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October Update from Chicago

Greetings family!

We’re writing as the season begins to change.  Leaves haven’t quite changed colors, but the sticky heat and humidity are on their way out, and cool fall breezes are on their way in.  While there’s much that’s beautiful about this time of year, it’s also a scary political climate as the presidential elections are less than two months away.  We’ve seen terrifying increases in hate crimes against people perceived to be Muslim, driven by the racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric of a certain presidential candidate, whose name rhymes with dump.  In Illinois, we are still reeling with the effects of severe budget cuts, despite a stop-gap budget agreement that was finally put into place earlier this summer (after over a year without a state budget).  The war on the poor, the war on Black lives, and wars abroad continue – but so does beautiful, people-powered resistance.   

In Chicago, this summer gave life to a 41day encampment of what become known as ‘Freedom Square,’ just across the street from a CPD torture site called Homan Square.  Led by the young Black organizers of the #LetUsBreathe Collective, they gave out free food, free water, free clothes, free books and held space in North Lawndale for envisioning what a world without police could look like, on a formerly abandoned grassy lot.  Numerous Black & Pink volunteers brought food, volunteered in the kitchen, played with children, and helped with the upkeep of the encampment. While the overnight occupation came to an end at the beginning of September, hundreds of people across Chicago no doubt learned lessons that they’ll carry with them for a long time about what it means to practice building the world we want to see.

Our Black and Pink chapter has also been hard at work on a number of other projects.  At the beginning of the summer, we tabled to sign up new volunteers at the Chicago Dyke March, and had a photo-booth encouraging passersby to share messages against solitary confinement.  One of our volunteers also made fantastic new shirts that say “Solidarity not solitary,” which debuted at Dyke March.  In August, we hosted a hopping community dinner with the Chicago Community Bond Fund, a grassroots organization that raises funds to get community members out of Cook County Jail, and organizes for an end to cash bail, for the ways that it unfairly criminalizes people without access to money.  We also partnered with ‘Love and Protect’ for a letter-writing night to incarcerated women and girls – including 15 year old Bresha Meadows.  She is currently in jail pre-trial facing murder charges, for defending herself and her family against her abusive father.  

We recently hosted a highly attended new volunteer orientation, with nearly 30 new people wanting to get involved in our chapter’s work. Two of our working groups, Penpal Support Team & Re-entry Support Group, are able to get re-started now that new people have joined. Earlier this summer we also received our first ever grant as a chapter. It was for $3,000 from the Crossroads Fund and it will largely go towards operations and political education. We’re very excited to have funds to pay for postage and printing, as our inside membership has grown to nearly 600 people in Illinois alone. Operating costs for this volunteer effort are significant.

We also want to acknowledge that two of our formerly incarcerated members, Afrika and Eddie, have been doing well and continue to support B&P fam in Chicago by regularly speaking out at events and protests.  We also send love for our fam who’s been entrapped by the system again, and miss having them on this side of the walls.  We’ll continue to match penpals, teach folks on the outside about the violence of incarceration, and offer what support we can to our ever-expanding family, and hope that you’ll continue to stay in touch and let us know what’s happening on the inside.  Here’s some other news that we think you might find interesting:

Update on Anti-Solitary Bill HB5417

The bill to limit the use of solitary confinement in Illinois made it out of the House Restorative Justice Committee but did not get called for a vote on the House floor last session, at the end of May. Many are committed to continuing to organize and lobby for it this coming legislative session starting in January, 2017. In the meantime we are working with a budding coalition of prisoner solidarity organizations to build more of a grassroots campaign to end solitary confinement in Illinois. 

If you have family on the outside who you think would like to help us, please have them visit http://torturesurvivorsagainstsolitary.com/  or e-mail Blackandpinkchicago@gmail.com to find out more information about upcoming actions and events.  The more connections we have to family and friends, inside and out, the stronger we will be. We’ve continued to gather ideas and testimony from inside members about why we need to stop solitary, which we’ll share with community members and legislators. 

On September 9th, our coalition organized a march in solidarity with the national prisoner work stoppage day. In memory of the prisoners of Attica, dozens of people gathered from across Chicago to speak out in front of the Thompson center and march to the Metropolitan Correctional Center for a noise demo in solidarity with those inside.

Recent Victory – Prison Phone Justice Bill!

A bill was recently signed into law, HB6200: The Family Connections Bill, that will cut in half the cost of phone calls from Illinois prisons. Under the measure, prison phone call rates will be cut in half, or a maximum of 7 cents per minute, starting January 1, 2018. For years, Securus, one of the two largest prison phone providers, has profited from overcharging those incarcerated and their families. As part of the contract, IDOC makes $12 million annually in “commissions,” or kickbacks to the state, which is the highest in the nation. This bill will stop prison profiteers from picking the pockets of poor families. If you know someone on the inside who would like to share their story of paying the high cost of prison phone calls, have them contact: Illinois Campaign for Prison Phone Justice, Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center, 202 S. Broadway, Urbana, IL 61801.

#NoDAPL (No Dakota Access Pipeline)

Open Letter of Solidarity with Standing Rock and Everyone Resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline – 7.14.16

Today, on this global day of action against the Dakota Access Pipeline, Black & Pink Chicago shares this letter of solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all people in the struggle to save our water. Water is life. Our work towards abolition requires us to ensure that all people have their basic needs met: housing, food, air, water. The Dakota Access Pipeline stands in the way of our vision of a world without police and prisons, a world that values life over profit.

Time and again, we have seen that prisoners are often the last to get access to clean water under disaster capitalism. We saw it after Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy and so many other “natural” disasters. We saw it in Illinois a couple months ago after Gov. Rauner’s refusal to pass a budget in Illinois left some counties with exorbitant water bills and threatening to cut water off to thousands of people locked in state prisons. This pipeline is a threat to hundreds of our Black & Pink family, thousands of other incarcerated people, and millions of non-incarcerated people in its path.

In addition to the environmental destruction this pipeline will create, we abhor the militarized violence that water protectors have faced while resisting its construction. In North Dakota, security guards working for the pipeline company have attacked indigenous water protectors with dogs and pepper spray. We must resist the ongoing genocide of native peoples through toxic polluting and theft of sacred lands, as well as the brutalization and incarceration of those who resist. May enough of us be enraged and moved to action by this to stop state and corporate violence, to stop this pipeline, and to disarm the police. No to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Not at Sacred Stone. Not in Illinois. Not anywhere.

Free Bresha Meadows (Taken from FreeBresha.wordpress.com)

Bresha Meadows is a child survivor of domestic violence who just turned 15 while incarcerated at the Trumbull County Juvenile Detention Center. Bresha is charged with aggravated murder for defending herself, and her family from a father who had a long history of abusing them. We demand that the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s office drop all charges against Bresha Meadows and release her immediately. Like Bresha, an estimated 15.5 million children in the U.S. are exposed to domestic violence each year. Girls and women incarcerated for actions taken in self-defense are disproportionately Black. 84% of girls incarcerated in the US experience family-based violence prior to being criminalized. Three women are killed per day in the US by a current or former partner, and 75% of these women are killed within hours, days or weeks after attempting to escape the abuse. Bresha’s father was also five times more likely to kill his victims because he owned a gun. Criminalizing Bresha in this context sends a harmful message to survivors and their children—that even in the most desperate of situations, they will be punished instead of helped.  

Open Letters Project: Bresha Meadows is still in jail. It’s likely that she’ll be in jail until at least 10/6 which is the date of her next hearing. That means that she will have spent over 70 days in a cell for defending herself and her family against he abusive father.  It’s terrible. We invite those of you who would like to help to please join the “Open Letter to Dennis Watkins” project. Dennis Watkins is the prosecutor who has the discretion to decide to drop charges against Bresha and to release her.  The organizers hope to publish at least one open letter a day on their site.

Letters can be anonymous but they’d have more impact if they are signed and if you’d be willing to include the state you live in. Elements of a good letter: 1. Explain why you think that Bresha should be free. 2. Do you have a personal story about domestic violence and its impact(s) that you would be willing to publicly share. 3. Include information about the impact(s) of detention and incarceration on children.4. Make it personal.

If you want to participate, send us a letter to us at Black & Pink Chicago / c/o Bresha Open Letter / PO Box 577942 / Chicago, IL 60657 by September 25 or sooner. Together we will help to #FreeBresha. **We cannot promise all letters will be published, and there is no compensation for participating.

 

 

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