GDS Community Partner Spotlight: Black and Pink

Black and Pink, interview with Jason Lyndon, founder
By: Michaela Johnston

How did Black and Pink get its start?
I started Black and Pink when I got out of prison with the intention of staying connected with the folks that I had been locked up with. People who had looked out for me, I wanted to look out for them. It started as a pen pal program, really connecting people from the inside with people on the outside, to build relationships with them while also strengthening the movement to abolish the prison system.

According to your website, Black and Pink’s “work toward the abolition of the prison industrial complex is rooted in the experience of currently and formerly incarcerated people.” What is the prison industrial complex?
The prison industrial complex is the large network of interests between prisons, policing, courts, corporations, and surveillance systems that create and manifest itself as the incarceral state that we live in. [It’s] the sense that the prison industrial complex is more than just the concrete and steel that cage peoples’ bodies and warehouse particularly black, brown, and indigenous people in prisons and jails around the U.S. It’s also about the system of surveillance and control in communities of color [and] the policing of queer and trans bodies.

What impact does Black and Pink have in the Greater Boston community and beyond?
Our work in Boston is really about supporting LGBTQ folks and HIV positive people who are affected by the criminal legal system. Our goal is to build their leadership, support their vision and get us to a place where we are having more freedom and access for people and where the violence of policing and prison and jail and courts are causing less harm. Within the larger world, we’re about building a network of mutual support of ensuring that people are looking out for each other, caring for each other and really ending the stigma of incarceration while building the movement to ending prisons.

What can BU volunteers expect to be doing on Global Days of Service?
The biggest thing they’ll be doing is going through letters we are receiving from prisoners. We get about 250-500 letters a week from LGBTQ and HIV positive prisoners across the country. What you will be doing is opening letters, reading stories from prisoners and ensuring that prisoners are able to get access to our services, most specifically our pen pal programs and our newspaper that is made of a majority of prisoner-made material.

Do you have any last thoughts to add about Black and Pink?
One of the key things is that we use a language where we say that we are an open family, in the sense that we’re not a standard nonprofit where we have a lot of boundaries of who is getting served and who is doing the serving. It’s about building the authentic connections and our hope is that people who have never been inside [prison] can learn to build friendships and connections with people who are currently and formerly incarcerated; not simply to be providing them direct service in a divorced kind of way, but really [building] a friendship and connection to show that we are all part of this open family that is indeed a radical change in our world.

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