Volunteers write holiday letters to LGBTQ inmates

By Aqilah Allaudeen
Medill Reports

The cards expressed caring, the joy of life and the “the possibility of miracles.”

Some 40 volunteers gathered at the Chicago Freedom School in downtown Chicago Sunday to write letters to incarcerated LGBTQ members across the nation. The “holiday card party” was organized by Black and Pink, a prison abolitionist organization supporting LGBTQ prisoners. This is the seventh Black and Pink card party organized by the Chicago chapter.

The holiday card party in Chicago, part of a larger national movement across the United States, involved autonomous Black and Pink chapters working to send letters to every incarcerated LGBTQ person who is in the Black and Pink network. The Chicago chapter aimed to send out 685 cards.

“I wanted to show love and support to people who had loved and supported me when I was locked up,” said Black and Pink founder Jason Lyndon. “Over time more and more people got connected to Black and Pink. Volunteers on the outside and prisoner members on the inside, till we got to where we are today, a 16,000 prisoner member organization.”

Lyndon founded the first Black and Pink chapter in Boston in 2004 after getting out of prison to keep in touch with people he had met in prison. One of the main initiatives that Black and Pink runs is a pen pal program – connecting incarcerated LGBTQ people with people on the outside.

The organization has grown to comprise autonomously run Black and Pink chapters across the U.S. – including in Chicago, Boston, New York City, San Francisco, New Orleans and other cities. Black and Pink chapters uphold the idea of abolishing prisons.

Lyndon added that the letter writing program strengthens the group’s goal of prison abolition.

“The long term process around letter writing is about building relationships, so that people on the inside and the outside have authentic connections to strengthen the mission for abolition,” he said. “Our dream is a world where we respond to harm in radically different ways… not just locking up black and brown people in the massive ways that we are doing right now.”

Volunteers at the event Sunday came from all walks of life – including previously incarcerated people, members of the LGBTQ community, and beyond.

Photo at top: Some 40 volunteers gathered in Chicago Sunday to write letters to incarcerated LGBTQ members (Aqilah Allaudeen/MEDILL)