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Message from Jason (January 2015)

Dear friends,

I hope this note finds you as well as possible. I know that the beginning of the new year brings hope for some but also a sense of hopelessness for others. As the calendar turns it means that some folks are getting closer to their wrap date while for others it can be a reminder that there is no counting the days of a life sentence. I write these words not to make anyone feel bad or worse, but to remind us all that Black and Pink is open to serving all LGBTQ prisoners, no matter who they are. This means that we need to be gentle with each other. This means that we need to look out for each other. Even if you are not one to make resolutions for the new year, I ask that you consider making a promise to yourself, promise to read and hear the stories of Black and Pink members who are different from you and think about ways we can create a world where no one is held in a cage.

How much of the news have you been able to see lately? Have you heard about the protests growing all across the United States? Have you heard that many are making the connections between policing and incarceration? Have you heard that people are shutting down highways, police stations, and even fancy-pants white brunch places? People have been rising up proclaiming loud and clear, BLACK LIVES MATTER! In a country that locks up more Black people than under South African apartheid, this is a radical vision. In a country where a Black person is killed every 28 hours by a cop, security guard, or vigilante, it is clear that the mainstream does not believe Black lives matter. By rallying around a vision that Black lives matter we are able to imagine a radically different country and world. What would it look like to bring this vision into the prison where you are held?

In an interview with Feminist Wire, Patrisse Cullors, who is one of the co-visionaries behind #BlackLivesMatters, shared some of what she hoped to see in ten years. She said, “In ten years, I’d like to see some law enforcement agencies be disbanded or abolished, as well the development of a national network of families and victims working together in tandem, pushing for reform in their own cities. Either getting rid of police departments or having some serious checks and balances. With a reduction of law enforcement money, we can then be putting it back into Black communities. We need a new vision for jobs for Black folks, housing, healthy food.” Prisoner voices are KEY in this vision. Prisoner voices MUST be included in this vision. People have taken protests outside of jails, rallying and holding fists up in solidarity with prisoners. However, we have not done well enough of printing the words of prisoners who are sharing their own vision. This paper is supposed to be a place where we share the words of Black and Pink members to impact and support not only other prisoners, but also to help shape the work of those of us in the “free world.” When you think of what to write for the paper can you imagine that nearly 10,000 people read those words? You are powerful. Your voice can impact so many others. What is your ten year vision for the world, even knowing that the concrete and steel around you wants to crush your vision, what can you imagine?

George Jackson was a revolutionary Black prisoner who was killed by prison guards in San Quentin, California on August 21, 1971. Prior to his death Jackson wrote books and pushed the movement to listen to the voices of prisoners. In his book, Soledad Brothers, he wrote something then that I think you might appreciate today, over 40 years later. “Prisoners are completely ostracized from society”,he wrote, “with little or no chance to break through. Those few outside who might be sympathetic are always hesitant to communicate or protest past a certain point, fearing their own persecution or imprisonment. Also, deep down most people believe that all prisoners, regardless of their individual situations, really did do something ‘wrong.’ Added to that prejudice, society lacks a distinction between a prisoner’s actions and his or her personal worth; a bad act equals a bad person. The bottom line is that the majority of people simply will not believe that the state openly or covertly oppresses without criminal cause.” We are fighting this commonly held belief every day. In 2015 let us continue to strengthen our movement knowing that once there were no prisons, that day will come again.

In loving solidarity,

Jason

 

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