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

JOB ANNOUNCEMENT! National Organizer for Black and Pink!

national-organizer-job-announcement
(download announcement and job description HERE)

Application Deadline: January 6, 2017

Start Date: March 15, 2017

To Apply: Please send cover letter and resume to Jason@blackandpink.org


Summary

Although Black and Pink provides many direct services to LGBTQ and/or HIV+ prisoners and court-involved people, the goal of our work is to strengthen the movement towards abolition of the prison industrial complex. The role of the National Organizer for Black and Pink is to support local outside chapters in their grassroots efforts, provide support and resources to prison-based chapters, develop and lead a national strategic organizing plan with clear goals and concrete actions to take. The organizer is also responsible for some direct advocacy work with prisoner members who are in crisis. Black and Pink only hires individuals with a history of incarceration and we strongly encourage applications from individuals most impacted by the prison industrial complex.

Hours and Compensation

This is a full time position, 40 hours per a week. This is a salaried position, $40,000 a year, paid on the 15th and the last day of each month. There are four weeks of paid vacation annually, and compensation time is accrued if working over 40 hours a week (though working more than 40 hours a week is strongly discouraged). Black and Pink full time staff have 12 sick days per year. Black and Pink does not provide staff with health insurance at this time, though monthly / annual premiums for healthcare obtained through Mass Health will be paid for through Black and Pink (state funded healthcare in Massachusetts). Black and Pink will also provide a $60 a month membership for either Massage Envy, $60 a month for a gym membership, or $60 a month for another form of other self-care practice.

Qualifications

The ideal candidate for this position will have some experience with organizing and a willingness to get training on effective organizing tactics. The ideal candidate will have strong, compassionate, communication skills. Given the intensity of the work required by staff at Black and Pink, the candidate must have the ability to be compassionate and empathetic with prisoner membership and others directly affected by the criminal legal system. The candidate must be able to demonstrate effective time management, attention to detail, and prioritization of tasks as the position requires managing many different and even conflicting needs. A background with computer skills is a must, as the candidate will also have to learn Black and Pink’s data storage systems, utilize Gmail and Microsoft Office, and know how to navigate social media appropriately. The candidate must also be willing to travel regularly, primarily by plane.

Job Location:

Black and Pink’s national office is located in Boston, Massachusetts. The ideal candidate would either live in the Boston area or be willing to relocate (with financial assistance from Black and Pink to do so). There are possible exceptions. For individuals with extensive organizing experience and a history of working remotely for another organization, considerations for remote employment could be made. That person would, however, be required to come to Boston for 3 weeks of training and relationship building at the start of the employment.


Primary Tasks and Responsibilities:

Outside Chapter Support:
Coordinate national chapters’ call
Ensure resources are distributed between chapters and from the national office to chapters
Volunteer management and volunteer development
In person meetings with every chapter at least once a year
Provide guidance for grassroots efforts being done by local chapters.

Inside Chapter support:
Respond to letters and requests from inside chapters
Support development of new inside chapters
Ensure inside chapters submit reports about their work
Track and respond to retaliation against prisoner organizers

National Responsibilities:
Ensure that national working groups are meeting and help with coordinating them
Workshops, presentations, and public speaking for organizations around the country
Supporting and planning national gathering of B&P members (every 2 years).
Develop new initiatives that increase the effectiveness of organizational work

Resource Development:
Design outside chapter starting tool kit (with the support of existing chapters)
Update inside chapter starting tool kit as needed
Support National Director with resource development as needed

General Administrative Tasks:
Respond to prisoner letters in a timely manner
Respond to emails in a timely manner
Communicate with Office Manager and National Director about needs and work issues

Supervision:

This position is supervised by the National Director. Supervision should occur for one hour every week. During supervision the National Organizer should communicate about upcoming goals, needs for training or support, obstacles in the work, and emotional support needs due to the severity of the work.

 

 

 

We recommit to fighting for liberation!

Given that some adults with voting privileges in the U.S. elected a man who deeply threatens our family members, we recommit to fighting toward our goals and values laid out in our analysis:

Our goal is liberation. We have a radical view of the fight for justice: We are feminist. We are anti-racist. We want queer liberation. And we are against capitalism. Prisons are part of the system that oppresses and divides us. By building a movement and taking action against this system of violence, we will create the world we dream of.
We also celebrate the beauty of what exists now: Our love for each other. The strength of our planet. Our incredible resiliency. All of the power we have to continue existing. While dreaming and struggling for a better world, we commit to living in the present.

Abolition is our goal, and our strategy for action. Any advocacy, services, organizing, and direct action we take will remove bricks from the system, not put up more walls. We want revolution. And we will work on reforms too, even if they are only small steps at ending the suffering caused by prisons.

Our work is based in the experience of people who are or were in prison. We also raise up the voices of formerly incarcerated people as our “free world” members of the Leadership Circle. We know that those most hurt by the violence of the prison industrial complex have the knowledge of how to tear it down.

Black & Pink’s “free world” membership started in Boston and has spread across the country. We will support one another, share the work of our organizing efforts, and grow our family inside and outside the walls. We would like to increase our national and international membership, creating chapters in more cities, towns, prisons, schools, and neighborhoods.

 

Letters to Our Family (October 2016)

Dear Black and Pink family,

Hello to all my sisters inside & outside those walls. My name is Michael AKA Mike Mike. I am a long time reader and will start writing more. You know I was not too big on Relationships while in Custody of NCDOC. They never really worked for some reason or another, But, when I left Avery Prison to go to Hornet for Dart Class I could not help but fall in love at first sight of this sexy one whose name is also Michael who goes by “Lakisha”. Little did I know he felt the same for me. So after being at hornet for a week I asked if he knew anyone willing to jump out the window and get into an intimate Relationship. Lakisha says “yeah, me.” for the next 3 months I forgot I was in prison. I’d wait at the Block at 3pm + wait for him to get out of the Barber School. In the mornings we’d walk together to class, on the weekends he’d play Ball + I’d work out then we’d spend the rest of the day hanging out, plus church on Sunday.

Well, as my class finished and his rolls on I tried to stay. Staff said no. So on January 24, 2016 I asked Lakisha to marry me. Yes, was the response, and with it came a silver ring. (Staff took it at the next camp). Well with any love story goes a sad ending. Jan 28th, 2016 I was put on the Grey Goose to go to “The Rock.” Needless to say I cried that morning because I could not give my love a goodbye hug or kiss. He was in the Block across from mine. I gave him my info as he done too. Needless to say no luck there. I been at the rock for 3 months now and now on Protective Custody trying to get away from here.

Lakisha, if you’re reading this, don’t cry, I’m coming home soon. I may not make it back to Hornet but I get out 7 months after you Boo-Boo. I wear a ring I got off the yard. I brought for 10 stamps. Engraved on it is † Eternal Love † which clarifies to everyone here, “Hands off I am spoken for.” To show my ever loving Support I got ⚣ tattooed on my Right side. One Black, one white for My Boo Boo Lakisha.

To Black and Pink family I love the Cards, Postcards and Letters on the Holidays. Thankyou ALL. Much Love your Brother,
Michael, NC AKA Mike Mike, NC

 

Hi Black and Pink,

I am writing to tell you all about my story and experiences of what I have faced in the streets along with being in prison and I apologize if this is not written correctly. I am a high school dropout and this my first time stepping out of the darkness to show myself to the world.

Anyways… Hello to those Black and Pink and to anyone that might be reading this. My name is David Lyons. I am a bi-sexual male, I am 24 years old, I will be 28 on November 17th of this year. I am from a little town called “Newark” located in Ohio. I am a proud bi-sexual county boy I think lol…

I am a registered sex offender, I caught the case in 2011 when I was lied to by a female that claimed she was 20 years old but was not. I got charged with a felony of the 4th degree and that charge was unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. I am a father of 3 possibly 4 children and their mothers refuse to allow me to be part of my children’s lives because I am a sex offender and they believe that it is a law I am allowed to be around my children with a sex offense.

I was sexually molested as a child and have hid that fact from everyone. I noticed I was a bisexual when I was age 13 but I hid my sexuality from then until last year when I decided to slowly come out about my sexuality to a small group of friends that I had but they ended up abandoning me shortly afterwards because they were “homo-phobes”.

I am currently in prison on my 3rd number because of making stupid choices and getting back on drugs. I’ll be honest, I really let myself go this time. I could hardly find a job. I was homeless and could not find a place to lay my head. I couldn’t even get any help from anyone. I can’t count on my family because they only care about their selves, my mother can’t and couldn’t help me because she is about to be homeless herself and she is now just got approved for SSI because she has to have multiple surgeries for her back. I felt and still somewhat feel like the world and is and was against me. I was denied of so many things because of me being a sex offender (although I know none would admit it on paper to cover their own butts) so I get depressed and just gave up and started using meth again.

I was staying with my cousin’s before the last time I got arrested. I got “rail-roaded” by the law and my own cousin’s wife. But when I finally was able to stay with my cousin, I had re-registered my new address with the sex offender registry detective. And while I was gone one day trying to find a job, the registry detective came to my cousin’s house and asked my cousin if I was living there and then pulled my cousins wife outside and asked the same thing and came to find out in my discovery she stated that I never lived there. She did not like that by then I also had drug addictions. So the detective asked me to report him a few days later in which I did because I had nothing to hide, I did nothing wrong.

Once I showed up and he asked me where I was living and I stated to him, “at my cousin’s house.” He stated that “No you don’t, I spoke with them, they say you have never lived at that residence.” I argued with him and told him that I did live there and even requested that I could prove to him that I lived there. So after a few months of arguing, he stated, “Well Mr. L–, I see too many inconsistencies with your story, so you’re under arrest.” So me being high on meth at that time, I panicked and took off running on foot because I didn’t want to lose my freedom for something I did not do. They just did not want to check to see if I was telling the truth. So upon running I collided with another detective and they finally arrested and jailed me. I was charged with a felony 3 escape, a felony 4 assault on a peace officer, and a felony 4 failure notify change of address. I was sentenced to 18 months and I’ve seen a couple of stories in your newspaper of people experiencing similar problems. So I figured I would put my story out there with you and all and I am open to any and all comments or suggestions. I hope to be able to be part of your fast-growing ad caring family. I hope to be able to a voice among the many for those of us facing problems like all of us. Thank you for your time and for listening.

With much love,
David L, OH

 

Hello family,

I have read about the abomination that occurred in Orlando’s Pulse club maybe six times so far and my soul aches so terribly that it is still difficult, even now, to formulate a coherent message without the urge to yell, scream, and gnash my teeth in rage and lamentation. I’m not at a loss for words, but rather my mental filter isn’t working quite right. I’ll start slow and simple, my name, for those who don’t know me, is Ti’Anna Analise Delarosa. I was born June 30, 1993. I’m 23, HIV positive, transgender, and am Creole.

Okay, now that I’ve calmed myself down some I’ll set to the point. I’m deeply affected and wounded by the events that took place. I know almost firsthand how horrible the immigration laws are, having made the acquaintance of many amazing men of Puerto Rican, Mexican, Honduran, and Guatemalan descent and having been in a county jail where out of the 8 pods, 7 were for immigration and overcapacity and being emptied and refilled/overfilled every day. They are treated in a contradictory manner: 99% of the materials in the law library are en Espanol or all about immigration/deportation laws, which blatantly says they are top priority, while they are housed in overcrowded, unpleasant, and altogether unsanitary pods, leaving the message that “non-Americans” (in the words of racists and bigots) are less than beasts in their eyes.

I’ve also experience homophobia firsthand. My father was a heavy-handed alcoholic gay basher. Suffice it to say 2008 to 2012 were NOT my best years. Here is what I really want to talk about: since first reading the article about Pulse’s Latinx night, I’ve been contemplating what I like to think of as my “counter attack”. My plan is to build/have built a large (aka MASSIVE) facility of 10 stories for the main targets of senseless brutality and bull schnozzle laws. I call it the “TPOC Rainbow Palace”. (TPOC = Truly People of Color) It will house a club on the first and second floor: a cafeteria on the 3rd, 4th and 5th floors; and housing on the 6th thru 10th floors. A few details: 4 queen-size bunk-beds per room; internet and Wi-Fi; 2 phones per room; intercom’ emergency call buttons’ interpreters/translators; each window will be 3 layers of 2-inch thickness of bulletproof glass-shatter proof glass-crystal mixture; the exterior walls will be 8-inch thick titanium-steel-iron alloy sheets to promote bullet proof metal-style resistance; metal detectors and super heavy security.

It’ll take me close to about 18 months to gather the appropriate funds in surplus of what is needed for construction, wiring, plumbing, etc. and get the initial structure built to the 6th maybe 7th floor. I am a financial genius (self-proclaimed and titled by others). I actually have a plan of accumulating the funds with very little financial support (loans, etc.) that will place me in Bill Gates’ seat in a timely fashion.

Back to the point. The TPOC Rainbow Palace is intended as a safe haven for LGBTQ and TPOC. The housing is intended exclusively for LGBTQ immigrants, TPOC immigrants and TPOC LGBTQ who either have no home, can no longer afford their home, wish to leave their home or are afraid to have one. There will be space reserved for those who don’t fall in the above stated categories, though they are not my top priority. My main worry is the LGBTQ immigrant community, TPOC immigrant community, TPOC LGBTQ immigrant community, and the TPOC LGBTQ community. That doesn’t mean others are not important to me, they just aren’t my main concern. They’re not being senselessly murdered and/or deported. One of the main objectives of the TPOC Rainbow Palace is to help shelter those considered to be immigrants (though this county was founded by immigrant who enslaved immigrants and made laws to keep other immigrants from following them on more righteous paths and for better reasons than to rebel against their home because they were self-centered, self-serving, greedy, lazy, undeserving, arrogant, deceitful, and outright cowardly flurps and ninnies. I’m not racist. I’m just highly prejudiced against the stupid people who did the stupid things that lead to the even more heinously stupid things that are happening now! Rant over.) and also to help them gain citizenship and temporary student visas and green cards so that the highly ignorant government can’t send them away or hurt them anymore.

My question is this: who is going to join me? I’m going home in a little less than 12 months and when I touch down, I’m setting this plan in motion. I’m not scared to admit I’m going to need a lot of help. I’m only one woman you know. I need to know that I’m not doing this alone and that we deserve this. The sad truth is that so many people are willing to march and rally and protest and write letters, but when it comes time to physically sacrifice oneself: time, money, energy: working, building, laboring, sweating and even bleeding (work does that to people, believe it or not). About ½ to 1/3 of those speaking up actually act out. I’ve seen it in here prison-side. Everybody complains, but only 3 out of 50 (there 2,100 inmates here) people will peak up and act out. Here’s the thing: I’m a born warrior, I know how to battle, survive and WIN. What I’m planning will put a huge target on my head. I’m ready for it. I’ve been raped, beaten, gay bashed, jumped twice, contracted HIV (4 years ago), survived jumping off of a car, and multiple suicide attempts. I welcome death at every turn, we play the game of Life every Friday and chess every Tuesday. As you can see, I haven’t lost. I truly think I’m going to live to be a 120-year-old crone mother. (Great!  … NOT!) If I do I’ll love ever millisecond.

In the case of the TPOC Rainbow Palace (I love that name  ), a great many feathers will be ruffled and a war will be waged. In the end, purple wings and pink flames with black swords and periwinkle halos will fill the sky. Rainbows will be seen all over the world and techno music will rain from heavens. Translation: WE WILL BE VICTORIOUS! If you wish to be apart for that which is being planned or have suggestions, drop a couple hints to me via your poems and letters to Black & Pink if they’ll be a good sport about it. Keywords: #RAINBOWREVOLUTION, #TRP (which is the palace I mentioned), and #RAISETHEPULSE. BTW: I just want to say that Trump can kiss my purple wings, periwinkle halo and sit on my pink tail. The guy’s a jerk and a rich jerk at that. I KNOW we can do butter. I was born and raised a southern Bayou Belle and in my family, every person is loved. Has a home, and has a family, whether blood or not, undocumented, citizen, interplanetary, or multidimensional doesn’t matter. You are LOVED and you are FAMILY-PERIOD. God bless you, blessed be, Goddess keep you, and my love engulf you. Peace, Blessings and

Love,
Tianna D. “Mommy T” IL

 

 

Hey all you fabulous Divas, Dykes, T-Girls, & Studs!!! This is your sister <Ms. Jayde Moonshadow> and I wanna send a shout-out to all my totally fantabulous fellow “T-girls!” Hay ya’ll!!!

I also want to embrace all the recent additions to our “family.” It takes an unimaginable amount of bravery & courage to be all that we are; despite the fact that in doing so, we often are rejected/ridiculed by the very ones we hope will accept & love us (for being us/as we’re meant to be).

I, myself, have had a lot of trouble with this. I am totally “out” (& proud of it), and have been for a while now. However, I’ve lost a lot of those I’d thought were “friends”, simply because they were not able/willing to accept me as I truly am (as a trans-woman).

Those of “us” that’ve experienced this first-hand, are fully aware how “traumatic” these losses are/can be.

That’s why I’m a very firm believer in “HOPE;” hope that I’m strong enough to make it each day, hope that I am being true to myself, hope that I am always there for those who need me, hope that each new day is a bit better than yesterday, and hope that we will all be accepted & loved for being the way we choose to be…>

Speaking of “Hope,” I’m very hopeful that I will get a positive ruling from the “courts.” I’m fighting for a “legal name change,” a “bra (female undergarments),” and “electrolysis/laser hair removal.”

I finally got approval for the “hormones” (in May/2015) and am making steady progress in that area. Though, I’m still absolutely clueless. as to how to measure my “cup/breast-size!” Does anyone know how to do this?! Unbelievably, there’s not one female staff/doctor/nurse that’s willing to tell me how it’s done, like I’m some creepy-ass freak for asking…>!!!

Well, before closing this out, I want to give a loving shout-out to the following “family” members: to L’Don Rose (in CA), all my love & hugs (keep fightin’ girl, I’m right here with ya, honey); to “A.J.O” (in CA), hang in there sweetie. I know it’s lonely and hard, but I love you and accept you for the glorious & perfectly awesome person you are!; to Robin (in Las Vegas, NV) I love your spunky-style/philosophy about all these hater-ass fools! Haters gonna hate, while lovers stay lovin’!!!; to Lexi T. (in MA), I love that you wrote about “making a difference,” not “being different!” Stay strong and know that life is always worth living, no matter how difficult the path laid-out before us is!; and finally to Cassie (in TX), keep being true to yourself girl! You’re so brave and deserving of acceptance <no matter what your chances are in life>!

Lastly, I want to send my love & adoration to “Luna Umbra” (in MA); you’re my light in this dark & lonely world! Thanks for being a “True Friend!” All my love and hugs, cutie!!!

Stay strong, united, and loving always,
Ms. Jayde, CO
(<3 “kisses” ya’ll)

 

 

I write to my GLBT family because I have nowhere else to turn to. I am housed in the Bible belt of West Texas, arguably the most anti-gay place on Earth. For 4 years, I have endured TDJC’s practices of hyper-surveillance and targeting of homosexuals. I really hate that the system focuses more on me writing kites to my partner than all the violence/extortion.

For over a year my partner Shane “Loose Screw” and I have been madly in love. We enjoyed life, supported/encouraged each other, etc. Then one day, out of nowhere, we get a “lover’s interest” flag put on us. We were moved apart from each other. This is 2016! “Homosexual conduct” is no longer against the law, there is nation-wide same sex marriage, and “don’t ask/don’t tell” was abolished. However, TDCJ doesn’t keep up with the times & still has homophobic disciplinary rules. You would think the system would encourage peer-to-peer support. The need to feel loved, wanted, and appreciated is a basic human need. Denying us meaningful relationships hurts our rehabilitation! Love gives us a purpose. And with purpose comes goals and aspirations, I know personally, I feel calloused and bitter that TDCJ has stripped me of my joy by moving my partner.

Screw, if you are reading this, I love you. “Till the wheels fall off.”

B&P family in TX – my heart is with you.
Eric “Angel” (aka YOLO), TX

 

 

 

Hello, Black and Pink family,

This is my first letter to the family, but surely won’t be the last. I just wanted to take time out and send love to this family that has given me strength and power in the recent years of my life. My name is Brandon, and I am a 29-year-old bisexual male from Missouri. I am currently serving time in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. I’ve been down for over six years.

I have been involved in same sex relationships since I was 14, however I’ve only been open about it for about 4 years. Up until recently, I have always been afraid of being who I truly wanted to be mostly out of fear of what my mother and two brothers would think of me. Father was never around, so mama worked extra hard to provide for her three boys. I didn’t want to hurt her by letting her down despite her doing her best, her son still turned out gay. I didn’t know how to tell my little brother who looked up to me so much the I wasn’t the idol he thought I was, or how to tell my big brother that his little brother (me) has sexual experiences with other men. I couldn’t bring myself to hurt my family like that. So, I continued living a lie. I would be in relationships with women when I’m thinking about, dreaming about being with a man. I would hang out on the block with the fellas, wishing I was up the street at my “play sister’s” slumber party. I lived this lie until it eventually landed me in prison.

I was still hiding who I was when I first came into the system out of fear of being taken advantage of. Then one day, a friend of mine who also happens to be gay, approached me on the yard and said “check this out” while handing me a newspaper. I waited to get back to my cell during count before I opened up the newspaper and started reading. At first, I thought “this some type of scheme to get gay people to spend money”. Then I continued to read. Not only was this paper free, it was filled with stories and articles of people that fared the same adversities I faced as a gay male. I was thunder struck! Never in a million years did I imagine that there could be such a large group of people that not only understood my problems but have lived and overcame them. I immediately subscribed to Black and Pink that very same day, and started receiving this wonderful blessing of a paper shortly after.

After receiving Black and Pink for about a year, and witnessing all our family members come together and help each other live our lives in peace and happiness, through positive words of encouragement, consistent dispersing of useful resources, and honest, non-judgmental feedback between one another, I made the decision to come out.

So, I asked my mama and brothers to come up to visit. During that visit, through many tears and emotional despair, I poured my heart out to my family. I told them of my sexuality and how sorry I was for keeping it from them all this time, my mother grabbed my hand and through teary eyes stated “Brandon, you are my son, and there is absolutely nothing you can do that will change or take away the love I have for you.” My little brother hugged me and said “big bro, this just made me look up to you even more,” my big brother also hugged me and said “I love you little bro, and you got my 100% support…but don’t think I hooking you up with any of my homies (lol).” I will remember that moment for the rest of my life. I’ve never felt so alive…I’ve never felt so loved…I’ve never felt so free.

I wanted to share that special moment with this Black and Pink family because I was through you all…the love, the support, the unity, and the understanding that I found the courage to be who I am today. A proud gay man, full of love and joy from the bottom of my heart…I thank you, and I wish everyone under this magnificent rainbow…love, peace and happiness…

Your brother,
Brandon, IL

Message from Jason (October 2016)

Dear friends,

I hope this note finds you as well as possible. By the time you get this October will likely be almost over. Did you know that this autumn month is considered LGBTQ History Month? Did you know that October 11th is considered National Coming Out Day? I wanted to take a moment to share some reflections about both of these things.

There are lots of different feelings that people have about National Coming Out Day. For some people this day is a celebration and a day to tell stories about how they first knew, who they first told, what the first kiss was like, how the first dress felt, or any number of other funny or heart breaking stories. For other people it is a day that ignores their experience. Not everyone chooses to come out. Not everyone has a choice not to come out. Visibility, being seen, is not what everyone is looking for. When it comes to policing in queer communities of color, being seen often then means being arrested. Coming out, or being known, turns into repression. Closets are not only places people choose out of fear, closets can also be places of survival.

I think a lot about the stories many have shared here about coming out. Telling others you are LGBTQ while in prison can be a big risk. Sharing your status as being HIV+ can bring harassment or isolation. Yet so many of you still choose to do so and doing so can take great courage. This is not to say that all coming out is intentional though. Sometimes other people can tell, sometimes we get clocked, sometimes we are forced out of the closet because prisons lock us in a prison that does not match our gender.

Coming out can look different for everyone. Some of us sashay into a crowd and proclaim ourselves as if we were fabulous divas on a stage. Others of us come out quietly in whispers with our closest friends, sharing something that feels precious. There are those of us who come out with our fists in the air demanding our rights be respected. There is no wrong way to come out. There is no wrong way to be an LGBTQ person. While we are part of a larger community, and as Black and Pink we are part of a big family, we are also very different from each other. Each one of us has our own unique needs. As people with differing races, genders, abilities, religions, and other identities, we have different experiences of privilege and oppression. These are differences we must not ignore and these are differences we must understand so that we can be stronger together.

What about your story? Have you ever come out about your gender or sexual orientation? Have you come out to others about another part of you? Have other people ever “outed” you without your permission? Have you ever felt like the closet might be your safest option? Has anyone ever come out to you? How did you respond? How would you want someone to respond to you?

One of the tricky pieces about LGBTQ History Month is that it requires us to know the stories of people who are known to be part of our community. It requires us to know stories of those who have come out in some way or another. As such, LGBTQ History Month will always be incomplete. There are countless people throughout history who were attracted to people of the same gender or who identified as a gender they were not assigned at birth who we will never know about. While we may know the stories of people like Marsha P. Johnson, Harvey Milk, Audre Lorde, Christine Jorgensen, Rock Hudson, Sylvia Rivera and so many others there are even more of our LGBTQ ancestors we will never know about. Their spirits may be watching over us, seeing how we make a path for liberation and justice today. I like to imagine that their spirits may be part of what gives us the strength to keep up our struggles, knowing that once there were no prisons, that day will come again.

In loving solidarity,
Jason

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