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Message from Jason (April 2016)

Dear friends,

I hope this note finds you as well as possible. Last month I was sitting in the same office chair I am sitting in now, but this time it’s a gorgeous day. Also, my partner and I just recently got a dog, he is a little chihuahua dachshund mix, and he’s sitting on the chair next to me. I am looking out this window and appreciating my Sacco, the dog’s, company as I have my mind on all of our Black and Pink members incarcerated in prisons all across the country. As the sun shines in my window I am thinking, especially, of those of you who are locked in cells with no windows. Know that we are fighting for the liberation of all prisoners.

I wanted to pick up this month’s letter with some more reflections after a couple letters came in questioning what I was saying in my letter last month. As a reminder, Black and Pink is open to working with all LGBTQ prisoners, regardless of what they are convicted of. We are not here, as a family, to cast any one out because of their actions. We are not defining any person as only one action. All of us are more than the worst thing we have ever done. We also recognize that not everyone did the things they were convicted of. We also know that what people are convicted of is not always the worst thing they have done. We honor all of these things to be true. This does not mean, though, that we ignore the harm each other have caused. Our radical acceptance of each other includes holding each other accountable. In our effort to create a welcoming community, we encourage each other to be honest about the things we have done. When a person is able to take responsibility for causing harm, that gives strength to others in the community to accept them more honestly. Black and Pink does not ask for any kind of confession to be part of our open family, and I am not suggesting that we do so. What I am suggesting is that we can all be more honest about the harm that we have caused and can use our open family to begin to heal ourselves.

I want to say, especially, that my letter last month was not an attempt to shame anyone convicted of a sex offense. I was making clear that sexual relationships between adults and prepubescent children are never consensual relationships. As an open family that works to dismantle all forms of oppression, we do not accept the argument that children can consent to sexual relationships with adults, no matter what the circumstances. This does not mean, though, that we do not accept people who have been inappropriate or harmful to children. We are not suggesting that any type of harm is “the worst of the worst” or in some way unforgivable. I was using my letter last month, and again this month, to clarify our organizational opinion. No matter what you have done in your life, we believe in transformation, and we will go on that journey with anyone who wants to join in.

We also know that the sex offender laws across the country are terrible. We know that LGBT people and men of color are targeted. We know that the Registry is ridiculous and doesn’t make anyone safer. We know that people are arrested for consensual sex. We know that people are charged with serious offenses and sent to prison for incredibly long sentences when there was not even an actual victim. We know people are set up in stings. When we say we believe in abolition, that includes an abolition of the way we deal with people convicted of sex offenses.

I also want to acknowledge that our newspaper has been getting censored and banned from numerous prisons. This censorship is in part because of the original letter from January, but we have been dealing with censorship and rejections of our paper ever since we first started printing it. Many prisons and jails are afraid of the power behind prisoners telling stories and sharing with each other. Two prisons in Kentucky ban the newspaper simply because they believe it “promotes homosexuality.” We have been rejected from prisons in nearly every state across the country, recently the newspaper has been denied to prisoners who are in solitary confinement. Prison administrations are taking away the 1st Amendment rights of people in isolation, and we need to resist. When you get rejection slips, let us know. We are trying to fight back. We won an appeal in North Carolina, and we want to keep winning. It is important that this newspaper gets to all of our members. We are building strength in our family to keep up this fight knowing that once there were no prisons, that day will come again.

In loving solidarity,
Jason

 

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