Message from Jason (July/Aug. 2017)

Dear friends,

I hope this note finds you as well as possible. I have been receiving letters from some people that the heat is unbearable, especially in some of the southern states. I’m hearing from some folks that the air conditioning isn’t on and there are no windows to open. We have sent a few advocacy letters and other organizations are fighting to deal with this. I send love and cooling thoughts to everyone as we keep fighting to end these dehumanizing and inhumane practices.

As I write you this letter today, I am dealing with some serious pain from a pinched nerve. The pain goes from my neck down my right arm and up to the tip of my middle finger. I’m typing this, but I can’t really feel half the fingers on my right hand. It’s amazing how painful it all is. It feels like my arm is on fire, and it feels like my neck is breaking under my skull. All of this pain is happening, but no one can see it. My neck and arm are not swollen. There is no gaping wound. The pain is severe, but the pain is invisible. The pain is real, it is distracting, it is taking over major parts of my body, but no one can see it. When I look down at my arm I can’t see the pain I feel, but I know it is there. Just because I can’t see the pain, that does not mean it isn’t there.

We often talk about the more visible forms of pain and violence that impact our community. We are very clear about the harms caused by physical and sexual violence. We often read stories from one another about this harm and pain. Prison staff also have a requirement to deal with some of the visible pain, they may not do it well, but they are technically required to do something. The constant pain that is often caused by incarceration, the pain that can’t be seen, goes ignored far too often.

What would it look like if we took our pain more seriously? What would it look like if we believed one another when we talked about our invisible pain? What would change if we truly worked to end suffering? When I think about the role of Black & Pink in the world, I often think that our job is to figure out ways to reduce suffering. As we do our work to reduce suffering, we always do it with attention to the systems that are causing it. We do not want to reduce some suffering by giving more power to a system that will cause more suffering in other ways.

For instance, we are currently working on efforts to end cash bail. We do not want our people to sit in jail waiting for their case. We also do not want everyone to be put on gps tracking bracelets and then turn entire communities, mostly poor communities and communities of color, into open air jails. We want to reduce the suffering by getting people out of jail, but we must be responsible, we cannot support efforts that quietly expand the reach of the police state. How do we both end suffering immediately and also not extend suffering in the long term? This is one of the toughest questions we have to ask as abolitionists.

How do you manage your pain? Prisons thrive on pain; it is how they maintain their power. Prisons are like living monsters who use pain as their oxygen. Our society seems so attached to continue feeling these monsters and keeping them alive. It is our responsibility to figure out ways to take the tools of suffering and pain away from the system so that prisons will wither and die. How do you think we should do this? What are you doing now that is helping to take the pain away? Whatever it is, let us keep doing this work together, let us become pallbearers and usher forth the death of this system that causes so much pain. We do all of this work knowing that once there were no prisons, that day will come again.

In loving solidarity,

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