Black and Pink is an open family of LGBTQ prisoners and free world allies who support each other. Their work is rooted in the experience of currently and formerly incarcerated people, and their goal is to abolish the prison industrial complex.
In the above video, Black and Pink members and former staff discuss the organization’s work and what it’s meant to receive support from Astraea.
[Member, Eddie Willis]: The work that Black and Pink does is so important because no one understands prisoners. And if it wasn’t for the support of Black and Pink [If] it wasn’t for the work that Jason does and [of] the Chicago chapter. I may very well be re-incarcerated right now. I think it’s just so wonderful because Black and Pink is the only true family that I have.
[Founder & Former Director, Jason Lydon]: I founded Black and Pink when I got out of prison because I reached out to a lot of mainstream LGBT organizations to tell them about the violence that I have experienced. And they said, “Oh we don’t work on that.” I maintained relationships with the people that I’ve been locked up with. I was writing the people, and they were telling other folks, “If you write to Jason, he’ll write back to you.” And word just kept getting around. So when I was writing to about 35 people on my own, and I couldn’t write to 35 people on my own anymore. And so I reached out to other friends, to other people, to really build us into a pen-pal-based organization. And then from there, we just kept growing. The Black and Pink newspaper is a prisoner generated content newspaper. They send to 10,000 prisoners across the United States. We have our content that is people sharing stories of resilience, of resistance, but also moments of suffering.
[Member, Reno]: I just got finished doing 25 years in prison. I just got out. Then I found a family that I can work with, understand, and think the way I think.
[Jason Lydon]: Prisons are form of social control, a place of warehousing Black and brown people, rooted in anti-blackness in the system of slavery in the United States. It is a place in which LGBTQ people are targeted for enormous violence and harm both by other prisoners and by prison staff. We are constantly building a community of incarcerated LGBTQ folks who are sharing resources with each other, strategies of survival, and also telling each other about the times when they’re suffering just to get moments of solidarity and support. With that support, with that community building, we are strengthening the movement inside the prisons to fight.
[Member, TY]: Working with Black and Pink changed me as a person. Because I didn’t care about getting arrested. I didn’t care about getting treated like that. I just was so used to the system. And working with Black and Pink, it made me realize that all of that type of stuff is wrong. It’s actually not supposed to be happening. It’s not something that I should be used to. It’s not something that I should be comfortable with. I’m able to teach people and show people that there is a better way than having to deal with things that’s out of their control.
[Jason Lydon]: So the support that we’ve gotten from Astraea directly leads to prisoner power. And that resource makes it so that we going to get to that place where we win. Transformative justice will look like a process where we don’t see anyone as disposable. Where we don’t allow the criminal justice system, the legal system to define the value of human life. Where we as a community, as people directly affected by violence and harm, are holding people accountable for the harm that they cause. Where none of us are being defined only by the worst thing we’ve ever done.
We are not trying to create a world where people are doing whatever they want to each other. We are working to create a world where no one is disposable, where people are held and loved, and people are held responsible for their actions. And not just thrown away. The movement toward abolishing the prison industrial complex in all of its forms must be led by those directly affected and that includes the essential voices of prisoners. We build the power of prisoners, and support the power of prisoners that they’re building themselves to nurture the resistance inside the belly of the beast.