Holiday cards for incarcerated queer folk

With the holidays arriving this month, the usual holiday preparations and actions can be seen all around. Present’s are being bought, lights are being strung, and the holiday cards are sent out for delivery. They are sent to those that are loved and made to keep up the holiday spirit. But not everyone receives cards this time of year, especially those who are incarcerated. 

To remedy this, the Queer Student Alliance (QSA) recently held an event at The HUB on Wednesday, Nov. 28, called “Letters to Queer Incarcerated Folks”. Their purpose was to invite every person to send holiday cards to members of the LGBTQ community that are currently incarcerated through the online site blackandpink.org.

Black and Pink is an organization that supports the LGBTQ community from both inside and outside of prisons. With a mindset that offers advocacy, education, and direct service. On their website, members of the free world, those that are not detained, are able to sign up to find their own permanent LGBTQ prison pen pal. 

The purpose is to use this pen pal program to build open and inclusive relationships with in the LGBTQ community and those who have struggled with similar problems. Black and Pink believe in giving the power to those that are incarcerated, giving them  leadership roles and taking into consideration their observations from inside the walls when making decisions. 

The organization’s purpose as a whole is to abolish the prison reform complex and instead create alternatives that don’t focus on the idea of punishment but instead focus on a non-reformist view. According to their website, “Our work toward the abolition of the prison industrial complex is rooted in the experience of currently and formerly incarcerated people. We are outraged by the specific violence of the prison industrial complex against LGBTQ people.”

Third year student and President of the QSA, Kendall Andrews, joined  club members and guests to The HUB to write holiday cards, enjoy treats and also invite them to sign up for the pen pal program Black and Pink. 

Opening with an informational powerpoint about the prison industrial complex and the LGBTQ community, Andrews then had the attendees sign up on the Black and Pink website and find a pen pal on their mobile devices. To sign up, one applies their information, then looks through a list of people searching for pen pals. The pen pal search can be separated into groups based on different criteria such as age, interest and preference. Those who signed up were able to have their letters sent to The HUB’s address instead of having to put their own. 

This pen pal program assists in building relationships to those that are incarcerated. According to a Reuters article, people who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual have a presence in prisons and jails nearly three times higher than people who don’t identify with the LGBT community.

Nalin Wangel-Komisar is a fourth year Sociology Major and member of the QSA. Wangel-Komisar shared, “The Queer Students Alliance is all about building connections. It’s really important for queer folk to create community because of the social isolation and lack of support that comes along with marginalization. Prison only exacerbates these conditions.”

Some attendees came to this event as a requirement for a class, but were interested and wanted to expand on the prison industrial complex and its ties with the LGBTQ community. 

Juan-Carlos Mungia came for his criminal justice class and was able to make new connections he hadn’t realized before. 

“As a criminal justice major I’ve been able to evaluate the prison system from a lot of different viewpoints. Oddly enough, I’ve never thought of the LGBTQ community stance or approach until today. This was a really eye opening and mind triggering topic to talk about.”

If one would like to sign up for an LGBTQ pen pal, visit blackandpink.org or reach out to the Queer Student Alliance Club on campus.