Hosts needed in Chicago for National Gathering

Chicago is hosting Black & Pink’s National Gathering this year! We are looking for Chicago folks to host members coming in for this event! If you are interested or know someone who is interested, fill out this form: https://goo.gl/forms/bgcQz4eykjhYkWFt1

host

First Working Group Meetings Call Schedule

After a process of building a new structure for Black and Pink’s national work, we are kicking off national working groups focused on specific work areas. These first calls will be about getting to know each other, introducing the general idea behind the projects, and deciding how best to move the group’s work forward. Even if you did not sign up for a particular working group, you are welcome to attend the meeting. After the first meeting, we will create google groups for each working group that people can join.

Click HERE to find responses to some of the questions we received about the working groups.

Click HERE to find the descriptions of the different working groups.

To join the calls, please use the number and code below:
Call in number: (641) 715-0634
Access Code: 711061

Call Schedule:

Working Group Date Time (eastern standard time)
Fundraising Monday – March 20 9-10:30pm
Reentry Thursday – March 23 9-10:30pm
Pen Pal Support Sunday – March 26 7:30 – 9pm
End Solitary Confinement Monday – March 27 9-10:30pm
Court & Bail Support Tuesday – March 28 9-10:30pm
Database & Technology Thursday – March 30 8-9:30pm
Prisoner Feedback Collection & Assessment Tuesday – April 4 9-10:30pm
Transformative Justice Wednesday – April 5th 8-9:30pm
Newspaper Monday – April 10 9-10:30pm
Research & Policy Thursday – April 13 5-6:30pm

Welcome Monica James, National Organizer!

WMonica James, National Organizer for Black and Pinke are incredibly excited to announce that we have hired Monica James as the first ever National Organizer for Black and Pink. Monica will start working with us in mid-March. We are so excited to have her on board. Monica will be responsible for supporting chapters, both inside and outside of prison, coordinating national working groups, and organizing national gatherings for Black and Pink. Join us in welcoming Monica!

Monica James has dedicated her life to the fight for trans equality and has been recognized as a national and international activist. Just 10 years ago Monica was viciously attacked by an off-duty police officer in Boys town (Chicago), arrested, and charged with attempted murder for defending herself. Recognizing her need for competent legal counsel and support, she began writing to LBGTQ organizations locally and abroad telling her story and stumbled upon the Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois. An organization that had just recently established themselves as a legal resource for TWOC, that have been criminalized marginalized and overrepresented in the legal system. TJLP sprang into action and started mobilizing the community to write to her and show up to her court hearings and trial, while coordinating with her public defender to educate them about the struggles of TWOC in hopes of strengthen their strategy of defense. Ultimately, she was found guilty of a lesser charge but is credited for the changes within CCDOC’s handling and practices of LGBTQ detainees.

Since then Monica has been engaged in ongoing advocacy work for trans equality and justice. That lead her to become a 2014 delegate to testify before the Committee Against Torture (CAT) at Geneva Switzerland. She has presented for many panels and universities nationwide and has been recognized as a voice and spirit of truth.

Volunteers needed for new working groups

We are creating 10 new working groups and we need you to volunteer! These 10 working groups will meet over the phone or on video chats and will be responsible for strengthening Black and Pink’s efforts. These working groups will have staff support from the National Director or the National Organizer from Black and Pink. Members of chapters and people who are not connecting to chapters are all encouraged to join the working groups.

Please click on the image/link below to fill out the form to join a working group. All the details about the 10 working groups are included in the sign up form.

Letters to Our Family (February 2017)

My name is Kara Rene B.  I am a transgender female prisoner currently incarcerated at WCI in Ohio.

I would like to share an experience with you about how the State Constantly negates my rights as a transgender prisoner.

One day there was a fundraiser and we could pay for pictures at $4.00 per photo.  I was so excited because I was talking pictures for the first time as a woman.  None of my family has seen me as Kara, they only knew me as Adam.  So I got dressed, did my hair, and makeup and damn I looked Fierce!  I then walked to the visit room to take the pictures and no one stopped me.  I went inside and was not told that I couldn’t take my pictures with make-up on, they only said that anyone with a tank top on had to go back and change into a t-shirt.  So I took the pictures and was so relieved that they provided me with the same dignity that is afforded to male prisoners… for once, and then I went back to my cell.  Two days later, someone came and shook my cell down looking only for make-up.  He found my stash and wrote me a ticket.  When it came time to receive the photos, they said that I couldn’t have mine because “male inmates are not permitted to wear or possess cosmetics.” WFT?!?  I am not a male, I am a transgender female.  So now I am being criminalized for my gender identity.  It hurts to know that, apparently, even my money is not wanted.  Wow that gives me the message that I am less than a human being and something is wrong with me.  Is it any wonder why the suicide rate or transgender teens is through the roof?  We are constantly being bombarded with the message of inferiority everywhere we turn.  I guess it is ok for people to make fun of us…  It seems that it has always been ok to marginalize one group or another because we live in a culture that thinks its okay to treat us differently or “less than,” I end up with the staff here following along with the larger cultural program.  That is why it is so important in my eyes to draw the line in the sand about these pictures.  Because its not really about the pictures, its about confronting an oppressive and abusive society that murders some of its children with scorn and condemnation.  A society where bullycide is an unspoken norm.

We all deserve a future that is better than that.  I’m fighting for a different future than the one currently shoved down our throats.  I believe that any human being should feel safe and secure to express who we are, wherever we are, without fear of government-sponsored terror forcing us back to our “assigned seats.”

For me, this is war.

These are my non-negotiable demands transgender prisoners must have.

  1. Availability of all property items available to prisoners of their same gender and security level.
  2. Mandatory enforcement for all ODRC staff to reference prisoners by the appropriate pronouns consistent with their gender identity.
  3. Mandatory enforcement for all ODRC staff to reference prisoners by their name of choice consistent with their gender identity.
  4. Accommodation for the grooming and maintenance consistent with their gender identity.
  5. Accommodation for cell assignments that eliminates the possibility of discrimination by proxy, by forcing the inmate to cell with someone who is not a sexual predator but has antithetical believes that will subject the inmate to an intolerable living environment.

If there is anyone out there reading this who wants to add fuel to the fire, I am taking these demands to the Federal Courts for recognition of all transgender prisoner rights.  What I don’t have currently is legal council, or funds to obtain legal council, but iI am hoping there is a community out there beyond the fences that cares as much as I do about the next generation of children who otherwise will be murdered with scorn and condemnation.

It stops here.
It stops now.
Who’s down?
Kara, OH

 

Black and Pink Family,

I just want to thank you all at the Family for keeping me informed of all the bad things that are going on in the outside world. The people that are committing these mean and sad acts against the LGBTQ people. I would like to send out my grievance to all of the families that lost loved ones in that awful nightmare. I want to pray for everyone that was lost. I’m praying for all the family and I want to wish you all the best and I’m hoping and praying that you all at the Family are in the best of health and are doing fine. I’m still here, confined, but strong in will and in spirit with the help of the Lord, Amen! Let everyone know that I’m praying for them all at the B. and P.

Samuel F. TX

 

Dear Black & Pink,

I absolutely love your platform and the strength it gives to the LGBTQ community both inside prison and in free society. Your courage inspires me to embrace myself and those around me who are suffering under the same conditions. I’ve been reading your newsletter for over a year no and I’ve grown tremendously as a human being. You’ve allowed me to be comfortable in my own skin and I love all for it. It’s nice to know that there is an organization that supports and nurtures people like me. You have given a voice to the voiceless. You have breathed new life into a class of marginalized and disenfranchised individuals. You have earned our trust and respect because you believed our humanity was more important than our sexual preference and gender orientation. You are a beacon of hope, a healer of broken hearts and crushed spirits, and a sanctuary for us to explore our creativity and discover our hidden potential. Thank you so much for your sacrifice. On behalf of the LGBTQ community of Oregon State Penitentiary, we love you and wish you all peace, happiness, and success. Keep up the amazing work. You are making a difference.

One love,
Shawn W-X, OR

 

Dear Black and Pink Family,

This is my first time writing. My name is James W. I’m 36 years old and currently serving a 6 year sentence for my first probation violation. I’ve been receiving the Black and Pink newsletters for a little over a year now, maybe closer to two and really enjoy reading them. My favorite part is reading other people’s stories and experiences. It really helps me knowing that there’s people out there that knows what I’m going through.

I’m planning to transition to female and am currently trying to get on the waiting list to start my evaluation process towards (hopefully) getting my gender dysphoria diagnosis and starting on my transitioning meds. I’ve known (since the age of 7) that I wanted to be a girl. I feel that it is unfair to have to go through any kind of doctor so they can verify something I’ve known for almost 30 years!

I haven’t suffered any physical abuse since I’ve been here, but I’ve been threatened, talked about, and made fun of for over 3 years now. It’s very frustrating when people go out of their way to criticize you for who you are when you don’t bother anyone or you don’t force your beliefs or opinions on them, sometimes it hurts very badly!

I just wanted to thank everyone for inviting me and welcoming me into your family, it means more to me than words can say to be a part of something I believe in and support with all of my heart and soul!

Guess I’ll close for now, will write again later. Everyone take care and never give up on making your dreams come true!

All my love and support,
Jinny, VA

 

Dear Black & Pink Family

This is Jeff. M. Bi-sexual white male from Cameron, Missouri Prison in solitary since 2016 of April. I want to say I love you all my Black & Pink Family LGBTQ in prison and outside in the free world. I love reading the news letter of Black & Pink, and knowing I am loved and not rejected as a person. I got locked up on this case in 1994, and if I had my Black & Pink Family to turn to and talk to I feel I would not be here. It has made a difference in my life now knowing I have a family of friends LGBTQ that accept me for the way I am which is bi-sexual me. Before in 1994 I did not fit in & I had to hide being me. But not now! Thanks Black & Pink Family I love you LGBTQ your beautiful inside & out. I want to give a shout out to my best pen-pal friend Jess. T a member of Black & Pink in the Free World. She is an angel with a beautiful heart–take care my friend. When I get out of the solitary hole and get in population I want to introduce black & Pink Family to my gay friends, and let them know they are not alone, and LGBTQ Family stands together in and outside of prison. Well my LGBTQ Family I will close now, have a nice day–I love you all.

Sincerely—Jeff M. MO

Message from Jason (February 2017)

Dear Friends,

I hope this note finds you as well as possible. For those of you who have been allowed to go outside, maybe you have noticed some of the unseasonably warm weather that has been going across the country in February. As much as I don’t want global climate change to destroy our planet, it’s nice to feel some warmth in a month that is usually so cold. It’s a mixed blessing. Beautiful days in February are a strange sign of the harm our planet is facing. As a New Englander I am constantly thinking about and talking about the weather, thanks for being patient with me.

As we think about the impending doom facing the planet, it’s impossible not to mention what is going on with the president. How many of you got to watch the Grammy’s? Did you get to see the incredible performance by A Tribe Called Quest and Busta Rhymes? I nearly fell off my couch watching the brilliance. They called Trump out on his racism, Islamophobia, and anti-immigrant policies. There was a beautiful moment where they had a bunch of people burst through a makeshift wall. It was a song of powerful protest.

During the song, Busta Rhymes referred to Trump as “President Agent Orange.” Many people make fun of Trump for his orange hue, created by his terrible fake tan. The choice of the name “Agent Orange” seems very intentional to me and very accurate. As you might know, Agent Orange was the name of a pesticide used by the US government during the Vietnam War. The pesticide was part of what they called, “herbicidal warfare.” They were using Agent Orange to destroy the plant life and the crops in Vietnam. The US military was trying to starve the Vietnamese people and destroy the jungle that the Vietnamese fighters were using to their advantage to defeat the US military (just as they had defeated the French before). The pesticide did not only devastate the land in Vietnam, it poisoned millions of people. Donald Trump is like this, devastating our planet and causing great suffering on people. I think Busta Rhymes named him well.

Trump and his cabinet have used each week to bring about one terrible policy after another. His “Justice” Department recently rescinded the Obama plan to end contracts between the federal BOP and private prisons. As an organization, Black & Pink has not focused a lot of our attention on private prisons. We have not focused much on private prisons because we see the focus as a distraction from the fact that ALL prisons are evil, regardless of who own/runs them. We also see it as a distraction from the fact that the profit motive is secondary to the true purpose of prisons, which is to control and regulate those society considers disposable or threatening, particularly Black, Latinx, Indigenous, disabled, LGBTQ, and poor people. However, the recent letter that opened the door to more contracts with private prisons included a particularly scary sentence. In his memo, Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote that the BOP should return to the previous approach of contracts with private prison companies in order to, “meet the future needs of the federal correctional system.” As a so-called “Law and Order” president, we can only speculate about what the Trump Administration intends to do to expand incarceration. This is something we will be paying more attention to in the months and years to come.

Things are certainly in a scary moment right now, but as we saw at the Grammys, and as we see in the streets every day, resistance is strong and powerful. It is our collective responsibility to keep our fight going and we have the power to fight back in many different ways. I am thankful to all of you for your daily struggles to justice. Let us continue to fight knowing that once there were no prisons, that day will come again.

In loving solidarity,
Jason

February Updates from SF/Flying Over Walls

Hello Family!

 

Letterwriting and mail processing events:

  • Our next event will be our every-other-month letterwriting night at Somar Bar on Monday, February 27, 6:30-8:30pm (1727 Telegraph in Oakland). We will have letters to stuff to send inside to 185 of our members, so join us even if you aren’t wanting to penpal. Details/RSVP here.
  • And save the date for March 22 – still awaiting venue confirmation, but that should be the date of our March letterwriting night. Not at Somar, but also in Oakland.
  • We’ll be scheduling another mail processing night soon, as we’ll be needing to data entry all the forms we get back from our 185 incarcerated members without bios. Date tbd.
  • We will be back at Somar Bar for our letterwriting nights on the following Mondays: April 17, June 19.

 

Prison Visits

We are organizing ongoing prison visits to our locally incarcerated members!! If you have a penpal and are interested in visiting them, request that they send you a visitation form and then send that form directly into the prison. We can assist, if needed. Be in touch if you are interested in joining.

  • We have visited Mule Creek State Prison twice so far together and will hopefully be doing another carpool there on April 8 to visit a couple members.
  • We are getting visits scheduled for San Quentin (2/25 or 3/5 and then maybe again in a month or so).
  • We are working on getting clearance forms and scheduling visits for California Medical Facility, CCWF, and potentially CSP-Sac.

 

Creative Projects

We are getting started locally on a zine project and a live recording project. If your penpal is a poet or artist, and might want to be involved, get in touch.
Commissary

Generally, Black & Pink members decide individually if they have the capacity/resources to send money inside to penpals. However, we have a small grant and are able to offer $20-30 for up to five free world penpals to send to their penpals commissary or to use to buy snacks during prison visits. This would ideally be for free world folks who wouldn’t otherwise have access to the resources to do this.

 

Save the dates!

  • Every Tuesday: Support TGI Justice Project with sending in legal and self-help resources  – get updates here.
  • Critical Resistance Oakland and The Oakland Power Projects present: “Know Your Options: Acute Emergencies” workshop. February 25th, 11am-1:30pm East Side Arts Alliance (2277 International Blvd, Oakland) RSVP: croakland@criticalresistance.org Facebook Event
  • August 4-6: Black & Pink Second National Gathering in Chicago. Come together and celebrate, heal, and organize! We will have a weekend that kicks off with a big party followed by a day of workshops and healing arts and closing out with a day of developing a stong strategy for our organization to use fo the years to come. This gathering is intended for ALL formerly incarcerated LGBTQ and/or HIV+ people, any Black and Pink volunteers, all Black and Pink chapter members, donors to Black and Pink, and those interested in the future of Black and Pink’s work. Some events will be exlusively for formerly incarcerated people.

 

Black & Pink Job Posting

BLACK & PINK NATIONAL DIRECTOR (STARTING AUGUST 2017)

Details here. How to apply: Send cover letter and resume to jason@blackandpink.org

Application Deadline: May 15, 2017

Projected start date: August 1, 2017

 

Message from Jason (January 2017)

Dear Friends,

I hope this note finds you as well as possible. As I write this letter people around the country, and people around the world, are talking about the protests that took place during the inauguration and the Women’s marches that occurred all across the country. The Women’s Marches that occurred on January 21st were some of the largest marches to ever occur in the U.S. While people like to debate the exact numbers, the point is clear, millions upon millions of people are inspired to rise up and fight back. The big question now is: how do we harness all that energy? How do we welcome new people into the movement? How do we make sure we are not securing some people’s liberation at the expense of others? How do we build from the bottom and from the margins? How do we get people to go from one march in the street to the difficult work of organizing? How do you answer these questions? What messages should people be hearing from inside prison walls?

In the days leading up to the protests in DC and the Women’s Marches in cities and towns around the country, I was stuck in bed fighting off pneumonia. I was very disappointed not to be in the streets with the many others who were doing all they could to force attention to the real issues. There were leaders of the Movement for Black Lives who locked down at an entrance to the inauguration, forcing those trying to get by notice that the fight for Black liberation is not going away. There were climate change activists blocking another entrance, refusing to allow the day to go by without acknowledging the violence fossil fuels are causing our suffering planet. There has been a lot of discussion about the Black Bloc protesters who were smashing windows, turning over trash cans, and even punching a right wing racist in the face on national television. Given that I was mostly stuck in bed, I found myself having conversations on social media about strategy and tactics. What is okay for protestors to do? What is the right way to fight fascism? Which tactics are good? Which tactics are effective? What is the larger strategy? How are we going to win, and when will we know that we have won? When it comes to our work, the work of our Black and Pink family as well as the larger movement for abolition, these are questions we must wrestle with to.

For me, it’s helpful to break some of this down and define what we are talking about. Tactics are generally understood as the actions people or groups take to get something done. Tactics include phone calls to congress people, chaining oneself to a building, holding a protest in the street, smashing windows, and countless other actions. Tactics are usually part of a larger effort or campaign to get certain demands met or changes made. This can include getting government officials to support certain legislation, getting prison officials to close solitary confinement cells, or getting corporations to stop mining. Most campaigns include lots of different tactics and these campaigns fit within certain strategies. Strategies are the roadmaps, intentionally created, that put many tactics (and often multiple campaigns) together to achieve a larger goal. Often, multiple strategies are being used at the same time. Sometimes there is an insider strategy, trying to make change from within the system, and an outsider campaign, forcing change from the outside. These strategies can get in the way of one another; it’s one of the things that makes social movement work so tricky. One of the key parts of a group creating an effective strategy is for that group to have a shared set of values or a shared theory of change.

This is one of the things we have been for Black and Pink. You may remember when we printed our updated values for Black and Pink. In order for us to have be clear about what work we should be doing, we need to start with our shared values. At our next national gathering, in August, we will be defining more clearly what our strategy is as Black and Pink. We have great tactics with pen pals, newspaper, chapter building, and healing. We have some strong campaigns as we fight solitary confinement and build other campaigns. We have some clear short term goals, and our long term goal of abolition is very clear. With your vision, your wisdom, we can have a clearer strategy for change in these uncertain times. Let us discuss, challenge each other, take greater risks, and keep fighting knowing that once there were no prisons, that day will come again.

In loving solidarity,
Jason

Letters To Our Family (January 2017)

Dear Black/Pink Family

Hi, This is Bobbie from Texas and I would like to have a moment.

In reading articles in the Black/Pink it occurs to me that the paper is a clearing house for news that concerns transgender women and other LGBT people.

We need a little help, the  most dangerous ***** in America is one with a pen, a mission, and a will to change the system.

Everyone of us depend on the next sister and the information that she presents as news. We need more accurate information on where you come up with the information. Like, who did you talk to, where can they be written to, on what pages was this information?

“Go out, go out I beg of you
And taste the beauty of the wild.
Behold the miracle of the earth
With all the wonder of a child.”
-Edna Jaques

Please remember that you’re addressing family that are across America and a lot of time very timid girls.

Hows it going in Texas? Well, Trans-Pride-Initiative, PO 3982, Dallas, Texas 75208 fought to get University of Texas Medical Branch to open a clinic in Galveston, Texas..and finally all of the TDCJ Transgender women in Texas have a clinic, Dr. Walter Meyer Doctor for us.

I did not come to prison on hormones but UTMB Diagnose me with Gender Dysphoria and Nell Gather of Trans Pride Initiative fought tooth and nail to start me on the hormones. A real rare occurrence in Texas but it broke the barrier and now if you’re diagnosed in prison you will receive hormones.

The next problem coming up is gender surgery, is this winnable? You bet it is and there are silent activists that depend on the information you send to Jason. If you have information, please say something. As the poet once said, “They also serve who only stand and wait”. The information has to have who, where, when how and mailing. I will assure everyone that in Texas Prison, transgender women are very active in the cause and any help will be appreciated.

Jason and company, you’ve come a long way baby and brought us all to a level that is not possible without the news print. Information, combine knowledge, and patience to change society’s thinking is what wins the hearts and minds of opposing views.

Love
Ms Bobbie, TX

 

Hello to Everyone at Black and Pink,

As one of 15 trans women at this prison I’m the woman chosen as the first transgender spokesperson to the Inmate Advisory Committee. At first I wasn’t sure what to expect. Now 7 months into this, I have really found out that you have to have an open ear and do the best you can not to just represent everyone, but also as individuals.

Every transwoman is different and each one has different issues. And sometimes I do have to give tough love to some of them. Only because they need to hear the truth. Doesn’t mean that I don’t love them. It means that I love them even more. I do the best I can with all the girls even if they don’t listen. Sometimes it’s a lot easier to navigate the prison when you lived the things that they now go through.

Dealing with the staff daily and their complaining about the girls, I have to be a good listener. But I also have to encourage the staff to be professional in their approach and what not to say to the girls.

The main thing we deal with here is the proper pronouns. No girl here wants to be called anything other than what she presents herself as. The 2nd thing is, our respect. Because then we allow the males inmates to do it also.

I have learned to pick & choose my battles. I also explain to all the girls if it’s something you don’t like, then unite it up or we do a group unite up. Put it on paper and less verbal talk. I always tell them that any conversation with staff, to make sure you get the name. And you can say your piece in as few words as possible.

In CA, we have made great strides as far as hormone therapy and S.RS and now we await on what female items we can get. These things weren’t easily done overnight. But girls like Shiloh and Michelle helped to make it possible. I am the girl that is about the principle of it and not just the items.

Anything that you wish for is possible if you keep your focus on the fight and stay way from the crap that doesn’t mean anything. You can get a lot more done.

Black & Pink has been a place for myself and others to express what goes on and to guide and take ideas for somewhat of a better life in prison. So to my transwomen and men and my L.G.B.Q.I.A brothers and sisters, we will get there if we all rise up together. Believe in the words of POWER. With power you can obtain structure, balance, and hope. Love to everyone.

Lisa, CA

 

Dear Black and Pink Family

My name is Antonio I am currently an inmate housed in PA. I am Bisexual I am going through hard times right now with the CO’s playing with my food I be scared to eat some nights or sometime I just don’t eat and put grievances in but nothing happens the CO’s try and give me frivolous misconducts that don’t stick so they play the food game I don’t know what to do I’m so scared I fear my life is in danger if there is any way that y’all can help please do.

P.S. I would like to say sorry to a friend we had an argument a few months ago and haven’t spoken since so if you read this Bookie I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart please believe you would always have a friend in me I love you Bro.

Antonio H., PA

 

Dearest Brothers and Sisters in the cause,

How great it is to read this publication and know that there are others fighting in the movement for LGBTQI rights in prison. I am sending you all courage and resilience to overcome trials and torture perpetrated by Department of Corrections Staff as well as hate-filled inmates. Your struggles, pain, and harassment are not in vain. We are making progress and will eventually stamp out the bigotry that permeates thru our environment.

My name is Michael R and I have started the movement here in Arkansas prisons. Along with some of our sisters whom I would be remiss not to name: Bluebird, Skittles, Ta’ta, JoJo, and Strawberry – I have accumulated the information needed to start a revolution – rather, further the revolution started by our Black and Pink family. This revolution is both legal, as I have had a success in that area recently, and “behind the scenes,” making the waves where it’s possible, when it’s necessary, and in radical form against the racist, homophobic Prison Industrial Complex.

I grew up a Roman Catholic in Harrison AR. Harrison is the Regional Headquarters for the Ku Klux Klan here in Arkansas. The “Grand Wizard” resides there. I mention this to indicate that I am in no way unfamiliar with racist, anti-gay rhetoric and propaganda. Unfortunately, this diatribe I was consistently bombarded with (racist from the outside, anti-gay from my Catholic family) instilled enough fear in me to stay closeted until I came to prison. My story is not so different from many, my repression was a main contributor to a heroin, cocaine, and alcohol addiction that destroyed my shell of a life. I came to prison at 20 in 2010, came out to my family in 2015, and only my grandmother “rides” now. Not that it wasn’t controversial at first, but after we got past the initial stereotypes and my being rebuked in the name of Jesus Christ, we do well 🙂  But this isn’t about me personally. I’m a 27 year old white, very gay male who’s past fear, self-hatred, and loathing, and 7 years in prison have forced me to become a radical advocate for LGBTQI AND women’s rights.

I would also like to say that though the Catholic Church’s official teaching is against homosexuality I have not abandoned my faith. I believe it to be my responsibility to fight for change within my church. After all, He is my God and Jesus died for me as well. But this isn’t about Religion either, though I TOTALLY support ANY and ALL belief systems that make us better people and teach us to love others.

After corresponding with Just Detention International (formally “STOP PRISON RAPE”) I received a Federal Copy of the Prison Rape Elimination Act. I had been ignorant to the fact that verbally abusive terms used toward sexual orientation in ANY derogatory way is considered sexual harassment. As I have always been a believer in the Grievance Process, I started filing paperwork every time an Officer referred to me as a “Punk, Faggot, Dick-sucker” or any other vulgar term. Then I filed more paperwork if they retaliated. Many of them were actually shocked that I took umbrage at such abuse. Their hubris was disgusting as I listened to them deny their actions, then have the audacity to pontificate these self-righteous platitudes of perfection, appearing as if they were the victim. They had the Command’s sympathy as I am incarcerated in Arkansas, the most backwards, hill-billy, incestuous state possible, and all here believe my lifestyle to be wanton.

But then I obtained some legal counsel from a paralegal friend, and I started quoting the PREA Act on my grievances. I was eventually brought in to be placed on a Computerized Voice Stress Analysis (CVSA) (lie-detector test). I waited until we were being recorded and notified them that according to the PREA Act, it was ILLEGAL to place an inmate on “any truth-telling device” when they’d made a sexual harassment allegation. Never-the-less, I was threatened with disciplinary action. I took the tests, OBVIOUSLY passed them, and waited to hear back from Internal Affairs.

When I did hear back, I was notified that my claims had “No substantial evidence” and were found without merit. Now, a CVSA result is enough evidence to convict an inmate of sexually “inappropriate” behavior, but when it comes to sexually inappropriate behavior by staff it’s “insubstantial.” This was exactly what I needed to go to Federal Court.

Two months ago I was assaulted physically by two gang members for my orientation. I had notified staff that it was about to happen, they did nothing. Luckily I had paperwork proving I’d notified them. Then, I was moved to a prison across the street where all the inmates still interacted with those from the previous unit. I was attacked by four gang members. This because of the staff’s refusal to keep me safe. I was badly injured, and Medical refused to repair damage to my face. All this coupled with the sexual harassment led to my family finally retaining legal council. And I’m in the middle of a HUGE legal battle that is going to set precedents for Gay inmates.

None of this would have been possible if not for my adamant belief in utilizing the grievance process so I had paperwork to back me up. That’s my best advice to all of you reading that have been victimized by Inmates and Staff at your units. Use the grievance process! If they retaliate, use it again. We are soldiers in this battle. We HAVE to be. For those of us that have been BEATEN, RAPED, thrown into ISOLATION, VERBALLY and EMOTIONALLY ABUSED, we KNOW that this is a very real war.* It’s time to start fighting it as such. The time is now! We are the change! We will no longer bend over and be violated by this malfeasance! We will no longer let them have our “joie de vivre” (enjoyment of life).

There are those of us that are chosen to be the intermediary between our family and the corruption we survive in. If you are reading this publication, then I know you are sharing in the struggle. I know you are contemplating an induction into the movement (if you haven’t already made the choice). Equality has to become your ideology no matter the fear or cost. We have to ask ourselves if anything we do will ACTUALLY make it worse. If we have any shred of our humanity left to lose. If we are TIRED of being the victim! We have a responsibility to the rest of our family in other prisons as well. We have to unite and stand strong in our fight. To believe whole-heartedly in Love and Solidarity. This fight in prison seems to be the only place we haven’t made geopolitical progression. It’s time to change that. Let’s make our stand in prisons be genic from our “parents'” Stonewall. It may not be a menial task, but it is necessary all the same. This is our official “call-to-arms.”

It has been hard for me at times not to become that which I detest. Meaning that I “preach” against hatred, intolerance, and Bigotry… but at times what I’ve suffered causes a deep-seeded hatred to germinate within my very soul. I constantly have to remind myself that hatred is the cause of the problem. I cannot let myself be seduced by the pleasure of rage, as it bears no fruit in this fight. Easier said than done, but factual in its entirety.

I have read several articles that refer to the trivial fighting in the family. I completely agree that it’s critical to dissipate constant bickering between ourselves. We can’t hope to suppress the true enemy when we waste our energy destroying each other. It may sound like I’m writing in extremes, but is Chaos not what all of this is in its very essence? No, we must put our differences aside and present a united front to a government that believes who we are is in itself intrinsically disordered. It is time to instigate revolution and change. But we can only do it together.

Educating ourselves is as essential as breathing for us in the cause. We must know how to confront our adversary on their ground. I have began taking a paralegal course from Ohio University that was made specifically for inmates. I will fight on legal ground for our family both now and when I’m free. I will not forget the atrocities suffered upon us by the Department of Corruption. I will also say that it is just as essential to make use of your Law Library. Learn your rights as an inmate, and don’t stop until you are treated with the respect and dignity you deserve. Remember that we suffer with those we have seen suffer.

In conclusion, I am sending all of your prayers and thoughts. Don’t lose hope, persevere in persecution, and stand to fight another day. I am your brother in the revolution, I love you all.

Love and Solidarity,
Michael D. Reding

* in this sentence in the original, the all-caps words are actually underlined, capital first letter but otherwise low-caps.

Updates from SF/Flying Over Walls

2017 is happening in full swing! Whether you are out in the streets this week or not, we hope you are finding ways to stand in defense of our communities under siege. Our friend, Dean Spade, just put out a great interview about the ways our gov’t is at war with our targeted communities and resistance movements.

As for Black & Pink specific activities, as we move into 2017, we will no longer be hosting our every other month SF letterwriting events, as our main SF organizer is on hiatus. We will continue to have monthly events, but they will mostly be centered in Oakland for now.

We are also organizing ongoing prison visits to our locally incarcerated members. If you have a penpal and are interested in visiting them, request that they send you a visitation form and then send that form directly into the prison. We can assist, if needed. We will hopefully be doing a carpool to Mule Creek State Prison on Jan 29 to visit a couple members, and are working on getting clearance and getting visits scheduled for San Quentin, California Medical Facility, and CCWF. Be in touch if you are interested in joining.

And please sign this petition – and then call (936) 437-4927 or email prea.ombudsman@tdcj.texas.gov & ombudsman@tdcj.texas.gov with the following message (or feel free to put your own spin on it): This is in regards to a transgender prisoner named Nicole (Charles) Jacks #1518147 who is under the care of TDCJ’s Smith Unit in Lamesa, TX. Nicole has endured horrific treatment at the hands of both prison staff and other inmates and I urge you to investigate this matter and promptly transfer her to a P2 Safekeeping Unit.

Save the dates!

We will be at Somar Bar for our letterwriting nights on the following Mondays: Feb 27, April 17, June 19.

Support TGI Justice Project with sending in legal and self-help resources  – get updates here.

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