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Message from Jason (January 2016)

Dear friends,

I hope this letter finds you as well as possible. I know the holidays and the new year can be a  particularly difficult time on the inside. I do hope that you received a holiday card from one of our volunteers. I hope you know that none of you are forgotten and we continue this fight until everyone is free. Each year Black and Pink’s resolution is to get us to a world free from prisons, and each year we renew our commitment to our family inside the walls.

While I write this letter there is certainly much going on across our country. President Obama has sent Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents into the homes of many people. He hope to deport hundreds of Central American families to countries struggling with wars created because of US foreign economic policies. We are in the heat of a primary presidential election and are being bombarded with racism and Islamophobia from the Republican side. We are not being given much better options from the Democrat side with candidates who all support ongoing bombing wars in the Middle East. The occupying racist white militia in Oregon is getting lots of attention though everyone knows if they were Black, Muslim, or American Indians they would have already been arrested or killed. There are efforts all around the country to force politicians to resign or even be arrested due to their neglect or intentional cover up of violence against Black people and poor people. In Chicago, countless protestors have called for Mayor Emmanuel to resign after he was part of covering up the police murder of Laquan McDonald by a cop, Jason Van Dyke. In Michigan, the people of Flint have been poisoned by dirty water they were forced to drink and bathe in after an Emergency Manager appointed by Governor Rick Snyder changed the water from the Detroit system to a contaminated river in Flint. People in Michigan are calling for their governor to resign as evidence grows that he knew about the water poisoning. While there is much harm coming from those in power, there is strength in knowing that people are always resisting.

January 18th marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This is a time when people across the country pay lip service to the legacy of this great leader and organizer. It is a day of community service and some references to the ongoing problems of racism today. I want to use MLK Jr. Day very differently this year. I want to encourage all of our Black and Pink family members to think about one particular piece of writing from Dr. King. I want us to reflect on his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Have you ever read this letter before? It was written in April of 1963 while Dr. King was locked up. He was denied any access to paper, but a friend was able to get him a pen and a copy of a letter written by a group of white clergy. The letter from these white clergy condemned the use of civil disobedience by Dr. King and organizers across the South. The letter suggested that the “problem of racism” would be solved with polite conversation. These white clergy wanted to dialogue, not give up their racist power and privilege. Dr. King wrote his letter as a response to these clergy and he wrote it in the margins of the original letter, as he had no other paper.

Have you ever had one of those moments when you needed to write something but did not have access to paper? Have you ever been in solitary and written on toilet paper or on scraps because there was a message you needed to get out? Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” is considered a key piece of writing in what some people call Prison Literature. All of you who write for this newspaper, all of you who write stories about the harm inside prison, all of you who write your thoughts about the politics of the day, you are part of creating prison literature. You are continuing the legacy of Dr. King. When you write about seeking justice from inside the prison walls, you are part of something larger than yourself. Prisoner writing is everywhere, even where people least expect it. Did you know that many letters in the New Testament in the Bible were written from prison? Prisoner voices are needed for all movements that seek justice. Black and Pink has the responsibility to ensure your voices are lifted up and heard by one another and by people on the other side of the walls. In this new year we commit to strengthening this movement. We commit to honoring your voices. We keep our efforts growing know that once there were no prisons, that day will come again.

In loving solidarity,

Jason

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