Abolition in Action

Two months ago, a friend and fellow prisoner, prepared to max out her sentence. She is a Black trans woman who had to do her time in a men’s prison: over two decades of time. The world has changed tremendously since she came to prison. I worried about her transitioning to the “free” world. She didn’t have a strong support system out there.

I was able to connect her to some abolitionists in NY and PA. I wanted her to know that there are people out there who care about her, that don’t want to see back inside. Before she left the prison, she had spoken to some of these folks on the phone. They created a fund to help her prepare for release. When she found out, she was grateful and floored by their generosity. These abolitionists even spoke with her family to ensure she had a home to go to upon release. They even got her furniture. When she left, she knew she had a support team. And I am glad she did.

Her living situation turned ugly. She had to face transphobia daily. She persevered, but enough is enough. I had her promise me, before she left, that she would use her network if things got bad. I didn’t want her to fall into despair and end up back inside.

She held onto that promise. In the face of severe transphobia, feeling despondent, she reached out. And abolitionists were there to support her. She is able now, through the efforts and generosity of others, to get her own place. She is working, but needed help with the move in. And help she got. This is abolition in action.

Recently, I asked people to define abolition in just six words. Two people, one in Illinois and the other in New Jersey, paraphrased Ruthie Gilmore: not just absence, but a presence. Abolition is very much so a presence. It is about what is there and/or what we are building to be there. It is not just about eliminating something (e.g., police and prisons); it is about creating what we need to live, love and thrive. What these abolitionists did was about being present for another human being.

More and more, I am discovering that a major part of abolitionist praxis is just showing up, being present for others. How else will we be in and grow community? It is showing up that really demonstrates abolition to others. We are creating the world we want to live in. A world of care, concern, and connection.

I want to thank those people involved in supporting my, our, friend. She knows abolition is real. Their actions were the best possible advertisement of abolition. These folks know who they are so I haven’t named them. They are living abolition. Thank you.



Inhabiting a Paradox

Prison, paradoxically, is a place of emotional rawness and emotional repudiation. Each day, we are rubbed raw by the reality of our condition: exiled, alienated, subjugated and unremembered. But we are dissuaded from expressing any emotion other than rage/anger. Our sadness, our fear, even our desire is manifested as anger. To exhibit anything else is to be vulnerable. And vulnerability is the last thing you want to display in prison. This paradox precludes our healing and growth. It prevents us from doing the transformative work, the prefigurative work, we need to create a just and safer world.

Healing and growing emotionally are critical to the work I’m doing behind the walls. Emotional honesty and “present-ness” are two qualities I strive to bring to my work and relationships. It is not easy. There are times I want to hide myself, put on the anger mask. And it’s so easy to be angry with all the shit that is happening in our world. But what’s harder is sitting with the feeling and really naming it. To call it fear. To label it depression. To christen it exhaustion. Dropping the mask, touching the wound and expressing my pain, frustration and fear connects me to this rawness. It takes me to a space where I can do the work needed to heal and grow. I could not do this work alone.

I have experienced tremendous growth and healing over the past year. Emotionally, I’m in a different space than I was a year ago. I have so much more work to do, but I feel emboldened and blessed because of the friends and supporters who have held, lifted, and pushed me to do the work, especially when I feel unbrave. I want to thank Casey Goonan, Sarah Ji Rhee, Dan Berger, Charlotte Pope, Khary Septh, Ian Alexander and Kay Whitlock for always being there and the love. I thank Adryan, Dean Spade, Mariame Kaba, Kleaver Cruz, Katie O’Donnell, Emily Abendroth, Suzy Martin, Casper, Kelly, Erica Meiners, Critical Resistance, Black & Pink, and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project.



Words of Gratitude

In response to a question posed by Critical Resistance (How can people on the outside support the political work of people on the inside?), I wrote a list of ten ways people outside can help us. The first two points were:

1. Organize and struggle with us, but allow us to be the authorities of own our experiences.

2. Don’t speak for us. We can speak. When we cannot, due to repression or threats from prison officials, use your freedom and privilege to amplify our voices and advance our issues.

Our allies heard us. Not only did they use their platforms to amplify our voices and convey our experiences with policing and imprisonment, but they also created platforms and opportunities just for us so we can post essays, comments and questions. Dan Berger used his online presence to post essays and questions, generating interest and understanding. Sarah-Ji Rhee and Charlotte Pope posted and promoted the work of inside activists, creating support and connections. Casey Goonan has worked tirelessly to create a platform for inside activists’ words to reach the public. His efforts have culminated in a website and Twitter account that enable us to reach out, learn more, connect widely and build deeply. Our debt to our allies is incalculable.

These walls serve a dual purpose: keeping us in and you out. Prison officials don’t want you to know what goes on behind the walls.They would have you consume the mainstream media’s depictions of us -stereotypes and caricatures. The work of our allies enables us to counter the images and narratives promoted by the beneficiaries of the PIC. Now, we are better able to connect with others, learn new ways of being, and struggle to transform ourselves and our world. We are truly grateful and astounded. The support and connections from you are life-enhancing and spirit-emboldening. We look forward to learning with and working alongside you in this struggle to build a world without cages.

In Solidarity,


Image by @abolitionmemes