Message from Jason (February 2017)

Dear Friends,

I hope this note finds you as well as possible. For those of you who have been allowed to go outside, maybe you have noticed some of the unseasonably warm weather that has been going across the country in February. As much as I don’t want global climate change to destroy our planet, it’s nice to feel some warmth in a month that is usually so cold. It’s a mixed blessing. Beautiful days in February are a strange sign of the harm our planet is facing. As a New Englander I am constantly thinking about and talking about the weather, thanks for being patient with me.

As we think about the impending doom facing the planet, it’s impossible not to mention what is going on with the president. How many of you got to watch the Grammy’s? Did you get to see the incredible performance by A Tribe Called Quest and Busta Rhymes? I nearly fell off my couch watching the brilliance. They called Trump out on his racism, Islamophobia, and anti-immigrant policies. There was a beautiful moment where they had a bunch of people burst through a makeshift wall. It was a song of powerful protest.

During the song, Busta Rhymes referred to Trump as “President Agent Orange.” Many people make fun of Trump for his orange hue, created by his terrible fake tan. The choice of the name “Agent Orange” seems very intentional to me and very accurate. As you might know, Agent Orange was the name of a pesticide used by the US government during the Vietnam War. The pesticide was part of what they called, “herbicidal warfare.” They were using Agent Orange to destroy the plant life and the crops in Vietnam. The US military was trying to starve the Vietnamese people and destroy the jungle that the Vietnamese fighters were using to their advantage to defeat the US military (just as they had defeated the French before). The pesticide did not only devastate the land in Vietnam, it poisoned millions of people. Donald Trump is like this, devastating our planet and causing great suffering on people. I think Busta Rhymes named him well.

Trump and his cabinet have used each week to bring about one terrible policy after another. His “Justice” Department recently rescinded the Obama plan to end contracts between the federal BOP and private prisons. As an organization, Black & Pink has not focused a lot of our attention on private prisons. We have not focused much on private prisons because we see the focus as a distraction from the fact that ALL prisons are evil, regardless of who own/runs them. We also see it as a distraction from the fact that the profit motive is secondary to the true purpose of prisons, which is to control and regulate those society considers disposable or threatening, particularly Black, Latinx, Indigenous, disabled, LGBTQ, and poor people. However, the recent letter that opened the door to more contracts with private prisons included a particularly scary sentence. In his memo, Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote that the BOP should return to the previous approach of contracts with private prison companies in order to, “meet the future needs of the federal correctional system.” As a so-called “Law and Order” president, we can only speculate about what the Trump Administration intends to do to expand incarceration. This is something we will be paying more attention to in the months and years to come.

Things are certainly in a scary moment right now, but as we saw at the Grammys, and as we see in the streets every day, resistance is strong and powerful. It is our collective responsibility to keep our fight going and we have the power to fight back in many different ways. I am thankful to all of you for your daily struggles to justice. Let us continue to fight knowing that once there were no prisons, that day will come again.

In loving solidarity,

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