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Message from Jason (February 2016)

Dear friends,

I hope this note finds you as well as possible. As I write this letter from the Black and Pink office in Boston, I’m watching the rain fall, creating streams of water flowing down the street. There are a few trees outside the office window, bare branches reaching up into the sky like hands extending up from the parking lot. It is a lovely view to look up at.

My letter this month focuses on a submission that went out in the January issue of the Black and Pink newspaper. The submission was from Joshua (AKA Sonorous Nocturne). We have received many responses to his submission, and we will print as many as we can. I want to begin by apologizing for printing that submission. We have been clear in other issues of the newspaper that we do not print any articles, stories, or art that are oppressive or harmful. We acknowledge that no one of us wants to be defined by the worst thing we have ever done. However, that does not mean that we wish to create space to justify the harm we have caused. We agree with many of you who responded that a child who has not reached puberty CANNOT consent to sexual contact with an adult. It is perfectly okay to use the newspaper to tell stories about your journey to take responsibility for the harm you caused. It is okay to ask each other questions about harm and feelings of guilt. It is not okay for us to print stories where someone details the harm they caused and justifies it. As an abolitionist organization, Black and Pink does not believe we can solve social problems by locking people up. This does not mean we do not believe people should be held accountable and responsible for their actions. We are not trying to shame people for the things they have done, but we are also not ignoring harm people admit to.

I also want to recognize that it may have been really hard, or triggering, for someone who has experienced child sexual abuse to read that story last month. Reading about someone justifying sexual abuse as consensual can be really painful. I want to apologize, deeply, for that. While people detail lots of experiences of being assaulted or harmed, it is very different to print a detailed story from someone describing the harm they caused. I want to encourage people to take the space needed to breathe and take care of yourself (as best as possible, given the reality of being locked up). We will do our best to prevent the printing of this kind of story in the future.

There was an organization called Generation FIVE that was founded by survivors of child sexual abuse who are working to end child sexual abuse within five generations. They give us these five strategies:

  1. Leadership Development: train and support diverse community members and organizations to provide leadership in ending child sexual abuse within their communities.
  2. Community Solutions: develop community-based support networks and culturally relevant solutions to address child sexual abuse.
  3. Transformative Justice:build the capacity of communities to support survivor healing, foster offender accountability and recovery, and call bystanders into effective action.
  4. Alternative Institutions: design alternative community institutions that prevent child sexual abuse and respond effectively to individual, family and community needs.
  5. Movement Building: build a broad based social movement, creating change in the social values and political conditions that allow for child sexual abuse to continue.

As Black and Pink members we can begin practicing these things right now, whether you are in prison or not. We have a responsibility to challenge each other and to work with each other to change. Black and Pink works with all LGBTQ people regardless of their offense, we are not trying to shame anyone for anything they have done. We do want to invite our membership to remember that we use the term family because we are all looking out for each other. Part of looking out for each other is inviting each other to change and encouraging each other to grow into stronger justice-seeking people. At the same time, being a family means we have to support those of us who are survivors, acknowledge when we ┬áharm each other, and then work to address that harm. We keep building this movement together, even though it’s difficult, knowing that once there were no prisons, that day will come again.

In loving solidarity,

Jason

 

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