Letters to Our Family (September 2016)

To my Black and Pink family,

How is everybody doing? Both behind the walls and in the free world. Well, my name is Edward a.k.a. Sincere. I have been receiving this newsletter for some time now, but, this is my first time writing. So, real quick, I’m a Black and Indian bi-sexual man locked up in Rhode Island’s (A.C.I.). I’m 29 year’s old serving a 24 year sentence and been locked up for 12 1/2 years and counting!! Yes, I been down since I was 17 years old.

Well, there’s a whole lot I’d like to speak about that’s really weighting on my mind. This past month has been crazy and there’s event’s that brought tear’s to my eyes. Homophobes like “Omar Mateen” gunning down our sister’s and brothers in the month of gay pride, their has been two more black men murdered in cold blood by police, and five officer’s has been killed. Now, those in power are trying to paint the Orlando attack as “radical Islam” as a way to point finger’s at all Muslim’s. Its just wrong.

First, the attack on our LGBTQ community in Orlando although it’s labeled as one of the deadliest mass shootings in US history, its only one of many racist and hateful act’s that we, as a family, live with today. It just never been this bad for our people. In 2016, LGBTQ people are still not accepted, we’re looked down on, and hated.

Understand that LGBTQ people, and people who are non-white has never been loved, respected, or treated equally in America. In my eyes, it’s been that way in the past and the present. Even though we’ve come a long way from the past, we still have a longer path to march down. So, as long as we still have to fight for our right’s these act’s will still be committed.

This is a time when we can’t allow the media or the government dictate our future or allow them to place distrust among us as a community, and family. We need unity among us all, and protest, demonstrate, and what ever else we have to do, to receive and demand our respect, equality, love, and trust. Demand a end to discrimination, unemployment, police brutality and the end to prisons. It takes unity, and do what need’s to be done by any means necessary. We need the unity of all people white, black, straight, LGBTQ, all religions (Islam, Jews, Christians, etc).

My heart goes out to the polices family as well. While keeping it real with you (my family), I dislike cop’s. But, at the same time I do not agree with the act’s of senseless murder. No matter who does the murdering (US, cop’s, the government with the death penalty, etc.) to me, murder is murder and all should stop. And let love and unity murder hate.

I’m going to end this now with hopes of everybody coming together to fight this fight as one. I’ll leave you with something that “Karma” from Georgia said in Junes Black and Pink paper “I challenge each and everyone of you, my brothers, sisters, & those undecided or indifferent either way, to fight along my said as i fight along yours. Why you experience defeat, push on harder. When you feel weak or in despair, just know I have too. But continue & you will win! Wars are won through many battles, & a battle lost is not the war! You must be stronger than the opposition!

Love you all. Xoxo
Sincere, Rhode Island

 

Dear Black and Pink,

My name is Lance. I’m a 46 year old uber healthy gay black male. And I’ve been down since 1989. I’ve been receiving Black & Pink since 2012-13. I love the up to date news and historic political articles and the poetry is very powerful. I often shed tears reading about all the different struggles that my brothers and sisters go through.

I just got done reading the June 2016 issue and would never have known about that massacre at Club Pulse in Orlando. The young lives that were needlessly lost just broke my heart to pieces.

In today’s society homophobia and transphobia are not fears they are a deep seated hatred towards us. Like racism it is taught. Any-phobia starts out as a fear. Fear of expression, fear of being seen, fear of not being accepted, fear of not being loved, fear of loss. These are the only fears people of that -phobia- feel. In time that fear becomes so suffocating and confining that for one who is not but wants to be, that fear morphs into anger and hatred aimed at that desire to be like us. Some people can break through that prison and become that beautiful butterfly. For others, unfortunately, that inability to break through, the cowardice all become a boiling pot of hatred, first for the self then for us (LGBTQ).

Islam does not prescribe to self-loathing suicide, it is a sin. I think Omar loved everyone in that club and because he feared to express it he destroyed the object of his desire and that my friend is the saddest part of this tragic story. Rest in Peace Omar Mateen, I forgive you.

In spite of the anger we feel we must continue to love. I’ve lost 49 beautiful family members, but this tragedy only fuels my desire and ambition to work for and join forces with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth ages 24 or under. Suicide prevention is my biggest concern.

All my life I’ve been gay and I’ve fought for and protected gay people. Some of my closest friends growing up and in prison were gay and lesbian. Although all our lives are precious and for all areas that I still don’t fully understand I’ll always have oceans of love and emotional support and physical unity for all of you.

Stay strong in solidarity.
Lance, New York

 

Dear Black and Pink Family,

This is my first time writing, so please bare with me…Before I further apply these words of true feeling to this paper; I would like to extend my warmest greetings to all my brothers and sisters out there, by hoping that every last one of you that’s in solitary confinement like myself are remaining strong and emotionally, mentally, as well as physically!! Properly introducing myself my name is Kevin, but prefers to be addressed as “Kev”, I’m a black 36 years young bisexual male who is currently confined at CCI in Tehachapi, CA. I’m in the cell with an individual who makes degrading statements and comments about individuals who are gay, transgender, and bisexual, but watches Ellen on tv every day. Which shows and demonstrates to me a negative, confused, cold-hearted and unempathic person…seeing all my LGBTQ brothers and sisters go through the unthinkable at Pulse nightclub in Orlando touched me emotionally and I grieved and felt all those who were killed, their families their pain and hurt. I have a auntie who is considered a “dyke” and that could’ve been her there..The dumb and stupid comments my cellie made about those innocent people who were at Pulse enjoying themself really and truly not only pissed me off, but also made me lose a a lot of respect for him, and made me have a different perception of him as a human being. Before I terminate this missive, I would like to tell all my brothers and sisters behind the walls to stay strong emotionally and mentally, don’t let no one get you down, keep ya head up, and most importantly continue on being who you are and don’t let no one stop you, this missive is concluded!!

Respectfully,
Kev, California

 

Dear Black & Pink Family,

First off let me shout out to all LGBTQ’s world wide! This is my first time writing so bear with me ya’ll. I go by the name of Baby J I’m a 26 year old gay male-top, from the Dominican Republic on lock-down in the great state of Texas! I’m serving 15 yrs for agg assault with a deadly weapon. I’ve been getting B&P for a few months now and I must say I love it, I love it, I love it lol!

Thanks to Black & Pink I have come out of the closet!! I am no longer hiding who I really am. For too many years I have lived how others want me to live and I’ve never been more happy with myself than I am now. So I want to thank Black & Pink and the whole LGBTQ community for helping me see that I can be me, myself and I all day everyday! I see now that I am not alone, I have the whole LGBTQ community behind me! It feels so good to be loved, to be accepted, to be me!!! The only support that I have in prison is Black & Pink and I look forward to the newspaper every month.

I’ve been locked up now for 3 yrs and it has been pretty hard. Due to me being a known member of a organization/family I have had to hide my sexuality, but no more…… I have given up my position in the nation, laid down my pitchforks and brought out what I’ve been hiding since I was 12 yrs old. Although I am uber-masculine still have a feminine side! I decided I’d leave the organization not only because they wouldn’t accept me anymore, but out of respect for my brothers and myself. I couldn’t lie to them any longer and most importantly, I couldn’t continue to lie to myself.

I want to touch on what Kidd-G said in the June 2016 newsletter. Kidd-G you said that the love of your life came running into your life and told you if they can’t accept who you are then they are not a true brother anyways…. Man if that ain’t a true statement I don’t know what is. Shout out to Kidd-G from Ohio!!

Well let me stop running my mouth and come to a close. Sometimes I seem to develop a bad case of motor mouth lol!! Once again thank you Black & Pink and thanks to all LGBTQ’s for all your love and support!! My heart and love will forever go out to the lives lost in Orlando and they families que descansen en paz y en poder!! Until next time mi familia……

Tu Sabre Qen Ye Soy,

Amor,
Baby J, Texas

 

Dear Family,

I have wrote once as “Alexia,” but due to a choice I like more, I now go by “Melaina.” I am a 26 year old transwoman who is passionate about being a woman, and strongly believes/supports the LGBT community. We are who are, choice as not – it’s time we are accepted.

This week has proven interesting, as the events that have taken place are signs of pure ignorance and refusal to understand. The first event that has occurred is the Mass Shooting in Orlando, FL. May God bless those who survived, the families who lost, and those we lost. Hatred is not the answer, but it does make us stronger as a community – it shows us what we need to improve.

The other incident I speak of has taken place here at the Wyoming State Penitentiary. As a transwoman, I am wanting to be able to shower separately – as allowed under PREA -, be pat searched by females, have female under clothes; the lovely warden here informed me that I would receive NOTHING!! Even though policy and law state that I can receive once accommodation. I have made the choice to take the battle, not just for me, but for my future sisters who may come through. No one should have to be forced into being someone they aren’t, all because no one wants to understand.

I will keep my family updated on this process, I do ask for support, letters would be great. Luckily I do have a supportive sergeant and officers, I’m thankful for both.

Not only do I have the supportive WDOC employees, I have my supportive Brothers here who have not given up on me. Thank you, all of you, for your continued help! I love you!!

One day we will have a world full of people who can be themselves. A world with no hate. We cannot give up.

My best goes out to all my Brothers and Sisters! We are strong, we WILL WIN!!

Love Always
Melaina D. Wyoming

 

 

 

 

 

Message from Jason (September 2016)

Dear friends,

I hope this note finds you doing as well as possible. I want to begin by recognizing all of those who participated in any kind of action on September 9th. We cannot go in to much detail about the actions that took place on that day around the country. If we did, the newspaper would probably be rejected from many prisons. I do want to honor the brave organizing that took place. I know some Black and Pink members took part. There has been some major media attention to what prisoners did. All of us should remember the events that took place at Attica prison in 1971. We must remember that the government killed 43 people when they retook Attica, 33 prisoners and 10 guards. The actions on September 9th showed incredible bravery. Without risk, change is not likely. We are in solidarity with all people resisting prison violence and exploitation.

There has been some other pretty amazing resistance in the news lately. Have you been following what is happening with the Dakota Access Pipeline? There has been some incredible resistance coming from Indigenous people from all across the country. Leaders and members of Indigenous nations have been coming together to stop the Army Core of Engineers from giving permission to a group of companies that are stealing land to build the pipeline. The primary company that owns the pipeline is called Energy Transfer. The company is run by Kelcy Warren, who is a multi-billionaire from Texas. He is planning to make enormous amounts of money off of the pipeline. The pipeline would move oil that is drilled in North Dakota all the way down to the Gulf. The pipeline would go through burial grounds and holy land of many Indigenous people, but in particular the Hunkpapa Lakota and Yanktonai Dakota people. The current encampment began with people from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation and has grown to include countless other nations and tribes. In the middle of September a call was made for all Indigenous people to come to the encampment in solidarity. Palestinians, Aboriginals, and other First Peoples arrived at the encampment to show their support. The power and strength of the resistance is beautiful, they are already winning some major victories. As the saying goes, direct action gets the goods.

While the current encampment, or prayer camp as people are calling it, is getting a lot of attention right now, the resistance to this pipeline is not new. Members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribal government have been in the federal courts fighting against Energy Transfer since 2014. The pipeline was originally supposed to cross the Missouri river just north of of the capital of North Dakota, Bismark. According to a report on Indian Country Today, “The route was changed to cross north of Standing Rock instead because they weren’t willing to put largely white Bismarck’s drinking water at risk. Apparently it’s ok to put Native people’s water at risk though.” Even as the peace camps continue to grow, over 4,000 people camping out, others are still fighting to secure victories in the courts and with the federal government. After the media highlighted the violent attacks by a private security force against Indigenous protestors, during which the security force sicced dogs on the people, the federal government released a statement requiring a review of the situation. While a review and an investigation is not a complete win, it shows that the resistance is working and the people are winning.

The peace camp resisting DAPL is the largest gathering of people Indigenous to North America in centuries. It is the first gathering of all seven bands of the Lakota people since the defeat of Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn. As people build the protest encampment they are also offering meals to the thousands gathered, providing healthcare, and even running a school for children. Whenever people fight for their right to safe water, sovereignty, and the ability to live free from violence, we must align in that struggle. We are striving to create a world where we do not keep people in cages. The United States government has created giant cages out of the reservations that Indigenous people have been relegated to. As abolitionists, we must be willing to connect our struggle with this one. We build our movements together knowing that once there were no prisons, that day day will come again.

In loving solidarity,

Jason

Open Letter of Solidarity with Standing Rock and Everyone Resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline

9.14.16

Today, on this global day of action against the Dakota Access Pipeline, Black & Pink Chicago shares this letter of solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all people in the struggle to save our water. Water is life. Our work towards abolition requires us to ensure that all people have their basic needs met: housing, food, air, water. The Dakota Access Pipeline stands in the way of our vision of a world without police and prisons, a world that values life over profit.

Time and again, we have seen that prisoners are often the last to get access to clean water under disaster capitalism. We saw it after Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy and so many other “natural” disasters. We saw it in Illinois a couple months ago after Gov. Rauner’s refusal to pass a budget in Illinois left some counties with exorbitant water bills and threatening to cut water off to thousands of people locked in state prisons. This pipeline is a threat to hundreds of our Black & Pink family, thousands of other incarcerated people, and millions of non-incarcerated people in its path.

In addition to the environmental destruction this pipeline will create, we abhor the militarized violence that water protectors have faced while resisting its construction. In North Dakota, security guards working for the pipeline company have attacked indigenous water protectors with dogs and pepper spray. We must resist the ongoing genocide of native peoples through toxic polluting and theft of sacred lands, as well as the brutalization and incarceration of those who resist. May enough of us be enraged and moved to action by this to stop state and corporate violence, to stop this pipeline, and to disarm the police.

No to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Not at Sacred Stone. Not in Illinois. Not anywhere.

#WaterIsLife
#NoDAPL
#FreeLeonardPeltier
#AbolitionNow

JOB POSTING – Black and Pink National Office Manager Job Description

Job Announcement! Job Announcement! Job Announcement! Job Announcement!

Black and Pink National Office Manager Job Description

Summary:

The role of the Black and Pink National Office Manager is to ensure an orderly and efficient office to enable the extensive work of the organization. This individual maintains healthy office systems, at both office locations (The City School, 614 Columbia Rd. Dorchester and Encuentro 5, 9a Hamilton Pl. Downtown Boston) that facilitate timely communication between prisoner members, “free world” volunteers, working groups, the leadership circle, and the National Director. The individual helps to create a culture of prioritizing needs of those directly affected by the prison industrial complex.

Hours/Compensation:

This is a half time position, 20 hours per week (which hours and days are flexible based on the needs of the individual, though Sundays from 3-6pm are required). This is a salaried position, $20,000 year, paid on the 15th and last day of the month. There are 4 weeks of paid vacation yearly, and comp time is accrued if working over 20 hours in a week (though working over 20 hours in a week is strongly discouraged). The individual is welcome to be a volunteer with Black and Pink, though the volunteer aspects are separate from staff time (this tension can be discussed in supervision with the National Director). Black and Pink does not provide staff with health insurance at this time, though will pay any monthly/yearly premiums for healthcare obtained through Mass Health (the state funded healthcare in Massachusetts). Black and Pink will also pay a $60/monthly Massage Envy membership or up to $60 for a gym membership, or some other self care practice.

Qualifications:

The ideal candidate for the job will have computer skills including an ability to learn our data system, utilize gmail, navigate Microsoft word, and other assorted computer tasks. The candidate should also be familiar with social media as some of our leaders primarily communicate via facebook. The candidate should also be able to communicate effectively with currently and formerly incarcerated people with compassion. While the candidate does not have to align with all of Black and Pink’s politics, the candidate must be able to help the organization live out our purpose of serving LGBTQ and/or HIV positive prisoners while working to abolish the US prison system.

Tasks:

  • Sort prisoner mail
  • Respond to requests for addresses of prisoners for community group events
  • Coordinate meeting times and reminders of meetings for national working groups, national leadership circle, national transition team
  • Update Black and Pink events/workshops/presentations on Facebook, google calendar, and website
  • Communicate with Newspaper Editor about ensuring timeliness of the newspaper schedule
  • Send immediate thank you notes to new donors
  • Update “free world” database in zoho with newspaper subscribers and donors
  • Help ensure clean organization of the office space
  • Mail reports and other requested materials to organizations and individuals seeking more information about Black and Pink
  • Ensure mail and newspaper submissions are available for volunteer drop-ins that happen across Boston
  • Respond to emails that go to members@blackandpink.org and office@blackandpink.org
  • Communicate with the National Director about other necessary tasks

To Apply:

Please send resume and a letter explaining your interest in and qualifications for the job to jason@blackandpink.org by September 23rd. This job is only available to formerly incarcerated people (those who have done at least one month in a jail or prison). Hiring preference is given to people who are part of communities directly targeted by the prison industrial complex.

Billy from Texas on the September 9th Prisoner Strike

So family something is going to happen across this great nation. (yeah right), on September 9th of 2016.

There is a call for a nation-wide work stoppage for many reasons but to bring to light what’s going on. Slave Labor People, when TDC is part of the stock market due to our labor and skills we get nothing.
So if you will remember back in 1971, New York Attica Prison Rebellion was the day it begun, even though it only lasted 5 days on the 13th. State troupers fired and both guards and inmates were killed.
Keep it peaceful but lay it down. Just quit please, I beg you all. It’s not just our backs they’re making money off of. It’s our family also. Those who have to send money for us to survive in here, remember survive not spend every night while others around you don’t have soap or deodorant or basics. So while you’re pointing your finger at the dude in the shower with no shoes on, its because he or she is working his ass off for your and the system for free.

I hate to admit it but I know in my soul that shitty ass Texas will keep on doing what they do. But Billy ain’t.
You heard me say it before, I’m tired and I just can’t believe this chance will pass those by without even a thought.
Living like this is not normal and I just can’t resign myself to thinking any different.

It’s people like… Assata Shakur. She once said,

“People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to actually be aware of being a slave.”

With that ya’ll I leave you with just this poem. It seems anger is alive right now. From what happened in Orlando to what’s going on here. Jason is so right in his anger, but I guarantee it will inspire him and keep moving him forward not let it cripple him. I also feel if Jason and the many others trying to abolish prison successfully we have to work from the inside and not just sit on our collective asses and wait for it just to happen. What is your battle?

Wake Up People – by Billy 2016

Don’t allow them to tell you to it down and shut up.
You want real change, “Wake up” Start costing
Your system time and monies. Either on more man
Hours or our courts. They will notice.
Wake up
Let new ideas take over – tell them to keep
This in mind. “We will be always watching. No
Longer are we blind. We see their ploys we
Are not their toys – Wake up

The press and government tells us, Mr. Snowden
Should be tried for war crimes, or treason. Really?
The government or PIC tells us we’re not safe.
Snowden proved to us we were being watched.
George Orwell told of this in his book 1984
Now there is a camera on every corner or a prison
In ever county.
Wake up
“We must do this they say, it’s the only way
to keep us safe. Sleep people.
If you ask me we out number them now, look at
The chaos in the street its here people, Wake up.

Our schools are falling down, let’s build more prisons
Our government can’t pay its bills. Let’s build more prisons
Our government helps the banks still our money – but
God forbid, build more prisons.
Wait, did you hear our children are homeless and hungry?
They know our kids will steal for their food.
Look the little ignorants up-build more prisons
You are only being told what they cannot hide.
You will be just fine, go back to sleep
Wake up
There are such new passions and ideas,
I read them every day. Your allowing, mindless
Thinks to stop you like who’s hetero or gay
Our women are allowed to succeed when they
Roll over just to yawn. But in reality, their still
Oppressed and raped by dawn!
Wake up

If this poem has pissed you off, good, what
Are you going to do about it just there and
Brood?
Wake up!

I do wish to say I personally, wish to thank those who do write and try to better society inside and out.

Awake and struggling from the inside.

Peace,
Billy

August in Chicago –it’s happening!

Hey there pen-pals, volunteers & supporters!

Here’s some updates & announcements from the crew at Black & Pink Chicago this month.  As always – follow us on facebook for more up to date info, and drop us a line at blackandpinkchicago@gmail.com if you have any questions.

Fam Mail:

“Queer Reels: A Fundraiser for Black & Pink Inside Members”

Sunday, August 21 6-9 at the Dojo in Pilsen.

Suggested donation of $1-5 at the door/ no one turned away for lack of funds. We will also be tabling with merch including “Solidarity not Solitary” T-shirts and patches, and raffle tickets!

Pen-pal Matching Night will take place next on Monday August 15th, from 7-9pm at 656 W. Barry.  Come through if you’ve been meaning to be matched but haven’t started writing yet!

Community Dinner

Community Dinner teamed up with the Chicago  Community Bond Fund in July. We had over 40 community members from our groups come together to share a meal and stories with each other. We are hoping this event kicks off a series of community dinner collaborations between other abolitionist organizations in Chicago that we have crushes on. We also celebrated our 3rd birthday of being a chapter with birthday brownies!

Our next ‘Community Dinner’ will be on Wednesday August 24th from 6-8 at 637 S. Dearborn, with Love & Protect.  They are hosting a letter-writing night to find pen-pals for more of their members, and we’ll be joining that effort and providing a meal for all who come through.  Join us!

Political Education
Political education did a PIC 101 workshop for Fed Up Fest: A Queer & Trans punk fest. The workshop used a “crime map” to explore the root causes of crimes, which stage police come into the scene of a crime, and the systemic oppressions that make up what the prison industrial complex is.

Advocacy

From our friends at Uptown People’s Law Center we’ve learned about this critical opportunity to take action on solitary confinement. Although IDOC has published proposed regulations which might reduce the harm of solitary confinement, these proposed regulations don’t apply to people who are essentially in solitary and who rarely get to leave their cells, including those in protective custody, a form of solitary that is often used to ‘protect’ LGBTQ folks from violence by subjecting them to the violence of isolation. Furthermore, the proposed regulations still exceed the 15-day maximum for solitary confinement stipulated under international law.

How can you help? File a public comment by August 15th, stating your concerns about the use of solitary in IDOC. Important: if enough people comment, IDOC will have to hold a hearing. Submit your comment, and get your friends to submit as well!

Comments can be submitted to:

Ms. Echo Beekman, Rules Coordinator

Illinois Department of Corrections

1301 Concordia Court

P. O. Box 19277

Springfield, IL 62794-9277

Re-entry

Do you know of friendly landlords who will rent for super cheap and/or not do background checks?  Do you have old furniture or clothes to donate?  Do you want to be a friend to someone who’s just getting out of prison and looking for community support?

Let us know – we have members getting out all the time and the situation in Chicago for folks returning from prison is stark. (Half of all prisoners who get out go back in within 3 months of getting out).  There are very material ways to show up for people on the regular, and all of us has something to offer.

E-mail blackandpinkchicago@gmail.com with any contributions or ideas you have.

Other stuff that is super rad and relevant:

The Movement for Black Lives released a platform of policy demands.  If you haven’t taken the time to read it – change that.  This is a really big deal. Many of the demands align with our own abolitionist visions and principles, and we look forward to seeing the ways that organizations and communities across the country continue to put these demands into action.

Aaaaand this month marks 6 years since the passing of Marilyn Buck.  Not familiar with her?  She was a white anti-imperialist who was a part of the team that liberated Assata Shakur from prison and became a political prisoner in the US for 29 years.  She died of cancer in 2010, but not until she had left a powerful legacy about the meaning of solidarity in practice.  Check out this interview with her here: https://vimeo.com/16406539

 

That’s all for now – onwards,

B&P Chi

Message from Jason (July/August 2016)

Dear friends,

I hope this note finds you as well as possible. I know that some folks are probably melting in the heat. I know that some prisons are not providing appropriate ventilation, air conditioning, and fans. Please know that you are being thought of during the summer heat.

As you go through this month’s magazine you will see a continuation of stories from people about the Orlando shooting. The process of grief can be long. t imagine we will have stories, letters and poems about Orlando for months and even years to come. As was noted last month and in the post card that went out, there are not enough spaces inside prison to do the needed healing when tragedies like the Orlando shooting occur. Our magazine can, hopefully, be an outlet for some of that healing work. Hopefully you can feel a sense of connection as you write your own responses and read the responses of others. Grief and anger are powerful and we need to turn that in to action. There is much we can all do to help our world heal.

I have been thinking a lot about substance use and drug addiction lately. The War on Drugs is one of the leading causes of incarceration in the United States. This is especially true for Black, Latin@, and American Indian/Indigenous people. I realize that we do not talk enough about drug use and struggles in the newspaper. It is something we talk about a lot with formerly incarcerated and currently court-involved people who are on the outside. There is often a lot of work to be done to support sobriety when folks are on the outside. There is also, however. some support and space that we should make for people on the inside.

As an open family Black and Pink does not have any judgment about people choosing to use any kind of substance. The truth is that we all use mind/body altering substances. If you eat candy, drink soda, or have coffee, then you’re using substances that alter your mind/body. Caffeine and sugar are both strong substances that impact our mood, energy, and attention. Some of us even get addicted to these substances. Have you ever had a headache because you had not had your morning coffee? I know I have. While almost all of us use some kind of substance throughout the day the truth is that some substances have more of an impact on the body than others.

I have been in recovery for almost 8 years. My drug of choice was alcohol. I used to binge drink way too much, black out regularly, and make really bad choices for my safety and the safety of others around me. Not drinking at all is the best solution for me. I remember when I tried moderation. I would try to just have one or two drinks and stop, but that never worked for me. I know some people who are good at moderation, that has never been my strength.

What has been your relationship to substances? Do you struggle with addiction? What is your drug of choice? Black and Pink released in our survey report very clear recommendations to decriminalize all amounts and all types of drugs. We do not believe making substances illegal makes any one’s life better. Our strong belief in decriminalization does not mean we ignore the problems substances can cause in someone’s life. Some people make choices to use substances because life feels too challenging at times and it is really important to have a break. Other people use substances to make a fun night even more fun. There are those who use substances because they feel too much pain without them. As an open family we are not trying to get everyone to stop using all substances. Our dream is for people to have access to the support and resources they need. Substance use can be a really important coping mechanism. It is really important that we do not take anyone’s coping mechanisms away without being sure they have plenty of other coping mechanisms to replace it with. It is equally important that we remove temptations from people who have made a decision that they want to give something up. If someone wants to stop using heroin, it is our responsibility as a family to make sure they have all the tools they need to do that. We need to make sure they are not put in a place where they have to be tempted.

The US prison system is not helping any of us truly deal with the harms that can be caused by addition. As an open family we must work together to create the solutions we need that honor people’s right to make choices about their bodies while being sure everyone has access to treatment and care that they need. We need to keep coming up with new answers knowing that once there were no prisons, that day will come again.

In loving solidarity,
Jason

Letters to Our Family (July 2016)

To All of Our Black and Pink Family,
After the horrible act of hate that claimed the lives of 49 or our brothers and sisters in Orlando, Florida, the LGBTQI Two Spirit community here at USP Tucson made history as we came together to celebrate the first ever LGBTQI 2 Spirit History/Pride event in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Dedicated to those we lost and their families, the event began with a moment of silence followed by some LGBT history, a performance by the prison band “Danger to Society”, and a reading by the Diversity Committee.
Afterward the psychology department gave a brief presentation on Gender Dysphoria, Transgender issues, PREA, and supporting each other. This was followed by presentations from the LGBT 2 Spirit community members. Presentations ranged from poetry, music, spoken word pieces, to personal stories of acceptance and learning to love yourself. the band ‘Danger to Society” performed all original music.
The event kicked off at 1PM and wrapped up around 3:15PM. Around 100 members of the LGBT community here at USP Tucson gathered to celebrate and show their pride in the first ever LGBTQI 2 Spirit History/Pride event ever in Federal BOP history.
My celly, who goes by “Ian”, served as our Master of Ceremonies and it was my celly who fought hard to get this event approved. Trust me, it didn’t just happen. Since February, he has fought to make this historic event happen. the administration made him jump through hoop after hoop, and there were times he shed tears and wanted to give up. His ideas were constantly being denied and it was really hard to see someone try so hard only to get rejected and when he wanted to give up, I asked him “why was this so important to him?” He told me, “Everyone else has their days or months. There’s Black History Month, Native American Heritage Month, the church has December, part of March and April. What do we have?”
He asked his peers and friends what they though and everyone told him, “It’ll never happen, the warden will never okay it.” And after all the rejection, even I began to wonder. Then one day his staff sponsor stopped us on the sidewalk and said, “The warden finally agreed. He approved your event this morning.” After that, Ian had to arrange a date for the use of the chapel in June, then arrange for a band from the Recreation Department, meet with Psychology to see if they would be willing to present something, and the most important thing, he didn’t take “No” for an answer!
To all of the B&P family, don’t ever give up! If you believe in something, fight for it!
We made history because my celly, Ian, fought for what he believed in, and we are already making plans for bigger and better things for next year.
With love and hope,
Mark (Mato Witko Oka) – Arizona

 

Dear Black + Pink Family,
Hello again from Florida. As I’m sure is the case with many of you, I was shocked and hurt after the attack in Orlando. This was not just an attack on one nightclub, it was an attack against our whole community. On the same day, police foiled an attack in California by a man with guns and explosives who intended to harm people at a Pride event.
Sadly, I do not think that we’ve seen the last of large-scale violence against us. As I watched TV news coverage of the attacks, I heard hateful comments by other prisoners in the dayroom implying that we’d gotten what we deserve and applauding the shooter. Hate against us did not magically disappear when the Supreme Court gave us marriage equality. If anything, it may be intensifying in a backlash. Our community is much more visible than it used to be, and there’s a lot of anger over the legal victories we’ve had in such a short time. I don’t say this to make you afraid, but to make you aware. The worst mass shooting in this nation’s history didn’t target the government, the military, political or religious targets, but it was against us. When we go back out into society, we need to be conscious of the circumstances we’re walking into. What can we do to improve the safety for ourselves and others in the LGBT community? Here are some of my suggestions, and I’d like to see what others think too…
Although most of us are felons with no gun rights, we should encourage others in our community who are eligible an willing to carry a gun to do so. Self-defense classes would also be a good idea. If you go to a club or public event, know where the exits are or where you could go for safety an shelter. Report threats anyone makes in person or on the Internet to authorities and demand action.
Although I believe that, in the long term, society will continue to become more accepting of us, we’re not completely there yet. Be strong and be empowered. We will not go back into our closets. We will not cede the progress that we’ve fought so hard for. We will be resilient and unified, and we will move forward.
Ryan in Florida

 

Today the LGBTQ community was attacked by a man in Florida. As a gay man I understand first hand how the LGBTQ community is misunderstood. Too many people believe that loving somebody of the same sex is a disease. But as we all know, it’s a way of life.
For too many years the LGBTQ has been misconstrued to be Taboo. More knowledge needs to be spread to people outside the LGBTQ community. I am deeply saddened by this shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando Florida. It is a extremely heartbreaking event. In my opinion judging somebody on their sexual preference is the same thing as judging somebody on the color of their skin, the clothing they wear or by what religious faith they belong to. It all needs to be abolished.
It doesn’t matter if you’re behind prison walls or outside those gates, chances are you know somebody who is of the LGBTQ family. Each and every day our brothers and sisters need your support. The more we support each other the stronger we become. Don’t be afraid to stick up for one another. In the prison I’m located at in Wisconsin I’ve seen on numerous occasions straight men hurl derogatory comments at Gay or Bi men. And in those groups are people that are supposed to be friends with the man who’s being put down, those individuals won’t stop the problem because they’re afraid of the social stigma of “Guilty by association.” If those friends won’t stick up for you because they’re afraid of what their friends might say it’s time to find some new friends.
After the shooting in Florida, the media needs to starts shining a light on the LGBTQ community. Enough with the shootings. Everybody needs to gain a better knowledge into different cultures we can end all this nonsense violence.
I hope this letter gives people something to thing about. This is my first letter to the B+P family newsletter. I love all of you and I look forward to reading future articles. I’ve gained lots of insights on different issues. In February of 2016 I found out my dad is transgender and my twin brother is also gay. Thanks so much for the paper and all the support that’s send out each month.
Sincerely,
Jordan B., WI

 

Dear beloved family,
I want to extend my love to each and every one of you. I want to send my prayers and express my sorrows to and for the families and the 102 victims of the Orlando, Florida terrorist attack at one of our familial clubs on June 12, 2016. You are not alone in your mourning. I am crying beside you in heart and in spirit.
Now I am a first time writer, so please allow me to introduce myself. I am a 25 year old bisexual white man. I want to comment on 2 entries in the My 2016 issue of B&P.
First, Jason’s “message” on superheroes and comics. I disagree that his message was a silly reflection. I believe that we ALL truly are superheroes, if we choose to be. We do not need to be able to fly, walk through walls, or throw fire from our palms to be superheroes. Just because we can’t do these things does not mean we can’t be superheroes. I mean, one of Jason’s “super powrs” is his ability to keep our LGBTQ family united through this newsletter and the pen pal program. One of my “super powers” is my ability to find some reality in something that seems to be pure fantasy. All of us, in many ways, are like the DC, Marvel, and CAPCOM characters. Our “super powers” are just not as mythical, yet are just as glamorous! Our powers must be developed and nurtured. And just like the TV superheroes, we all have weaknesses. So we must determine our weaknesses and develop a wall of protection around our weaknesses.
We also have a team to fight for justice, equality, freedom, and liberation. That team is you and I. We are the “Super Black & Pink Pride League!”. And according to the count in May 2016 we have within prison, over 9,400 members of this elite team of loving, compassionate Superheroes! And there are many more members on the outside. So I call upon you all, in the closet or out, my heroes, find and nurture your true powers. You are all my heroes and I need all of you to help me in our fight for liberation. We will win…only if we stand together.
Butterfly B of Texas, my beloved sister, your poem entitled “ME” really touched my heart and is part of the reason I decided to finally write a submission after 3 years of receiving the newsletter. I have a similar poem called “Look a Little Deeper” that I will submit.
I want you all to know that you all live in my heart, warming and comforting. And if you so desire, I will live in your hearts so you will never have to be lonely.
Stay Strong and Love Deep.
Jesse AKA Lestat King! CA

 

Dear good and faithful Family,
What up! It’s your girl, yep your little sister Dede. After getting my hands on that May 2016 issue and seeing it for the first time in months and reading it…not only did it bring a smile to my face and make me dance a little, but I couldn’t help the few tears that escaped my eyes. This newsletter/paper makes me feel so connected and a part of this family. When I read it, the love and feel and see in this community is beyond amazing and is so palpable you can touch it. I’m so proud to be a part of this family and community! So thank you and I love you all =]. Now I have a couple of things I would like to respond to: first, my heart goes out to the survivors and victims and of course their families of the tragedy in Orlando that happened to this community (LGBTQIA) and the Latino community as well. I can’t speak for the world, but I can speak for me and this community when I say, Stay strong Orlando, I love you so do my bros and sisters of this family and community (LGBTQ). You are in our hearts and prayers. Love and solidarity Orlando!
Next, to my sister Jackelyn of MI, I want to thank you for the encouragement, support and love you showed me and our sister Jada. Girl, I know it’s hard, by reading your story I could tell you were very frustrated, hurt, and in pain. My advice to you is it’s okay to be strong and to try and tough it out, but truthfully what a lot of people don’t tell you is it’s okay to fall apart too. Just cry and let the tears fall and this goes for anybody. It’s okay to cry it out to someone you love or trust to let out all those emotions or if you don’t have anyone do it by yourself and when you’re done (crying) write it down. I love you and I’m proud to call you my sister! =]. Also to Tiffany, Ms. Tiffany in PA congrats on coming to terms with your true self. It’s never too late, I’m proud of you and I love you.
Lastly, Jason you aren’t the only one who loves comic books and superheroes. I’m a huge Marvel fan as well. I do like DC (Superman) but that’s all really now Marvel-wise. I love the X-men group-wise, individually I would say would have to be Thor and Wolverine. I just love how they both struggle with their issues and their humanity is so transparent to you that it’s beautiful.
I want to give a shout-out to 2 very good and important women Mrs. Gege of Light and Caitlin of hearts on a wire. I would like to welcome my sister Ms. Jackelyn to this family and community. You are loved and I love you girl.
In loving solidarity
Your sister,
Dede, PA xoxo
P.S. Stay strong Orlando we love you!!

 

Dear Sisters,
Like many of you, I am a transwoman housed in a male prison. I know that some days it is hard, that fighting the good fight is frustrating. The first girl to hit the barrier is bound to take some lumps; the barrier of sexism and discrimination is no exception. Someone has to be first and we are just the girls for the job. Determined and motivated.
One area where I have recently made some progress is in pat and strip searches. PREA states that no searches can be conducted to determine your gender or development. Further, PREA states that security staff will be trained in “how to perform cross-gender pat-down searches, and searches of transgender and intersex inmates.” Per the PREA resource website and recent court rulings, there are three options available to search transgender inmates: 1) have the search performed by a member of that inmate’s gender identity, 2) have medical staff conduct the search, and 3) if no gender-same personnel are available, male staff may perform the pat-search. (This means that when men search us, they are to use the backs of their hands on our chest, groin, and buttocks). The size or presence of breasts is not a factor, nor is anything else. Medical staff may not determine your eligibility for this by your transitional state. Gender identity is the only ruling factor. If you identify as female, they must search you as a female.
When I first learned this I was scared. Not of the rules, but of standing up and asking for that in public. Even though I am a known transwoman, that is different than making an issue of it with security staff. Then I realized that my still being semi-closeted made me invisible to staff. Their position that they don’t need to change the policies for the few transwomen they see was justified. Sure I was on the rolls as trans, but I wasn’t pressing the issues. So, at my next pat-search, I hiked up my panties, so to speak, and made the request.
“I am transgender, please use the back of your hand across my chest.”
When he did it without a blink, I felt so validated. But they have not all been so easy. A few days ago I made that same exact request. The officer looked at my chest and said,”There’s nothing there! I can conduct a pat search in any way I want.” He then searched me palm inward, grasping my breast as a show of authority before he was done. Weighing my options, I discussed this with staff as “a training discrepancy.” After all, what I am after is fixing the problem not a lengthy court battle to”get back” at someone. After a discussion with several security staff members, they scheduled training for their officers on how to pat-search transwomen.
Victory by inches.
Renee, in Washington

 

Black & Pink Family,
I wanted to wish everyone well and to bring up some good news. Concerning your article, “The Misclassification of Transgender Women in HIV Research” April 2016, it seems that California [CDCR] finally gets the picture. We are people too.
Last week condom dispensers were put in all day rooms. No condoms as of yet; however, we have been told by the first of the month. The condom dispensers say 3 per person and give instructions for disposal. They also state CDCR does not approve of or endorse sex.
The legislative body in California ordered CDCR in 2005, I think 2005, to issue condoms to fight HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases with condoms & cost effective measures. One person with HIV could cost hundreds of thousands in housing and medical vs. the cost of condoms. I hope people will use them, but we all still need to be careful, so be a slut but a careful slut.
Take care, with love,
Keith, CA

Boston-based organizations denounce the American Correctional Associaton!

NO ACA

PRESS RELEASE

BOSTON—A coalition of Boston-based justice organizations denounces the American Correctional Association (ACA) and will protest the group’s annual conference, to be held August 5-10 at Hynes Convention Center. The ACA, which a federal appeals court Judge David L. Bazelon has called a “propaganda vehicle for corrections authorities,” promotes prison profiteering and rubber stamps torture, slavery, racism, rape, child abuse, and medical neglect in the prisons it accredits.

On Sunday, August 7 at 3pm, the coalition and its supporters will hold a demonstration called “Imagine a World Without Prisons” to protest the ACA Board of Governor’s meeting. The ACA’s vision is to “shape the future of corrections,” but after 147 years as the face of reform, the ACA continues to perpetuate the worst kind of dehumanization from our past. We invite our community to stand with us and shape our own future—a future without prisons.

Organizations led by currently and formerly incarcerated people and communities of color overrepresented in prisons call on Bostonians, Bay Staters, and people across the United States to condemn the ACA and envision a world without prisons. While the ACA describes claims a “legacy of care” and touts a commitment to improving the justice system, the organization actually puts a veneer of credibility and professionalism on rampant human rights abuses in prisons across the United States.

Our coalition includes Black and Pink, The City School, Families for Justice as Healing, and the Young Abolitionists. These organizations support currently and formerly incarcerated people, challenge policies in order to dismantle the prison industrial complex, and create transformative justice alternatives to the United States’ dependence on criminal punishment system. Prison is an American sickness. We are working to remake the world without prisons.

The ACA silences prisoner grievances and sweeps horrific abuses under the rug. During a deposition for a California Class Action lawsuit Plata v. Brown, the ACA Director of Standards, Accreditation and Professional Development from 2006-2014 admitted that ACA auditors were not required to include prisoner complaints in their evaluations of prisons, and could accredit prisons even if courts held that their conditions were unconstitutional.

“I spent 15 years in the Federal Corrections Institution and Camp at Danbury,” Beatrice Codianni said. “Whenever the ACA was coming the staff would go into ‘lipstick on a pig’ mode. “We were told that we could not talk to the inspectors. I wrote to the ACA about my concerns: worms in the showers, exposed fiberglass over bunks, mold, the medical site at the camp wasn’t handicap accessible, and the inside entrance to the visiting room wasn’t handicap accessible. The medical care was substandard. I never heard back. Other women who wrote to the ACA never received a response either. I want the public to know that the inspections are a farce.” The ACA accredited FCI Danbury.

ACA Accreditation Rubber Stamps Human Rights Abuses

The following abuses have been documented at these ACA accredited jails and prisons, among many more:

  • Chicopee Women’s Jail in Massachusetts: Women incarcerated there recently won a lawsuit against the prison because prison staff was video taping their strip searches.
  • Bridgewater State Hospital in Massachusetts: Multiple prisoners committed suicide and staff murdered a prisoner while forcing him into restraints.
  • Many Georgia DOC prisons: The entire Georgia DOC is under DOJ investigation for sexual abuse of LGBT prisoners.
  • The Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Mississippi, run by Geo Group, a private prison corporation: The US Department of Justice found “systemic, egregious practices” at the prison, including “brazen” sexual misconduct involving juvenile offenders that was “among the worst that we’ve seen in any facility in the nation.”

    In the Walnut Grove case, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves wrote the facility had “allowed a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate, the sum of which places the offenders at substantial ongoing risk.”Yet one year later, while still in the process of complying with the settlement agreement, Walnut Grove scored a 100% on another ACA accreditation audit.

    The ACA and Prison Profiteering

  • Former ACA President Christopher Epps was convicted of accepting bribes from consultants for Geo Group and Global Tel*Link, major prison profiteers, to establish contracts in Mississippi. While he was indicted and convicted, he wasn’t just one bad apple.
  • The ACA itself is a business, making money for officials by selling its accreditation to jails and prisons. As of 2014, ACA accreditation fees ranged from $8,100-$19,500, a financial burden borne by taxpayers. The ACA receives these public tax dollars and then uses them to rubber stamp abuses in prisons and jails, causing double harm to the general public.
  • CA accreditation lasts for three years, meaning the organization can continue paying auditors—mostly prison and jail employees—to evaluate facilities. Last year, ACA paid out over $2 million to these auditors.
  • In 2014, the ACA received $4.6 million in taxpayer dollars to facilitate its bogus accreditations.

    For more information, see www.americancorrections.org.

    Contact:
    Khari Charles
    Black and Pink 769-233-6148
    charlescjefferson@gmail.com

    ###

Upcoming Community Dinners

The next Chicago community dinners will be:
Sunday, July 24th (with Chicago Community Bond Fund!) and
Sunday, August 28th

If you’d like to learn more about Black and Pink, chat with Black and Pink members, and participate in this great community with food and conversation, community dinner is a great way to do all of those things. Community dinners are potluck style, so please bring some food to share if you can, and are held at 656 W. Barry Street. We look forward to seeing you there!

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