Purpose, Values, Analysis & Structure

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Black & Pink is an open family of LGBTQ prisoners and “free world” allies who support each other. Our work toward the abolition of the prison industrial complex is rooted in the experience of currently and formerly incarcerated people. We are outraged by the specific violence of the prison industrial complex against LGBTQ people, and respond through advocacy, education, direct service, and organizing.

 Our Values

 

Value How we put it into practice
We believe in being an open and inclusive family of LGBTQ and/or HIV+ people and those whose struggles are aligned. We aim to break down barriers, not to build them up. We welcome people at the margins of society: queer/trans, of color, poor, criminalized, disabled. We uphold the right to self-identification, and we don’t think there is one “model” of who a Black & Pink member should be. We put the pen-pal program at the core of our work, so that relationship-building through the prison walls is not only a key piece of our work but also informs the rest of our work. We don’t make assumptions about people’s identities (e.g., asking for pronouns at the beginning of meetings). Although we take into account people’s politics and experiences of incarceration, heterosexism, transphobia, etc. in looking at how to participate in Black & Pink, we don’t disqualify members based on identities. While we invite allies to participate, we center the voices and needs of our LGBTQ and/or HIV+ members.
We believe in the power of people placed behind walls. We believe that those most directly harmed by the PIC, via lived experiences of incarceration and/or police targeting (especially due to being low-income LGBTQ and/or HIV+ people of color), are those who best lead the way to win prison abolition. Black & Pink centers and takes leadership from currently and formerly incarcerated LGBTQ and/or HIV+ members and draws first and foremost from these folks’ knowledge and experience to shape our priorities, strategies, and tactics for abolition. The formerly and currently incarcerated people in leadership positions will be empowered in their roles according to their own interest and capacity, with adequate support/power-building work from the rest of the team, so that we don’t tokenize them and burden them with all of the labor. We welcome people’s’ involvement in multiple ways and work to develop the capacity of our membership.
We believe a just world requires abolition of the prison-industrial complex and creation of community alternatives to addressing harm. We explicitly are not a reformist organization, as the PIC is an inherently harmful system. We want to abolish the PIC for everyone, not just “nonviolent offenders”, as we believe no one is disposable. We don’t support temporary solutions that we will only have to fight against later. When deciding to support/advocate for a policy or sign onto an initiative, we ask ourselves if it is a “non-reformist reform” that truly works toward abolition, while reducing harm in the immediate timeframe. For example, we work on campaigns to pass bills that limit use of solitary confinement, but we are against proposals that purportedly make prisons “friendlier” or decarcerates some people while funneling more money back into the PIC. We learn from transformative justice models pioneered by other organizations and build community on the outside to try to prevent harm from occurring in the first place.
We believe in the importance of healing and holding our complicated selves. We believe that everyone is not only the worst thing they have done, nor the worst thing that has happened to them. We respect and learn from each other’s journeys. We recognize the importance of taking time to heal from personal trauma and violence. We meet people where they’re at, as no one is perfect. We don’t engage in destructive, harsh call-outs but learn together and lovingly push each other’s analysis and praxis toward abolition and liberation. We encourage people to step back when they want/need to do self-care on their own terms, and we also put effort into community care, such as scheduling community dinners and volunteer appreciation gatherings that aren’t meant to be “productive” but just a time to appreciate one another, take a break, and have fun.
We believe in adaptability for the sustainability of the organization. We’re aware that all of us have our own lives with human needs. We are flexible to shifting capacities and don’t lock people into rigid responsibilities only to have them burn out. We expect each person to communicate proactively when their capacities change and to reach out for help when they need it. We honor how hard getting out of prison is and recognize the struggle of juggling volunteering, jobs, life, etc. We communicate our needs and changes upfront and in advance as possible so that we can accommodate and advance the work. We will centralize the information to decentralize the work, allowing knowledge and tasks to be passed from member to member so the burden doesn’t lie on one person/group. While we can’t do everything for everybody all the time, we can do some work to support participation (e.g., send someone a computer who needs one in order to be involved).
We believe in transparency and remaining as simple of an organization as possible. We value participatory decision-making and sharing information throughout our whole membership body. We work toward an organizational culture where we solicit, give, and integrate feedback in a constructive and compassionate manner. We don’t want to become an inaccessible bureaucracy. We use the newspaper and monthly chapter calls to give cross-national updates to and solicit feedback on what we’re doing from our inside and outside members. We don’t think any single individual always has the final authority on everything, and we collaboratively decide on meeting facilitators and times, etc., rather than following a rigid set of rules. According to previously agreed-upon scope, and with these stated values in mind, we entrust and delegate decisions in specific areas to certain working groups/members (e.g., newspaper editor doesn’t have to consult with everyone else before including a letter in an issue) so that the work doesn’t get bogged down in bureaucratic procedures.
We believe in solidarity with movements for liberation to recognize and resist oppression in all its forms. We understand that our work is interconnected with that of other groups and organizers that are abolitionist, queer, trans, feminist, anti-capitalist, anti-white supremacist, pro-disability justice, anti-colonialist. We are just one family in a broader movement for collective liberation. We respect those before us and alongside us who have been organizing for liberation. We use and build upon others’ frameworks, analysis, and tactics as appropriate and with proper credit. We actively reach out and respond to requests from other groups whose values we share. We host/co-sponsor events/teach-ins that are open to the public when possible. Our political education draws from many movement sources, e.g., black feminist thought, visionary fiction, to develop a fuller understanding of what we’re fighting against and what we’re working toward.

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.

 


WORDS WE USE

There are many words in our Statement of Purpose and Analysis that mean different things to different people. Here is what they means to us:

Prison Industrial Complex – The prison industrial complex is a system of control. It is the prisons and jails and detention centers- the concrete and steel buildings that warehouse people. The prison industrial complex is also how the government and companies work together to control, punish, and torture poor communities and communities of color. This includes the police. And immigration enforcement. And courts. And how the news and movies show “criminals.” And cameras in communities. And companies making money on prison phone calls. And how schools are set up to fail us. And many others ways that take power away from many, and keep it with those at the top. (Adapted from Critical Resistance)

Abolition – Abolition means a world where we do not use the prison industrial complex as an ‘answer’ to social, political, and economic problems. Abolition means that instead we make new ways to stop harm from happening. It means responding to harm when it does happen, without simply “punishing.” We will try to fix the causes of harm, instead of using the failed solution of punishment. This means harm will occur far less often. This is often called “harm reduction.” We will not use policing, courts, and prisons, which are making us less safe. Abolition means creating sustainable, healthy communities with the power to create safety. (Based on words by Rose Braz, former director of Critical Resistance)

“Free World” – We use “free world” for people not in prison, jail, or detention. We use “quotation marks” because we understand the word “freedom” to be complicated. Some people say none of us are free because the arms of the prisons, courts, and police reach into our communities, home, jobs, and schools. Some say freedom is within ourselves and that it can never be taken from us. When we say “free world, ” we mean people not in prison, jail, or detention right now.

LGBTQ – These letters stand for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer. We know that sexuality and gender are much bigger than these letters. People also call themselves: same gender loving, homosexual, homophile, transsexual, transvestite, nelly, asexual, Two spirit, intersex, sissy, dyke, and many others labels. We want to find better words for all people who identify outside of heterosexual and strict gender boundaries. For now, we use LGBTQ.

 


B&P FAMILY STRUCTURE

Black and Pink structure chart 2017 copy