Message from Jason (June 2017)

Dear friends,

I hope this note finds you as well as possible. I just finished eating a very tasty brownie. It made me think, briefly, about this amazing microwave cake that friends of mine made when I was locked up at Devens years ago. While the food offered by the prisons could not be more disgusting, I was always amazed at what people could make in the microwave. I was thinking we should share some recipes from time to time in our monthly magazine. If you happen to have something you’re good at cooking and want to share the recipe, send it as a submission some time. It is important to have moments of distraction, and making yummy things to eat can be just that.

Earlier this week I met up with a recently formerly incarcerated member of Black and Pink. His name is Frankie. He just got out after nearly a decade on the inside of Massachusetts prisons. We were meeting up just to get to know each other and figure out how he might get involved with Black and Pink on this side of the wall. He has only been out for a month, and I am so thankful that he wants to get involved and share some of his story with people on the outside. We talked a lot about solitary confinement, the ways guards choose prisoners to single out and pick on, how people navigate relationships on the inside, and even stories of making good friends. He also shared about how important it is to stay connected with some of the people he left on the inside. For so many people getting out, there’s a sense of survivor guilt, knowing that there are people you care about who are still locked up. We talked about how important it is to keep it real when you get out. If you say you’re going to write, then you write. If you say you’re going to send money, then you send money. If you say you’re going to fight the system, then you fight the system.

I have been thinking a lot about reentry lately. At Black and Pink, reentry has not been a big focus of ours. About a quarter of our readers are lifers. So many of our people won’t be getting out unless we actually abolish this system. I have always been hesitant to focus on reentry efforts because I don’t want us to ever forget about our people who are on the inside. There are foundations who only give money to support reentry work, and it’s as if they do not care about the lives of people on the inside. I think our reentry work, the work we do at Black and Pink, needs to be shaped by the relationships people build through letters and by reading the magazine month after month. I think our reentry work needs to be designed in a way that makes sure we are always building the power and leadership of people while they are still behind the walls. It seems to me that healthy reentry is going to more possible if the person in prison is able to feel like they have some kind of power over their lives when they’re still locked up. What do you think makes for healthy reentry?

I also think that most of the reentry work that is done on the outside has the wrong focus. All of the reentry agencies are so focused on getting people jobs. The truth is that prison is trauma. The first thing people need when they get out of prison is healing. The first thing we should be doing for everyone when they get out is making sure they have therapy, massage, and any other healing practice that will help ease the harms created by prison. When we are put in an inhumane environment, like prison, the core of who we are gets affected. The violence of prison, the culture of punishment, and the prison mentality takes over. It can take a long time to adjust. Whether one gets triggered by the sound of a key ring jingling, a person standing too close in the grocery store, or when someone brushes by you on the sidewalk; the outside world is full of things that can bring back the trauma of prison. At Black and Pink, as we figure out reentry work we want to do, we will be sure we do it with attention to healing and loving support. We will keep building all of our work knowing that once there were no prisons, that day will come again.

In loving solidarity,
Jason

Books for Queers – Read with Pride 2017

 

HELP LGBTQ AND HIV+ PRISONERS READ WITH PRIDE THIS JUNE

Books can become a lifeline for incarcerated folks but they generally have little access to reading 08pm (1)material and incarcerated LGBTQ+ people can have a particularly hard time finding books that meet their needs of identity representation. Donating queer books to our local prisons’ libraries will show the LGBTQ+ population behind bars that there is a supportive community on the outside that cares about their wellbeing and the reaffirmation of their identities.

We will be collecting books (preferably books within the queer YA genre at an intermediate reading level)  for Pride Month (throughout June)  for their donation to the South Bay House of Correction in Boston. Our goal is to collect at least 200 books, and if we surpass that number we will be donating the rest of the books to other local jails and to LGBT Books for Prisoners. The reason we chose South Bay Jail as the primary beneficiary of this book drive is because one of our formerly incarcerated members, Lexi, who was imprisoned there, mentioned to us how sad and frustrated she was when she visited the library and couldn’t find any LGBT books. It is our job as “free world” allies to make these resources more available to our LGBTQ family in prison to let them know their identities are valid and valued.

How can I donate books? 

Bonus: If you use Amazon Smile Program, when you purchase a book through our gift registry, Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your Amazon purchase to Black and Pink.

In order to have Amazon make a donation, you must visit Amazon Smile first and designate Black and Pink as your charitable organization for the donation. After you pick, you can visit our registry on Amazon Smile and once you purchase, Amazon will make a donation!

  • Drop off your books at the Black and Pink booth at Pride Festival on June 10!
  • Other drop-off locations:

Boston office at 614 Columbia Rd., Dorchester (Monday- Friday, 10am-5pm)

9A Hamilton Place every Sunday from 3-6pm during Volunteer Drop-In

Prizes, Prizes!

If you donate 3 books or more through any of our donation methods, you get a free Black and Pink mug! Also, the three people who donate the largest number of books will be mentioned in recognition for their generous donation in the monthly B&P Newsletter.

In order to claim any of these prizes, you just need to fill out a short form with your basic contact information and the number of books donated at any of our drop-off locations.

Updates: 

  • We’re also accepting dictionaries as book donations. Incarcerated folks in touch with B&P often request dictionaries through their letters. The reason dictionaries are very in demand is because, 1) dictionaries have the most words and prisoners can re-read them over and over again, and 2) a large number of prisoners did not receive a high school education prior to their incarceration so dictionaries can really help them improve their vocabulary and learn more.
  • We are also requesting donors to please fill out this donors’ submission form for everyone buying books off our wishlist or folks who have already donated or will be donating books either at our Pride Festival booth or any other of our drop-off locations. This is our way of keeping track of donations to award prizes at the end of the campaign.

 

 

THANK YOU to everyone supporting this project and making queer books more accessible to our LGBTQ family in prison!

 

 

 

Letters to Our Family (May 2016)

Dear Black and Pink Family,

I’m in a federal prison in New Jersey via a joint military base. Compared to the responses of letters you receive, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of federal inmates that correspond to Black and Pink. Federal prisons restrict a lot of things that state prisons easily receive, and this needs to change.

My name is Leon, I am 44 years old, black male bisexual; mostly gay. From Virginia, incarcerated on a sex-offense of receipt of C.P. on a computer through interstate transit. Since February 15, 2012 I have been down. I receive your newspaper, and most don’t know what it’s about, even the inmates I would consider to be gay. I’ve mostly kept to myself and haven’t had any serious problems, but I can see others that do. I try to help as best I can. It’s hard. It’s hard to write and write, and write and get no response from other groups or organizations of sexual orientations, or to know if the Feds are not allowing it to be received. They don’t tell us anything.

I would like to see responses from other Fed inmates– as to, are we restricted more than the state from receiving things? Are there other sources we could write to or receive from?

Jesse (NJ)

 

Dear Black and Pink Family,

For those of you this does not apply to, I’m deeply grateful and pray it never will. I’ll call myself Jane Doe. I am an older transgender woman in a man’s prison. Like a lot of trans girls, and many others, I was forced into having sex against my desire.

For a long time, I lived in fear, doubt, and shame. I was depressed. I felt like I was going crazy. I felt responsible. I didn’t fight off my abuser. For that, I only hated myself that much more. What’s worse, I never told anyone. I just lived in my pain while repeatedly being abused. It felt so bad, I nearly took my own life.

Many people have gone through this. You are not alone. You have Dear Black and Pink Family, help, there is hope, and gradually we begin to heal. There will be times when something triggers those emotions, those fears, but we learn how to cope with them. Don’t be afraid to go to a friend, a family member, a doctor, and especially mental health. When you request, you don’t have to list a reason. Simply say, “I need to see someone.” They have to keep stuff confidential and will tell you what they can’t keep. I have had two really wonderful psychiatrists and two amazing psychologists. They have helped me so much. And you can even reach out to Just Detention International (J.D.I.). A very big support system.

I’m not 100%. Never really was. But, with help, I have returned mostly to my original self. Even better in some ways. You can find this too. You only have to take that first baby step and talk to someone. Even if it is just to say, “I need help.” And this last thing I’ve got to say, “Forget the hype!” If you’re in this kind of trouble, tell someone and tell them right now. This is not snitching. It’s protecting yourself from harm you do not deserve to be suffering. You were not sent to prison to be raped.

Step up, seek help. Our community is too small as it is. I don’t want to lose none of ya! And if you see this happening to someone, be their hero and speak up. Support your community.

With love, support, & solidarity,
Miss Jane Doe

 

Dear Black and Pink Family,

My name is Casey or better known a “Butterfly Boy” to my small group of very close friends, due to the fact that I love butterflies and have numerous tattooed on me. But butterflies are also the symbol of “self transformation” because they start out as a fuzzy little caterpillar and turn into what they are truly meant to be and that is something very beautiful. And the butterfly was also part of my inspiration to come out when I was 14 because “if they can change so much and be so beautiful, why can’t I?”

But I’ve received Black and Pink for 3 1/2 years now and I read a lot about the lack of unity and support. I am a gay male in the judicial system of Texas. One of the worst ones for (LGBTQ) people that I know of, because of the PREA Act because they use it to target the family in so many ways. And where I just came from there was a small amount of unity, because we had some of the officers that would single us out wherever we went. And for situations like that we had a group that would help with grievances and other help when that wouldn’t work. Like for instance I had a female officer that kicked me out of a church service as soon as I walked in and told me that “I couldn’t be there because God don’t like or love you faggots” and the grievances that she got for that gave her a vacation, so they do work if you write them.

But where I’m at now there is no unity at all in any aspect at all unless it’s within the small group of friends that you have. But believe it or not some of the best support that I get comes from the Black and Pink newsletter every month. So keep writing because the words that you write are helping someone somewhere with something. So please keep supporting each other, because we need each other more than ever as long as we’re locked up in the state’s judicial system. Because as most of us have found out the hard way, this is not a world that is for us, and is against us in so many ways to keep us unhappy.

LGBTQ love,
Casey (TX)

 

From Eylexa (ID)

I don’t have a supportive family, and someone told me that your friends are the family you choose. I chose a family that recognizes me for who I am and loves me for me. And thanks to them I’ve come to realize that I want to be a family to those who don’t have one, I want to be the friend that some people never had. I want to be the loving caring sister that supports you in your time of need.

I have had my struggles and I’m working on being a better person. I have found the love of my life while locked up, and she showed me that I truly was deserving of love and support. Terra, I love you. She showed me that I could love someone when I thought my hope was all lost. It’s a tough relationship because we are both locked up and in different facilities, but she’s strong and I try to be. I will never claim to perfect, in fact I’m far from it. However I make my mistakes, I learn from them and I move forward with a new mind and a new direction every time. Just remember we’re here for you, I’m here for you, LGBTQ pride. I’m proud to be who I am, and nothing will ever change that. You should be too, there is nothing wrong with you and who you are. The hardest thing is to let yourself be you and who you are. The hardest thing is to let yourself be you, forget what others say, I know it isn’t easy, trust me, but the only acceptance that matters is your own. If others don’t accept you, leave them to their own devices.

Love you all!!

Message from Jason (May 2016)

Dear Friends,

I hope this note finds you as well as possible. I am sitting here in my apartment trying to keep my cat from jumping up on the table, but I am failing. He is all grey, very soft, and I let him get away with anything, it’s a problem. His name is Vanzetti, he’s a great cat, and like most cats he does exactly what he wants to, living up to his anarchist namesake.

This past week there has been a lot of attention paid to the recent reported suicide of Aaron Hernandez here in Massachusetts. This may not have made as big headlines where you are, but Hernandez was a football player with the New England Patriots and he was incarcerated for allegedly killing three people. It is likely that his actions were motivated by a desire to hide his sexuality. The exact facts of the case are complicated, something many of you are familiar with I am sure. The truth is, regardless of what happened, Hernandez’s life still had value. Those who loved Aaron Hernandez are grieving his death. According to news reports he left three different suicide note addressed to his fiancée on the outside, his daughter, and his boyfriend on the inside. To be honest, I feel some sadness that we at Black & Pink never reached out to him, not knowing about his queerness, and that we were unable to be there for him to provide support and remind him that he was not alone.

When one prisoner commits suicide, prison administrators often gets nervous that this is going to spark others to do similarly. There is some truth to this anxiety. Those of us who know someone who has taken their own life are more likely to die by suicide. However, what prison officials fail to do is change the conditions that create the desperation so many feel. Suicide is the leading cause of death in county jails and the leading non-physical illness cause of death in state and federal prisons. Prisons and jails create the environment for suicide. The inhumane treatment of prisoners, the incredibly long sentences, and the absence of actual care for prisoners makes suicide often feel like the only option.

I recently received an email from a prisoner who was struggling with feeling suicidal. I want to share with all of you some of what I shared with this person:

Feeling suicidal is a very common feeling behind the wall. You are not alone in that. Sometimes that can feel like the only way to have power over anything. There is no shame in having those feelings. Life can feel like too much some times. What I want to encourage you to do, though, is try to take some deep breaths when you’re having those moments. Try to pay attention to your breathing. Feel your feet on the floor. Try to feel your heart beat in your chest. Try to be aware of every feeling in your body. Even when everything around you feels terrible, your body is a miracle. Try to pay attention to the moments of life that feel good. Try to clear your mind…

When that doesn’t work, it’s ok to just cry in your bunk. Push your face into your mattress. Cover yourself with your blanket. Imagine being anywhere else. Imagine a different life, one where you are free. Cry and feel angry. Try to feel all the rage in your body. Feel yourself get hot from the anger. Feel your face get wet from the tears. Know that it is ok to feel weak and broken some times. You are not the first one to feel this way. Life can be horrible; life is completely unfair. Each day you make a choice, a choice about living, and my hope is that even as things are so bad, that you will keep choosing life. As part of Black & Pink you have a family that does care what happens to you. Even if we can’t always write, even if we can’t get you free, even if we can’t make everything better or right, we care about you. We care about your life. You are valuable to us.

I wish words could be more comforting. I wish I could give you a hug or hold your hand when things feel so horrible. Please know that we are fighting for a better world and that we want to end the suffering you are experiencing. We will not win soon enough. We will not make things better fast enough. We will keep fighting though. I hope you are able to keep fighting alongside us.

Aaron Hernandez’s boyfriend has been put on suicide watch, an often inhumane response to a person’s devastation. It is unacceptable that prisons treat people in these ways. As our open family, we keep resisting, knowing that once there were no prisons, that day will come again.

In loving solidarity,
Jason

Black and Pink PVD: who we are and what we do!

About Black and Pink Providence

Black and Pink PVD is the Rhode Island volunteer-run chapter of Black and Pink. Black & Pink is an open family of LGBTQ and prisoners and “free world” allies who support each other. Our work toward the abolition of the prison industrial complex is rooted in the experience of currently and formerly incarcerated people. We are outraged by the specific violence of the prison industrial complex against LGBTQ people, and respond through advocacy, education, direct service, and organizing. More on our purpose and analysis here: http://www.blackandpink.org/purpose-analysis/

Stay up to date by checking our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/blackandpinkpvd/)  and signing up for our mailing list here: http://eepurl.com/bKkzqv . You can also send an email to providence@blackandpink.org or write to us at Black and Pink PVD, PO Box 29444, Providence, RI, 02909. Please remember we are entirely volunteer-run and while we do our best to respond to everything, we may not get back to all email and mail immediately.

Our chapter was created in summer 2015. The below description of our group was last updated in April 2017 and is subject to change. Thanks for taking the time to learn more about us!

Inside members

Our local incarcerated members (inside members) in RI all identify within the LGBTQ umbrella and/or as HIV+. We communicate with and take leadership from them in what we do and how we do it, especially when it comes to advocacy and direct action. If you know someone incarcerated in Rhode Island who would like to become a member, have them send a letter with their info to us at Black and Pink Providence, PO Box 29444, Providence, RI 02909. Members receive a monthly newsletter and occasional chapter updates and communications.

Mail processing

We are able to contribute to Black and Pink national efforts and hear from members across the country by volunteering to processing mail we pick up from Black and Pink headquarters in Boston. This consists of reading mail and entering information into an online database that we provide training for. Entering this information into the database allows people who are incarcerated to get involved with Black and Pink by receiving a newsletter and/or penpal. We usually do this on the first Sunday of each month at Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM), 669 Elmwood Ave 2nd floor, from 6-8pm, while eating snacks!

Monthly organizing meetings

“Free world” members meet monthly to organize all that we do! We encourage people who want to get involved to come to a mail processing or penpal matching event before attending your first organizing meeting (then please be in touch to make sure we don’t forget to loop you in to come to the next organizing meeting!). Typically we meet on the third Thursday evening of each month in members’ homes in Providence.

Penpal Matching

We hold penpal 101 info sessions around RI for anyone interested in starting a penpal relationship with a currently incarcerated LGBTQ or HIV+ person through Black and Pink. Please be in touch at providence@blackandpink.org if you are interested in us holding a session for your community group.  You can also read more and sign up for a penpal online today at  http://www.blackandpink.org/pen-pals/

End Solitary RI campaign

We are campaigning to end the use of solitary confinement (“disciplinary confinement” or “segregation”) in the Rhode Island detention centers and the prison/jail (ACI). To learn more, check out this article by one of our members: http://solitarywatch.com/2016/07/15/solitary-confinement-in-rhode-island-faces-challenges-from-legislators-activists/

Holiday Events

One of our biggest & best events each year is our holiday card-writing party in early December, where we eat food, write, draw, and color postcards for Black and Pink inside members around the country. We also raise money and send a holiday food package to each of our inside members in RI.

Educational workshops

In addition to Penpal 101 trainings, we occasionally we host other events and educational workshops related to the Prison Industrial Complex, including Nalaxone (Overdose Prevention) Trainings.

Local friends and partners

We support all local prison abolitionists! Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE)’s Behind the Walls Committee, PrYSM’s Community Defense Project, The AMOR Network, Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee PVD, Students Against the Prison Industrial Complex, and Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP, organized locally by COYOTE RI) all do directly related work in our area.

Black and Pink PVD | PO Box 29444, Providence, RI 02909 | Providence@blackandpink.org

Letters to Our Family (April 2017)

Black & Pink Family,

Hey, my name is Koriana, I’m 21 years old and I’m in Chillicothe Correctional Center. I’ve been locked up for 2 1/2 years and I still have another year and a half left. I’ve been getting these Black & Pink newsletters for a while, but I feel like this last one was the only one I actually took the time to read. This is the first time I’ve written to you guys…

Some of you talk about the things we have to go through in prison with these officers. I’ma tell you a little about my situation…OK, well, basically I’m in the hole for “Creating a Disturbance.” Because I was getting patted down and the officer who was doing my search was purposefully being rough about it, which I thought was unnecessary and I asked her why she was searching me like that. The guard who was doing my search doesn’t like me and to be honest, most of the other officers in Chillicothe don’t like me either. She said that there was nothing wrong with the way she was searching me and stated that “she knows how to do her job” and “doesn’t need me trying to tell her how to do it.” That’s when I said, “I’m not trying to tell you how to do your job, I’m just saying you don’t have to be rough about it.” Then she said, “Why are you creating a disturbance by arguing with me?” I said, “I’m not, I’m just saying you’re being unprofessional about the way you’re searching me.”

After that, she told me to go have a seat, which I did, and about 15 minutes later the “white shirt” game in and told me to come with him and the guard in the back (away from all the other offenders). He asked me what happened and I told him and I even said, “You can ask all the other offenders who was watching the whole thing.” The white shirt told me that he doesn’t listen to offenders and went on and on about how he thought I was just trying to get attention by creating a disturbance. Then he told me to turn around and cuff up. They took me to the hole and lied on my violation saying that I said, “Don’t touch my tits and my crotch.” I never said no shit like that! But whatever these officers say goes. They gave me 30 days in the hole for this.

In the meantime, I wrote the caseworker, the F.U.M., and the warden about how I need P.C. from certain offenders. I signed P.C. and put all the names of the inmates I need protective custody from and how I don’t feel safe on this camp with them. So would you please transfer me to a different prison? So I’m sure I’ll be sitting in the hole for quite a while.

I think I’m mainly just writing this letter to vent and maybe even get some advice on some of the stuff I go through in this prison. I’ve been in prison a little over two years and I’ve spent pretty much the whole time in ad-seg for things I didn’t even do. There’s a lot of racism that goes on with these officers and writing an IRR or grievance or grievance appeal doesn’t anything but make the guards act worse. I’ve written so many grievances and every single one has gotten denied because I didn’t have enough evidence that the guard said or did something.

I was told by a “white shirt” that if I keep on with my attitude, the next time he puts me in handcuffs, he was going to break my wrist, pepper spray me, and put an assault case on me saying I assaulted him. And that he was going to “fuck [me] good” and treat me like an “AIDS-infested child molester.” And he would make sure that I never got out of prison. I wrote a grievance on him and he lied and said he never said those things, but tried to counsel me on my behavior, so my grievance got denied.

I’ve had guards come in my cell and throw my stuff around just because they don’t like me. I know it’s just a “power issue” with most of them. A lot of the guards have a lot of hate in their hearts and take it out on us for no reason. And there’s nothing we can do about it because most of the time when you do say something about it, it just makes things that much harder to deal with. I feel like being in prison has humbled me, but at the same time it’s made me bitter and angry inside. Writing grievances doesn’t help, dropping kites to the warden doesn’t help, having the little bit of family I have left calling down here doesn’t help. So what will?

Also, I wanted to say I’m sorry for all the inmates who have lost someone very special to them while being in prison. It’s hard, it’s really hard…I lost my mom last year, 1-31-15, and I’m still not dealing with it right. She’s all I really had, she was the only person in my life who never gave up on me. I mean, I still have family I talk to and they help me out while I’m in prison. But things will never truly be the same for me now that my mom’s gone.

So yeah, my heart goes out to all the prisoners who’ve lost their mom or dad or child or anyone who has ever meant anything to them. Everything happens for a reason, and for real, I’m blessed to have been locked up while my mom passed away. Because if I wasn’t, I feel like my life would have been a lot worse than what it is now. There’s no way I would have been able to deal with that! I’ve never really been big on drugs, but I probably would have been if I was out on the streets. I was in the hole when I found out. the guards came and got me out of my cell and gave me the phone and a number to call, which I recognized it as my brother’s number. When I saw it was his number, I knew something bad had happened…I called him and that’s when he told me that my mom got in a car accident and hit her head and suffered brain injury and that she was gone…

To everyone who’s locked up and going through something and feels like they have no one and that no one cares, always remember…God cares and even though it may seem like you have no one, you always have him. Smile, keep your head up and stay strong…

Sincerely,
Koriana, XOXO

 

Hey there Black & Pink family,

My name is De’Andrea but you guys can call me Andrea’Rahkayle. I am a 36 year old transgender woman nine months into a 16 year prison sentence in California. That alone is a story itself. We will dredge upon that in a later submission. I want to thank Jason and the entire Black & Pink family incarcerated or not, for your love, support and stories of experience. I encourage you all to continue the spread of love and compassion in much needed times as such. I encourage you all to keep fresh on the mind, our young and adolescent family members out there free in the world and in Juvenile Detention facilities who are being bullied, molested, abused, abandoned and neglected because of sexual orientation and gender identity. I encourage you all to pray for the lives lost and taken because of hate. Remember we have a voice whether young or old, and we all deserve an opportunity to be heard. To all the incarcerated and non-incarcerated Family defeating HIV, I encourage you to be strong in faith, to take care of yourselves by adhering to all instructions regarding medications, exercise, and nutrition and safer sex. To my girls and creative gay boys, prison is no fashion show nor a candy shop nor a dating retreat. Hurry up and get out. Rehabilitate, get some degrees, get out so we can purchase your extravagant Spring collection and ballroom designs. I know the men look scrumptious, but your freedom and success tastes better. To my best friend Russell G. I love you and miss you and thank you got introducing me to Black & Pink. Jason we love and appreciate your time, effort and patience. Black & Pink, you all are amazing people with super powers. Let’s take over the world with love.

Love,
DeAndrea’Rahkayle (CA)

 

Dear B&P Family,

My name is Richard, a.k.a. Stefana. I just got a chance to read the January/February 2017 newsletter. A lot of the letters & poems in this edition struck my heart and I’ll explain why. First I would like to say to Anjela S. from Texas that I totally know how you’re feeling right now. Your poem totally nailed exactly how I’m feeling. I even tore your poem out to save it in case I pass my copy of the newsletter to someone else. To Antonio H. in Pennsylvania: do they mess with your mail at all? Because they can’t and should not be able to do anything w/ legal mail. I myself am trying to get things together to file a lawsuit against the PADOC for violation of the Eighth Amendment, which is cruel and unusual punishment, for not providing adequate mental health services and letting me endure emotional and mental stress and abuse by 90% of the inmates at my facility (over 2,500 population), and a good percentage of staff who cause it directly, and because the ones that do care about helping us can’t do much. So, through no fault of their own they end up furthering my pain. If they mess with your mail I advise that you send a letter to:

PA Institutional Labor Project
Attention: Angus Love, Esquire
718 Arch Street, Suite 304 South
Philadelphia, PA, 19106

He helps those who are in prison and don’t have funds or not enough funds to afford a regular lawyer. He specifically handles cases that deal w/ state and U.S. constitutional rights. Ask if there is any way he can have an immediate injunction put on your facility and have the state police transport you to a different facility. To get you out of harm’s way (whether it be from others or by you if you get that scared or depressed). NO one deserves to be treated like they’re a door mat. Hold on there and hopefully things get better for you. To everyone else out there that’s suffering like me or Antonio H. or Anjela S., remember you have others who are riding this violent storm also. In parting I would like to say I’m Wiccan and I will pray to my Goddess that we all be blessed with protection and that our futures are close to being like paradise. I would like to send out all my love to everyone. Till we meet again, may your days be plentiful and healthful.

Blessed Be,
Richard G. (PA)
AKA – Stefana

 

Hey Black & Pink World!

My name is Kelsey and I’m your newest brother in the Family! I’m a 28-year-old single white bisexual male. Before I got locked up, my “intimate friends” used to know me by the name Keko. This is my first time writing a letter like this so please bear with me. This is also the first time I have ever openly admitted to the world that I am bi. I was inspired to write this letter after reading the Dear Family letters some of our brothers and sisters wrote in the last couple of issues of this amazing newsletter. Hopefully this is only my first of many letters to you all. I’m not writing to simply introduce myself. There is something I would like to get off my chest. After reading about Marsha Johnson in the January-February issue, I was not only disgusted but pissed off at the lack of an investigation into her death. I understand that 1992 was over twenty years ago, and times were much harder for members of the LGBTQ community. Especially for those as open and outspoken as Marsha. But she was still a human being, just like any straight man or woman. How could the police ignore the testimony of her family and friends, of those who knew her best, who saw and spoke to her on a daily basis? Didn’t her life, her hopes and her dreams, her struggle—didn’t any of that matter? Don’t ours? And what scares me and makes me even sadder is that Marsha is not the only one out there that this has happened to. I look forward to the day when horrible injustices like this don’t exist anymore. To all those who fight everyday to bring that day closer, for our equality and our rights, thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Please fight on. Yours is the voice of those who cannot or simply do not know how to fight. And to the family and friends of Marsha Johnson. I am sorry for your loss and if my words have made you relive your pain. If there is ever anything I can do to help, please let me know. Now, I simply can’t allow myself to leave off on such a somber note. I’m sorry, I just can’t. Call it a character flaw. So before I wrap this up, I’d like to give a shout out. I’m a huge nerd who is into Anime, Manga and video games. At my last facility I played Dungeons and Dragons with a lot of my friends, but my game of choice will always be Magic: The Gathering. That being said, I think I’ve got a crush on Princess Harmony from Black Girl Dangerous. An Afro-Latin trans woman who’s into Anime and video games? UNICORN! Haha! Alright, everyone, be safe and take care of yourselves and each other. And remember a little love makes the world go round.

Blessed Be,
Kelsey “aka KeKo” K. (CO)

Message from Jason (April 2017)

Dear friends,

I hope this note finds you well. I am writing this note on the Spring Equinox, imagining the life peeking out from under some of the snow we have here in Boston. I am glad to see the winter go, as my friend Tyrone said, “We survived our first of four winters under the Trump regime.” I am hoping that the life of spring gives even greater life to our growing resistance to policies of violence and oppression that keep coming out of Washington.

I wanted to spend most of my note this month reflecting on the recent tv special, When We Rise. This was a four-night special that played on ABC telling some of the story of the LGBTQ movement in the United States. The special focused on three primary characters living in San Francisco, Cleve Jones, Ken Jones (no relation), and Roma Guy. To be honest, I was quite resistant to the show and was not planning to watch it. After choosing not to watch it when it was on tv, I started receiving letters from some of you telling me about how much it meant to you. I then visited two members in a Boston jail who also told me that they had watched it, and said I should do the same. I was resistant because I did not want to be disappointed. I didn’t want to watch it because I knew they couldn’t cover everything, and I knew I would get upset. I didn’t want to watch it because I didn’t want to see Dustin Lance Black white wash the story. However, due to the letters I got from the inside and the jail visits I had, I decided I should watch the special.

Of course, like any mainstream story, there are deep flaws with When We Rise. One piece of the problem that many have been talking about is the absence of bisexual people and the only token inclusion of transgender women. I was disappointed that there was no attention to prisoners, though there was some important attention to police brutality and harassment of LGBT people. However, I was very moved by the series (I only watched the first 3 parts, up until 2006). It also didn’t hurt that there were lots of cute people in the cast (I swoon for Michael K. Williams). I appreciated seeing spaces in San Francisco that I am familiar with. I’ve walked down Castro street, cruising the guys. I’ve been to events at the Women’s Building. I’ve walked around the Mission. I appreciated seeing places that I know are important to our LGBTQ liberation story. While it was an incomplete picture, I am so glad that someone tried to tell this complicated story.

I was particularly moved by the stories around the early days of the AIDS crisis. I often think about how we lost such a huge part of our community to AIDS. According to another documentary I’ve seen, We Were Here, one half of all the gay men in San Francisco died during the first 10 years of AIDS. We do not talk enough about the community trauma we hold due to all that loss. We lost so many of the radical gay men mentors we should have had. We lost the feminist, anti-racist, sex-positive, anti-capitalist gay and bisexual men who were organizing and f*cking all across the country. As we were dying, one of the things When We Rise showed so well, was that it was lesbians who came to the aid of gay and bisexual men. It was these amazing sisters in the struggle who staffed the AIDS wards when no one else would. This story too often disappears. This care and solidarity should remind those of us who are men to be sure we are acting in solidarity with lesbian and bisexual women.

The LGBTQ movement has not ended. The stories told in When We Rise are far from the only stories that need to be told. One of the roles this magazine can play is to provide space for us to tell our own stories, stories of the past and stories of right now. The movement continues today, there is so much work to be done. I am thankful for those of you who told me to watch this ABC special, I appreciate your wise suggestions coming from behind the walls. We will keep telling our stories and writing down the walls knowing that once there were no prisons, that day will come again.

In loving solidarity,
Jason

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.

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