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.

Recent Developments in 3 Cases involving HIV

Catherine Hanssens from The Center for HIV Law & Policy has provided this summary of recent developments in three cases involving HIV as proof of intent to harm. Two are criminal; one involves indefinite civil commitment based on the finding that the individual is a dangerous sex offender in need of supervision under NY’s Article 10.

Michael Johnson

On May 15, 2015, Michael Johnson, a young Black college student at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri, was found guilty in the Circuit Court of St. Charles County of one count of the Class A felony of recklessly infecting another with HIV, one count of the Class B felony of recklessly exposing another person to HIV, and three counts of the Class C felony of attempting to expose another person to HIV.  The complainants in case were men of similar ages, most of whom Johnson met on online hookup apps and social networking sites. Johnson was sentenced on July 13, 2015 to a total term of 30 ½ years imprisonment.
The Missouri Appellate Public Defender appealed Michael’s conviction and sentence, arguing that (1) the trial court abused its discretion by admitting excerpted recordings of phone calls Johnson made while in jail that were not disclosed to the defense until the morning of the first day of trial, (2) the prosecutor’s closing argument amounted to unsworn testimony violating Johnson’s right to confront and cross-examine the witness, guaranteed by the United States and Missouri Constitutions, and (3) Johnson’s sentence of 30 ½ myears in prison was grossly disproportionate to the crime and violated his constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.

A friend-of-the court brief, drafted by CHLP and the law firm Gibbons, P.C., with the ACLU of Missouri Foundation serving as local counsel, was filed by twenty-three national and state organizations. Amici argue that the Missouri law 1) violates the constitutional right to equal protection; (2) violates the right to privacy in one’s medical information, and 3) violates prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Amici also argue that Johnson’s sentence was unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment because it is grossly disproportionate to Mr. Johnson’s conduct and any resulting harm.

In an opinion filed on December 20, 2016, the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, reversed the judgment of the trial court and remanded for a new trial.  The Court found that the trial court abused its discretion on Johnson’s first point of appeal, and did not reach the constitutional and federal disability arguments raised in Johnson’s second point and the amicus brief.  The Court based its decision on the finding that the State’s disclosure of jailhouse telephone recordings on the first day of trial rendered his trail fundamentally unfair, as it was “knowing and intentional and was part of a trial-by-ambush strategy.”

On, January 4th, attorneys for the State of Missouri filed a motion for reconsideration by the court en banc, rehearing, or transfer to the Missouri Supreme Court.  The State does not directly dispute that the disclosure was untimely, but argues, inter alia, that the Court misapprehended the record and that a discovery violation did not occur because the defendant had knowledge of the recordings, that the prosecutor did not have superior access to the recordings, and the withholding of the recordings was not “to gain a tactical advantage at trial, but to preserve an avenue of investigation.” A decision on the motion should come from the Court of Appeals in two to three weeks.

There are numerous potential outcomes; the most probable will be, as in most cases, the Court of Appeals will deny the motion.  If a request for transfer to the Supreme Court is also denied, a mandate will issue and the case can be retried by the prosecutor.

Orlando Batista

In October 2016, the Supreme Court of Ohio announced it would review the HIV criminal law at issue in State of Ohio v. Orlando Batista. In July 2014, Orlando Batista was indicted for felonious assault for allegedly engaging in sexual conduct with his girlfriend without first disclosing his HIV status to her.  The trial court found him guilty and sentenced him to 8 years imprisonment, the maximum allowed under the statute. Batista preserved his right to challenge the legality of the Ohio statute itself on appeal, but the appellate court rejected these arguments and affirmed Batista’s conviction. The Hamilton County Public Defender, representing Batista, submitted a brief to the Supreme Court of Ohio seeking review of the Ohio law. In June 2016, CHLP and the ACLU of Ohio Foundation, along with thirteen Ohio-based and national HIV, civil liberties, LGBT, social advocacy and criminal justice organizations, submitted a memorandum in support of Mr. Batista’s request for review.

In December 27, 2016, the defendant-appellant submitted his merit brief, arguing that the felonious assault statute (1) violates the Equal Protection Clauses of the Ohio and United States Constitutions, and (2) is a content-based regulation on speech that unconstitutionally compels speech and usurps the Constitutional right to refrain from speaking in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Additionally, two friend-of-the court briefs were filed on the same date.

In December 2016, CHLP, with support from the Ohio Public Defender and Gibbons P.C. law firm, along with seven Ohio-based and national HIV, LGBT, health professional and criminal justice organizations, submitted an amici curiae brief in support of Orlando Batista to the Supreme Court of Ohio arguing the state’s felonious assault statute: (1) violates the Equal Protection Clauses of the Ohio and United States Constitutions because it singles out people living with HIV for prosecution in response to conduct that is not criminal in the case of other groups, for example those living with other sexually transmitted diseases and (2) violates the clear prohibitions against disability-based discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Jeffrey Gamso, the former Legal Director of the ACLU of Ohio Foundation, along with the ACLU of Ohio Foundation and the Center for Constitutional Rights, submitted an additional amici curiae brief supporting Mr.Batista arguing that Ohio’s felonious assault statute compels speech in violation of the Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment and the Ohio Constitution.

Nushawn Williams

The Court of Appeals, of New York State denied Nushawn Williams’ motion for leave to appeal (See 2016 NY Slip Op 94324 and 2016 NY Slip Op 94325). Nushawn’s case is, judging by the sheer volume of press, the most notorious HIV criminal case ever, anywhere; He has spent nearly 20 years confined  as a consequence of his guilty pleas to having sex with a 13 year old when he was 19, and for having sex after he knew he was HIV positive with two other women. His appellate attorney raised a number of procedural and substantive challenges to Williams’ commitment. The amici main argument was that HIV status cannot serve as the basis for a dangerous sex offender determination, and the state’s reliance on HIV status violates the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the ADA.

We are reviewing Nushawn’s options in consultation with Nushawn and his appellate attorney. At present, a hearing is scheduled on January 20, 2017 to determine when and whether to schedule an the annual administrative review of Nushawn’s confinement (to which he is entitled by statute).

Letters To Our Family (December 2016)

Hi to All My B&P Family,

I am a positive person. And I do all I can each day to pass that on to others around me. And even though I have spent almost 22 years in prison I can still say that I learn and grow constantly.

Even in the times when I am challenged by the stupidity of some staff as well as some inmates. But I realize that I must lead by example and have the conversation with others in hopes that I can educate them on how to approach trans women.

It is simple to me. I just let others see that I am a human being first. And all I want is to be respected and treated equally as the male inmates are treated. Because it can be difficult being a woman in a male facility – and I don’t allow anyone to treat me as anything other than what I represent.

So no matter how people see me, just doesn’t matter to me. I know who I am and I am secure with myself. I am strong and confident to know that anything I wish to be, I know I can achieve that.

There’s a thing I call keeping your circle closed. If you allow anyone in that circle then you have to take everything that comes along with it. And I know that I am not what everyone loves. But I love myself. So all the decisions I make involving the people I want to be associated with are my decisions only.

I can only be responsible for Lisa. It allows me to be a better person and a better listener and leader in such a dull Place. And this place is only in the right now. I know where my future is, and how to get there. So I follow that path and stay focused in my journey in life when you breathe, you have to exhale. So make the right decision, keep your circle closed and allow yourself to be surrounded by people who are better than you. You will become smarter and a more structured person.

Peace to everyone.
Lisa (CA)

 

Black & Pink Family,

How much more suffering do I have to endure here in Arkansas? The administration is trying to outlaw the LGBTQ community in the Arkansas department of corrections. They tell me there is no such thing as consensual contact between two individuals housed in prison. I got with my “partner” and we fell deeply in love. But I got put in the hole because I was intimate with my husband Joe. I am being punished for being sexually involved with the man I love. That breaks my heart and I’ve had many sleepless nights. I’m so afraid of losing him out of my life. I tell him how much I love him. We are both in the hole suffering from hot temperatures, severe heat, why am I being punished for having sex with the man I love? I am being retaliated against for being a part of the LGBTQ community. I tried to be strong and understand why people hate what they don’t understand, but sometimes I break down and cry myself sick! Arkansas prison systems say P.R.E.A. policy doesn’t allow same-sex sex in prison, they are using P.R.E.A. as a weapon towards homosexuals and transgenders where I am housed. It’s wrong and an injustice. Something needs to be done by this prison abusing P.R.E.A. policies and procedures. P.R.E.A. was implemented to eliminate prison rape, not consensual sex in prison. The unit I’m in is homophobic and transphobic. I need to know how to cope and adjust to these harsh cruel discriminatory tactics and policies. I fell like they treat me like an alien and as taboo for my beliefs and sexuality. They are trying to teach me that the way that I am is wrong. But they are wrong for acting unprofessional towards me and keeping me locked down based on phobias and not facts. I’m treated unfairly and different because of “who I am”. It’s hurtful but I’m staying strong and surviving through this struggle. This is Venus again by the way, torn and hurt emotionally. Hopefully I’ll be able to heal from these scars this prison has put on my heart. Thank you Black and Pink for giving me somewhere to turn to let my voice be heard and my tears to dry. Ya’ll are truly my friends and family. Without Black and Pink’s monthly newsletter, I don’t know where I would be. Mentally, it gives me some sincere peace of mind. To everyone who thinks you are alone in the Solitary Struggle – you’re not! There are thousands more just like us. My heart goes out to everyone who is discriminated against because of who you are. Stay strong and REAL. Never let the police see you sweat. I love you Joe!!!!!

Always your sister in the struggle,
Miss Venus W (AR)

 

Dear Family,

It’s strange for me to say that “family”. My true family had left me alone long ago but I’ve found a new family. I came to prison and was so alone but it was the family that came and showed me I was not alone. I’ve since found the mate of my dreams. This is my first time writing in to Black & Pink but I wish to tell you that I love you. We don’t seem to hear that enough but too this is a call to arms. Though many of you are not in Texas and do not know how badly we are mistreated but we can do something about it. Those of you with pens, they are your swords, you’re the wielder of a power there. Many other states offer access to items like MP3 players and tablets that allow limited access to the internet through sites like J-Pay and Corrlinks. How many of you don’t get mail because frankly your friends and family all use their computers and phones to do all the talking most of them see a stamp as a thing of the past. This puts a lot of us out of touch with them and the state knows this. They don’t want us to have that access. They don’t want us a quick easy way to reach out to our attorneys and advocates. J-Pay offers a tablet called a JP5 tablet. Texas inmates are not allowed access to it but many other states are. Pick up your pens, write to the head of the commissary in Huntsville and ask that we be allowed access to it, that it be made available to Texas inmates. Write your family and friends, have them send emails, beg, plead, threaten. Do whatever you can, we should be given the same access everyone else is. We have the same rights. Join me in this, we can make a difference. I once lost my family, now I have another, I have a mate, and we all have our pens.

With love and affection.
Yours,
Roger (TX)

 

What’s Up Family?

How are you guys doing? I send my love and respects to all my brother and sisters inside and outside.

On May 24, 2016 I was assaulted, cell-extracted, dragged out of my cell and pepper sprayed and given a rules violation report. This is because I am a strong minded black bi-sexual male who has stuck up for my rights on both of my prison terms.

I’m going to end this letter with a few thoughts. I just wanted to touch on the injustice of all the police shooting. It effects me deeply cause I am black and the police are just getting away with murder. The same way as these prison guards around the country are getting away with cruel and unusual punishment and tortuous treatment of our LGBTQ family in prison.

Carlton C. (CA)

Message from Jason (December 2016)

Dear friends,

I hope this note finds you all as well as possible. As I write you this note Donald Trump is preparing to become president of our country. Over the last few weeks we have watched as he nominated white supremacists, bigots, banking executives, and Islamophobic lovers of war to different cabinet positions. You all may have paid particular attention to his nomination of Jeff Sessions to Attorney General. This is a man who helped create and expand the War on Drugs. He is violently racist, homophobic, and anti-immigrant. What feelings are coming of for you? Are you anxious about what a Trump presidency will bring? What do you think his administration will mean for prisoners? For LGBTQ people? For people of color? For Muslims? For immigrants? For HIV positive people? For disabled people? For our planet?

As an abolitionist organization, we at Black and Pink know that neither the democrats or the republicans want to bring about the changes we believe in. We know that democrats and republicans have both helped growth the prison system. We know that democrats and republicans ignore our demands to get our people free. We know that democrats and republicans both push forward racist policies that attack our communities. We know all of this, but we can also recognize that there are unique challenges that we will face under a Trump administration. There have been some policy changes over the last eight years that increase access to care for transgender prisoners. The Department of Justice is currently investigating the Georgia Department of Corrections for their discriminatory treatment of LGBT prisoners. There have been negotiations to get the Federal Bureau of Prisons to move transgender women, who have requested it, into women’s prisons. President Obama has also commuted more sentences of federal prisoners than any president in history (though he should obviously do thousands more). There are challenges ahead that we must be ready to meet with organizing and resistance.

As we prepare for the Trump presidency it is important to remember that whenever there has been oppression and there has always been resistance. The election of Trump is not, in fact, the worst moment in American history. We have a history of genocide and slavery, the impact of which continues today, regardless of who is president. Just as the Water Protectors in Standing Rock are resisting today, Indigenous people throughout this nation resisted colonization. While the colonizers won in many ways, there are still millions of Indigenous people fighting to protect their sovereignty. Just as the Black Lives Matter movement and anti-prison movement resists white supremacy today, Black people who were held in chattel slavery resisted plantation owners, fought back on ships that were stealing them from Africa, and escaped. Those of us who are white also have ancestors to turn to who joined in the struggle for liberation. There were those like John Brown in the 19th Century and Anne Braden in the 20th Century who were willing to put their lives on the line to act in solidarity. As we celebrate those who survived, we also know that countless people suffered and died during these struggles. We honor all of our ancestors’ legacies and deaths by continuing the struggles that they started.

During these tough times there are those who quote Joe Hill, who said, “don’t mourn, organize.” My response is that I think it is okay for us to do both, let us mourn where we are as a nation, let us mourn the spread of right wing politics, let us mourn our losses, and at the same time let us be moved to build our power so that we may organize and win. We do all of our collective work knowing that once there were no prisons, that day will come again.

In loving solidarity,
Jason

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