the RI-DOC to transition with such ease and I am forever grateful and indebted to you all.

For those of you who continue to struggle and suffer in silence know that you must never bend that knee in defeat and fight the good fight. Your courage drives me in my activism and advocacy to follow your example in never giving up and to give voice to the voiceless and a face to the faceless.

Family I am to parole very soon and will put theory to practice and do the work of and for our people for a true revolutionary is a lover of the people and love you all I do. I’ve been in the states oppressive systems most of my life as many different personalities from orphan to street thug to gang banga to political activist to a transwoman who is an ex-gang banga that politicized herself. I am very historically, spiritually and politically conscious and aware of the time of day of which we exist in. I’ve been through the fire of hades since a 3 yr old child beaten; then rapes and given up for adoption at the age of 6; I’ve been homeless without family and true friends; neglected and confused in orphanages, group homes and shelters yet all this hell, all this hurt and pain, all this hate and rage gave me experience and this knowledge (for experience is knowledge) gave me awareness and this awareness gave power to my conscious being to not only want to fight and change and save my life but also yours.

This transition into a fiery hot spicy translatin@ is the beginning and end for me, it’s where I start living as the woman I truly am; dedicated to help my people and put an end to my haunting past. I want all you ladies and the greater LGBTQ family out there to know I am here for you. I cry, laugh and love with you all in spirit.

I also want you to know we the Providence chapter of Black and Pink need your beauty; strength and intelligence in our community. You’re needed, wanted and loved so if any of you in the LGBTQ community of Black and Pink seek/ need to relocate and seek to build a community with us in Providence, Rhode Island, seek support, new friendships and family and are willing to fight the good fight to help save lives then contact us at: Black and Pink PVD P.O. Box 29444, Providence, Rhode Island 02907.

Before I end I want to give a big loving shout out to our national director Dominique Morgen. I see you love and to my loving family Danie; Hanna; Trina; MJ; M; Sincere; Bethlehem and AJ and to anyone I may have missed. I love you all, soon the gates of hell will open to let this angel of god do the work of the righteous.

Nuff said I’ve spoken.
Arya Serenity (Rhode Island)

 

Live From The Plantation

The point here is that the very mindset that gives police the license to kill gratuitously – ie, even when they are clearly in no danger, this situation also tells prison officials that they are entitled to inflict both physical and psychological torture on the people in their custody. These are patterns apparently well known to head prison officials but ignored because equal and human rights stop masters/the over-seer profits. This is slavery in upgraded form and its backed by the 13th amendment. Slavery is being kept alive through systemic impunity.

When you let a certain group know that they are above the law, that they can do as they please to other people and they will be protected, you create sadists. When you promote higher wages and rank for only who show fascist tendencies, you create over-seers. I would like to say there are some good prison staff, proimperialist goons, but there are none. There is no such thing as a good prison staff member because the same ones who kick it with you and won’t be involved personally in you being brutalized by their colleagues and not only don’t try to stop the brutality, but don’t say a word, won’t even report it to the proper authority. Job scared, or in fear of friendly retaliation. We are warehoused, mistreated and this is the place where I’m supposed to be rehabilitated! DOC is afraid of genuinely rehabilitated, selfdetermined, independent thinking, politically conscious men and women. It’s no different from when the slaves learned how to read, they had to be freed. The system, this crooked fascist system is safe as long as the slaves/prisoners remain politically unconscious. Instead of “real” rehabilitation, they try their hardest to prevent the development of any kind of organized political movement or resistance to improve our quality of life. Since I’ve unfolded into a conscious prisoner, my goal to play a role in the upliftment of fallen humanity is at an all time high. There is a systematic problem of cronyism which has created an environment that lacks transparency or accountability. If the common people don’t compare prison to slavery, I don’t know where they been living. I have done my part and will continue to passionately fight for the rights of the human beings who have been thrown away and forgotten about.

May Black and Pink live and strive for greatest to free the minds of the people. We focus on things that have no merits while the capitalist class eats and we fight for the scraps. Let’s build, grow, learn, smile, cry live our freedom.

Travis H. (Missouri)

 

Black and Pink..

I will join your fight… Let’s not give up… I would also like to join Black and Pink and share this letter I would like support from my new Black and Pink Family. Trans lives matter. LGBTQIA ours lives matters. Right to get feminine products. We fighting for our rights and respect as transgenders, our rights to be us.

Hello, my name is Terry T. and I am a Transgender who goes by and preferred to be announce and write by the name of Ms. April Tamela Cassidine. as my former stage named. I’m here all alone in this prison in the need of a special friend; advice, help and support for me as a transgender. 1 incident cause me 25 years of my life and freedom. Sad but true my accidental crime change my life like a blink of an eye. I wish I could turn back the hands of time. I am tired of being pushed around by staffs verbal harassment, discrimination, emotional abuse.

Every time I files incidents reports or write a grievances it always be swept under the rug like at times I just wanna give up I also pray at times too about my mistreatments and neglected verbal harassment and also my discriminations acts against the staffs here by most of all I know my God will answer me one day I even begged them with tears to leave me alone. But it’s like a child yelling for Help and nobody is there to save him I wanna file a suit but would it help. I even gets to the point where I would rather commit suicide by taking my own life but is it worth it. I just wanna be at peace.

The wardens here don’t let me and others transgenders womens here get to treat ours hair nor buy feminine products off commissary they force us to live like other men please help us. However my new pink-black Family your support for this matter and concerns would make a big difference to a transgender like me. I have suffered a lot and damages hair because of failure of treatments due to our warden Aw. Pittman over treatments and operations and transgender inmates failure to take ours concerns and criticized us to force to live and act like guys. I mean why I can’t be me but we all know thats torture and discrimination why can’t we be happy and explore our sexuality. Everytime I ask her about our needs she always say mean and rude things and threatening me and other transgenders with segregations.

We don;t have any access to anything to do with womens items like hair products gel, perm, relaxers, no womens body wash no salon for us. But the guys here got their own barbershop. Only thing we got thats feminine is bras/panties and the state had to get that for us. I am just writing the truth and my words. Please share this story any support or advice is great. Thanks. Homophobics are not welcome on, or in ours breakthrough. LGBTQIA lives. Respect etc do matters.

Ms. April Cassidine (TN)

 

Peace Be upon you and yours,

I’m another brother caught up in the drag-net of California Penology System Without Knowledge of Self, and my true – History and Culture. I’m a first termer in the penalsystem and as a 24 year old Black American my education in school as to history – consisted solely of Indians and Pilgrims. Up until last week I though the Alex Haylee’s, Roots picture was something that occurred in Africa, and not in the United States. I’m a blank canvas whose only picture – painting thereon, was the Christian faith because it was the religion taught in my house hold by beloved one’s grandparents, mother, etc. were miseducated, and on their way to Hell. Being frankly honest with myself kept me from learning what was the true religion of my ancestors… Teach me! One love. To love one’s at Black and Pink, I will like to take the time to say “thank you,” to the love one’s at Black and Pink for all the love and support you show to LGBTQ people inside and outside or prison.

We as LGBTQ people need all the love, support, and positivity we can get in the struggle for survival and freedom. Thank you Black and Pink much love.

Deonta (CA)

Message from Dominique (July 2018)

Hello Family,

I’m sitting in my car listening to Fantasia’s version of the song “You Are Always On My Mind”. It’s very appropriate for there my mind has been the last six months.This ride of being at the head of this organization is something I couldn’t have planned for—but it’s been amazing.

As we think back on Pride month, more than ever what Black & Pink stands for and who are are evolving as is at the forefront of my mind. I think of the evolution of my understanding of Pride. Coming out at 14 years old in Omaha, NE— my exposure to queer culture was minimal. Honestly it was going to Prison that opened my mind to the spectrum of queerness. The Queens walking the yard, the trade pretending they weren’t living for us lol. My good Judy Carla was transgender. I remember when she explained that to me and at 19 I really didn’t understand but she was my sister so if she wanted to be referred to as she then that’s what we were going to do. I often advocated for her with staff and the administration. I even went toe to toe with her husband who was being too rough with her. Prison taught me that Pride meant unity. We ate together, we laughed together and cried together. Group survival.

I was shocked when I came home in 2009 and realized that Pride in the community was a different creature. Bars, parades and cliques. Where was the solidarity? I think that’s why I joined our Pride organization here in Omaha. I wanted to build the unity I experienced inside. It never quite came together. However, I’m grateful for the experience and introduction to non profit and organizing it gave me. I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.

So for Pride month I ask y’all to lean on each other. Stand closer together. Find strength in each other. That’s what Pride is about. Women of color and drag queens in the streets saying no more shoulder to shoulder changing the world for us. Queer folks continue to shape the world whether it be outside the walls or inside. We are change makers. We are revolutionaries. We are Pride.

Pride exists because of a woman.

Pride exists because of a black woman.

Pride exists because black trans woman.

Pride exists because of a black trans woman who was a sex worker.

Pride exists because of a black, bisexual trans woman who was a sex worker that threw a brick at a cop.

Pride exists because of a black, bisexual trans woman, who was a sex worker, that put herself on the front lines of a revolution – regardless of the consequences to herself.

Don’t lose this month in rainbow capitalism and unabashed racism because the privilege of being white while queer.

Queerness doesn’t cure white guilt and racism.

If you aren’t supporting the queer people of color, trans woman, and queer sex workers, you aren’t celebrating pride, you are celebrating rainbow capitalism and police brutality.

Marsha P. Johnson gave us this season, make her proud.

Dominique

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