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Message from Jason (May 2016)

Dear friends,

I hope this note finds you as well as possible. Like last month I am sitting here with my dog, trying to make sure we stay on top of things at the office. One of the best things about the office right now is that we recently hired a part time National Office Manager. He is AMAZING! His name is Charles, and some of you have probably gotten letters from him. Having an office manager will hopefully help us be more on top of things at Black and Pink. As most of you know Black and Pink is a nearly all volunteer project, Charles and myself are the only staff people. Charles is a formerly incarcerated member who moved up to Boston from Mississippi. He received the Black and Pink newspaper while he was in prison and he continues to be deeply dedicated to our work. Working with Charles makes my job so much greater, I’m really excited for the potential growth Charles will bring to our family.

I wanted to spend the rest of this month’s note reflecting on one of my favorite things, superheroes. Have you ever been a comic book reader? Which were your favorite heroes? What were your favorite story lines? Did you ever watch superhero tv shows? Do you remember batman cartoons or maybe you’re old enough to remember the batman live action show starring Adam West… that’s a bit before my time. Some of you have been locked up longer than the new big Marvel Cinematic Universe movies have been coming out, but maybe you’ve seen some of the Iron Man, Captain America, Avengers, and others on tv. I must admit to you, I am a bit obsessed with superheroes, most especially, the X-men. Just moments ago I was making plans to purchase tickets to watch the newest X-men movie. I have also been reading the new brilliant Black Panther comic book series, written by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

There are lots of things I like about comic book super heroes and lots of ways I feel connected to their storylines. As a queer person who has had to be closeted at different times, I really identify with the way mutants in the X-men stories feel like they have to hide who they are. Not only do they have to hide something about themselves, they have to hide something that is actually pretty awesome, their mutant powers. Similarly, as LGBTQ people, we are often told we have to hide something that’s pretty awesome about us. Being LGBTQ is not supposed to be a burden, it should be a celebration of sexuality and gender that is part of what makes us the incredible people that we are.

I must say that I am much more of a Marvel fan than I am a DC fan (and for those of you who have no idea what that means, I apologize). The big difference is that I like my superheroes to be complex, to be imperfect, to be part of a team. One of the beauties of the Marvel Universe right now is how much things have been changing for the characters. Things are opening up and well-loved characters are being portrayed in new ways. The new Wolverine is a young woman as is the new Thor. Ms. Marvel is a Muslim teenage girl from New Jersey who is raised by loving devout immigrant parents. Iceman came out as gay. A few years ago we got Miles Morales, a young Black spiderman. As of last week the new Black Panther comic book is the best selling comic book of 2016. There is, however, much work to be done to increase the visibility of transgender superhero characters in mainstream comics.

Whenever we read fiction stories we are often looking to find ourselves in them. Comics are no different. For far, far too long major superheroes have always been straight white men. As people who are imagining a different world, one free from prisons, we often live in a land of fantasy. Escaping to the world of comics is one way I like to imagine a different world. I like to imagine being part of a superhero team that joins our powers together to tear down prisons and stop the police from tearing peoples’ lives apart. Some times I want to be able to fly. Other times I want to be able to move things with my mind. Often I want to be able to walk through walls. When you have a moment to imagine, what is your super power? How might you band with others to build a team to fight for justice and liberation? We don’t need Batman’s Arkham Asylum or Superman’s Phantom Zone. We can create new possibilities of transformative justice.

Thanks for reading my silly reflections on comics and superheroes. I know we use this paper to be serious and strengthen our movement. Yet we must also take moments to distract ourselves, to be silly even, knowing that the struggle is long. We keep ourselves going knowing that once there were no prisons, that day will come again.

In loving solidarity,
Jason

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