Culturas Corner highlights those who make their community a better place through their work, business, volunteering or activism. Today we learn more about organization Black & Pink.
Thank you for taking the time to tell us more about Black & Pink! Can you start by diving into the background of your organization?
Black & Pink was founded in 2005 and is a national prison abolitionist organization dedicated to abolishing the criminal punishment system and liberating LGBTQIA2S+ people and people living with HIV/AIDS who are affected by that system through advocacy, support, and organizing. Black & Pink has grown in many different ways since we began, but we will always hold true to our foundational and radical beliefs in the capacity for good, in the abilities of all people to be the best versions of themselves, and to dismantle the systems that plague our communities. We will always be partners with those impacted by the prison industrial complex, the atrocities it enacts, and we will not rest until it is completely dismantled. Because we not only imagine a world without prisons, we demand it.
While we build toward a time without the criminal punishment system, we take care of our members’ needs in the here and now: Our programming focuses on supporting system-impacted people in accessing housing, food, healthcare (including sexual/reproductive and mental healthcare), job/skills training and employment in order to provide wrap around support and directly invest in our members.
Will you explain the need for an organization like Black & Pink?
Simply: Many of our members have nowhere else to turn. Black & Pink serves people who are impacted by incarceration (currently and formerly incarcerated), LGBTQIA2S+ people, people living with HIV/AIDS and, more broadly, people impacted by violent and oppressive systems (i.e. white supremacy, anti-Blackness, transphobia, homophobia, etc). Because of the transphobia and anti-Blackness which runs rampant in our society, many of our members are not able to access services from other service and/or government organizations. Additionally, many organizations and government structures simply refuse to serve or support people who have experienced incarceration, which creates a massive need for service structures which do support formerly incarcerated people. Black & Pink sits at the intersections of incarceration, LGBTQIA2S+ issues, and HIV/AIDS issues— we are one of the few organizations in the country who do operate in this space, and we do so on a national scale.
You say, “We will always be partners with those impacted by the prison industrial complex, the atrocities it enacts, and we will not rest until it is completely dismantled. Because we not only imagine a world without prisons, we demand it.” Will you dive into the importance of abolition? Why are prisons never a solution?
Abolition is not just the eradication of the entire criminal punishment system/prison industrial complex, it is a complete reworking of life as we know it. Abolition requires transformational shifts in society which eradicate the very systems which uphold and feed into the criminal punishment system: white supremacy, racism, capitalism, anti-Blackness, transphobia, poverty, hunger, homelessness, etc. Without these violent and oppressive systems— once our communities are liberated from the legacy of these violences and injustices— people will be able to access the things they need within communities, which are safe, healthy, loving and nurturing. By shifting power and resources to local/community levels and investing in transformative structures which truly serve all people’s needs, we can achieve our collective liberation. Prisons are never the solution simply because no human being is disposable. Black & Pink believes everyone is more than our worst mistakes, and we believe in the transformational power which is inherent in each of us. Prisons only serve to punish, and we believe all people deserve to be cared for in order to achieve lifelong health, safety, wellness, and happiness.
What successes have you seen since the inception of Black & Pink so far? What goals do you have for the future?
Black & Pink has seen many successes since our inception in 2005! Our 15 years have been full of transformation, growth and opportunities, including the creation of new programs and extending our reach to serve and support even more people impacted by incarceration. Our PenPal Program continues to connect community members with our inside family on a daily basis. The strength and continued growth of this program is indicative of much else at Black & Pink. Another major success of Black & Pink has been the transition of leadership to Dominique Morgan in 2018, making Black & Pink one of the few organizations led by a Black trans woman. We are committed to centering Black trans women in our work because we understand that by centering the needs of people who are most impacted by violent systems, we are inherently able to provide for the needs of other system-impacted people along the way. Being led by such a transformational and visionary leader is one of our biggest strengths and will serve Black & Pink’s continued growth for years to come. A goal we are working toward in 2021 is to open the first youth- and young adult- serving LGBTQ+ community home, which will provide housing and wrap around support services to young LGBTQ+ people impacted by the child welfare system and the juvenile punishment system.
What is your favorite cultural memory?
A favorite memory is the ribbon cutting of Lydon House in February 2020, our first community home serving LGBTQ+ formerly incarcerated people in Omaha, Nebraska. At the ribbon cutting, Dominique was able to honor the founder of our organization, Jason Lydon, along with Black & Pink’s first ever member, Douglas Rodgers. It was a beautiful community gathering, which celebrated the strength and resiliency of our organization and our communities and celebrated the welcoming of new people into our family.
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