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Message from Jason (February 2015)

Dear friends,

I hope this note finds you as well as possible. You will notice that we are still getting our schedule figured out with the newspaper. We appreciate your patience with us. One of the great joys of being an all-volunteer organizing effort is that we have people working with us who are all deeply passionate about justice. One of the challenges is that everyone is navigating and juggling a lot in their lives. If it takes a while to get a response or to get the newspaper, it is not out of a lack of commitment to you or the struggle. Please know that you are cared for and never forgotten.

February is Black History Month. This month of remembering originally began as Negro History Week in 1925. The efforts behind the honoring of the week came from Carter G. Woodson, a Black historian and journalist who founded the Journal of Negro History. Unsurprisingly, like most of our political ancestors, Woodson was under surveillance by the FBI. According to a biography on Woodson, written by Jacqueline Goggin, the FBI targeted him because of his belief in Black people’s right to self determination. Woodson also spoke on the need for Black people, across class lines, to align together in struggle. In a letter to the NAACP in 1915, Woodson wrote of a need for the organization to take more militant positions and expand operations. When the NAACP rejected his suggestions he wrote back to the Chairman stating, “I am a radical. I am ready to act, if I can find brave men to help me.” It is from radical Black leadership that we hear a call for telling history, of remembering the past to shape the work of today.

Social media, including Facebook and Twitter, have been buzzing with another interpretation of Black History Month. The hashtag, #BlackFutureMonth has been used by Black activists and organizers to tell stories of what is possible. One of the images circulating includes a picture of hands breaking chains, with a heart underneath them. Above the picture is a quote, “Standing in the present and inspired by the past, we envision many futures where black lives matter, black love reins, and black people are free.” At our best, the work of Black and Pink centers this quote in what we do. Centering Black lives, radical Black history, and visions of a world where Black people are free; all of these things forward liberation for all people. Former US president, Ronal Reagan had a foolish idea of trickle down economics, believing that if the wealthiest were given more resources that in some way that would result in poor and marginalized people having more access. The reality is that the opposite is true. When we build from the bottom up, when we organize from the margins, when those most impacted by violence and harm are taking the lead, then all people have access to greater liberation. When we imagine a world free from prisons, we are imagining “futures where black lives matter, black love reins, and black people are free.”

What does Black History/Future Month mean to you? For those of us who are not Black, what would it look like to align with Black struggle? When all oppressed people fight alongside each other there is incredible power. What would it look like, where you are locked up, to align across race? What risks are involved? Who is at most risk? What would the possibilities be? When we look at the recent history, back to 1960s, most successful prison justice efforts were interracial campaigns with strong Black leadership. Do you see examples of that around you? Are you leading or taking part in these campaigns? What can you imagine?

Those of you who have been getting the Black and Pink newspaper for a long time may remember some of our issues when we have shared important LGBTQ Black prison history. Among the people we have highlighted was New Afrikan Anarchist political prisoner, Kuwasi Balagoon. Balagoon was a bisexual Black leader who died of AIDS related illnesses in prison in 1986. He gave his life to the struggle for justice and Black power. I want to close my letter with one of my favorite quotes from him, “the myth that the Imperialists should not be confronted and cannot be beaten is eroding fast and we stand here ready to do whatever to make the myth erode even faster, and to say for the record that not only will the Imperialist U.S. lose, but that it should lose.” We keep doing everything we can knowing that once there were no prisons, that day will come again.

In Loving solidarity,
Jason

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