It’s Been A While

I took a break from blogging, because I didn’t think I had anything important to say.

When I started this blog last summer, I knew what I hoped to communicate. I knew that I wanted a platform to discuss my thoughts and feelings on current events and areas of activism I hoped to participate in.

Instead, I slipped and fell on my bad foot; twisted ligaments and nerve damage take a while to heal. I spent the better part of six months attempting to recover from a minor fall. The newest surgery has benefited me greatly. My pain levels have been reduced and I have a greater ability to go out and enjoy life.

I am now able to return to blog about my adventures in activism.

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Hard Questions

  1. What skills do you most enjoy?
    1. In my free time and in my workplace, I enjoy and employ a variety of skills, I am quite happy when given an opportunity for public speaking, lobbying, recruiting, reporting, or otherwise talking to people about what I’m passionate about. I’ve got experience with teaching, training, coaching and leading groups through my time as a teacher and as a college student. I can sell anything if I believe in it; if I don’t, then your sales just might plummet. Investigating and researching topics of interest can certainly take up more time than I anticipated if I get lost on a tangent or pulled into a particularly fascinating topic.
  2. What subjects genuinely interest you?
    1. This is the easiest question for me to answer.
      I am passionate about women’s reproductive health and equality in all arenas. With the attacks on Planned Parenthood by various groups, I feel called to push for a woman’s right to choose and her right to keep medical decisions medical-not political. The wage gap between women and men also troubles me, not to mention the wage gaps between various races. I am already a vocal activist for this cause and would gladly pursue a career in this area.
      I care deeply and also work to improve LBGTQ equality-while the Supreme Court has ruled that all may marry, there is still plenty of work to do. Job and housing instability in inhospitable cities and states need to be addressed, to name a couple of current problems. I could easily see myself lobbying and pushing the courts to recognize same sex rights to life in this country and in others.
      Since I began working at PJL, I’ve learned a great deal more about the status of prisoners in our society and I am astonished. Mandatory minimums, zero tolerance policies, and the school to prison pipeline are doing exactly what they were designed to–our prisons are full and the people inside them are treated worse than cattle. Knowing that some prisoners make a daily decision to walk to the infirmary for meds OR walk to the cafeteria to get some food for the day, because their bodies cannot handle traversing the long distances between both inside a prison compound. Many prisoners are not receiving proper medical or psychiatric care, and this becomes a bigger problem for those who are placed in administrative segregation (solitary confinement). I am dedicated to providing a better condition of life for these prisoners–my work at PJL has given me purpose, direction, and I would love to spend my life improving conditions in all prisons nationwide.
  3. What do you want in a work environment?
    1. My idea work environment would include other people working towards the same goals as me; I want to be around people who are passionate. I want to work with comrades who see the same problems with the world that I do. I welcome opposing views as well, as long as they don’t drastically conflict with my morality. A variety of viewpoints should be represented in any workplace; some of the best discussions I’ve had have been with people I didn’t agree with but could engage in meaningful discourse. I like to work in offices and out of them. Public speaking is one of my favorite skills and one that I feel rather confident in.

Anti-Police Brutality Rally #BlackLivesMatter

Today, the foot let me down again.

I had plans to attend a Black Lives Matter rally downtown today. I’ve been really disgusted with my foot and my personal limitations that I wasn’t feeling well enough to get up/dressed/and know that I could walk with the group; instead, I stayed home to rest after a particularly grueling week.
I’ve started working again. Physical therapy continues to drain me of all hope on an every other day basis. I went to the gym for the first time in about 3 months this past Wednesday. It certainly hurt so good; I’ve missed feeling well enough to work out and push my body towards a more healthful existence. I want to lose weight, but more importantly I want to feel healthy again. Hopefully, between my time at the gym and my upcoming surgery I will finally stop feeling betrayed by my body and my inability to accomplish many physical tasks I wish I could… like attending an important rally.

I was too bummed about staying home to really look it up today, but eventually I went onto facebook and saw this.
“APD violently attacked our group while we were assembling peacefully this afternoon. After their intimidation tactics(including deploying helicopters and cops in riot gear) failed to work, they used brute force and pepper spray to disperse protesters. They arrested 6 people. Please spread the word and donate to the yard sign project as those funds will go toward legal fees.
BLM Austin and our allies are holding vigil outside Travis county jail. They can lock us up, but they can’t stop the movement!”

I have a lot of mixed feelings about missing this. I really REALLY Wanted to go and show my support. This was an Anti-Police Brutality rally and I was stoked to participate. After the death of Sandra Bland, I’ve been increasingly concerned with Texas officers. The men who guard the Capitol building are always friendly, but I’m sure they are the best of the best. The general cop that you meet in traffic is likely to be a very different sort of fellow.
Police Brutality is a huge problem in our country and I certainly felt strongly about demonstrating my support of this issue and #BlackLivesMatter. 

I even made the smart choice to leave my concert last night early, so that I could 
hopefully get enough rest to attend the rally. Instead, my foot let me down, but seeing what pandemonium broke out… I am relieved that I stayed home to rest my body.There’s no way I was healthy enough to march, much less to fight off brutal police attacks on my person.Still, my heart goes out to those who are captive at the moment.

I will continue to work for justice and humane treatment of those who are being held prisoner by our city/county/state/federal governments. 

I will continue to proclaim that #BlackLivesMatter.

Fall Project

I have a fall project for my time with Prison Justice League!

I’m going to be researching LGBT treatment in prisons. I will spend time researching laws that are currently in place to defend these vulnerable populations from attack and hope to find some best practices that should be followed within Texas. I’ll be contacting PJL members, and hopefully recruited a few new ones, with a questionnaire to investigate their treatment by other prisoners, guards, and the justice system. After enough research is conducted and I’ve heard back from our members about what the outside world can do to best improve their daily lives. I want to compile and synthesize their responses, then create a presentation around what they think the best opportunities for growth are.

I’d love to use this information to help lobby state and federal representatives to make smart and just decisions for the people they represent. I am familiar with the Texas State Capitol building by now and would relish the opportunity to present my case to the congressional workers there.

A bigger goal would be to present my findings in the spring at the Prison Families conference. Even if I am not selected, I know that I’m doing good work and providing a voice to so many who are voiceless. Exactly what I hoped to do when I switched over into nonprofits.

I’m going to take phone calls and return contact with family and friends who need our help; doing intake interviews and performing a basic sort of triage to categorize their needs and how we can best work to serve them. I love talking with people and have usually been successful on the phone, so I see this as a great way to spend at least one day a week.

I also hope to learn a great deal about the behind the scenes administrative work and managerial side of the nonprofit sector. I hope to help alleviate some of the stress on our director by taking some of the smaller tasks from her shoulders, while also learning a great deal about what makes our group a success.

Orange is the New Black-or, how I learned to care about prison conditions

A few months ago, I’d never really considered the conditions of people who were incarcerated. I just figured that they were being taken care of. I had no idea that scarcity existed in a government facility–naive, right?!

Watching the show Orange is the New Black I learned a little about the difficulties of prison life. It seemed a very scary and unfamiliar place to be, especially for main character Piper. Later on, she learned how to navigate the complex community built inside by the inmates and guards alike. As the show progresses, characters develop, good/evil is shown, and at the end of season 3 you see that they’re adding bunk beds to all dorms.

The prison already seemed plenty crowded, but now that it was bought up by a private corporation they wanted to shove more bodies into the decrepit hulk. A company only cares about making money, after all. Why shouldn’t they shove additional humans into every possible nook and cranny? What’s the worst that can happen?

Seeing that touched something within me, and I reached out to a local nonprofit to see what good I could do for the world. I knew that living packed as sardines in a can wouldn’t be healthy or helpful for people already feeling trapped.

The episode where Laverne Cox’s character is beaten to a pulp for no good reason, and then she is placed in solitary as a “prevenatative measure” infuriated me. I wondered–is this REALLY how we treat people?! She did nothing wrong! She should be safe in her surroundings! The murder/abuse/suicide rates for transwomen are astronomical and in prison, she’s barely got any chance to defend herself!

The more I read and learn, the more I realize how little I know about this. I’ve been truly inspired by reading the book and watching the show to make a difference for a segment of the population that is incredibly voiceless.

They can’t vote, but they pay taxes. They can’t get proper jobs in most cases, due to the stigma of being convicted of any crime/serving time.

I do not believe that every person being held should be incarcerated. Plenty of drug offenses and mandatory minimums should be abolished; drug addiction should be treated as a medical problem. Mental illness can cause dreadful behavior, and yet it is ignored by many in favor of simply jailing the ill person.

I want to learn as much as possible and will work as hard as I can to affect some positive change.

Fall Plans

Now that September is in full swing, I’ve come to a point where fall plans must be solidified. I will post them here as an additional way to hold myself accountable. 🙂

I am working for Prison Justice League and could not be more thrilled about it. We are a nonprofit dedicated to improving the conditions for people currently incarcerated in Texas correctional facilities.

Phew. That’s a lot of words.

What we do is really important work and I’m glad to be a part of something so good.

Even “bad guys” deserve to be treated humanely. Most of the offenders in Texas prisons are being held there for less than great reasons and there is no reason any person should be routinely beaten, raped, starved, or denied medical care. Yet, this is what we see happening. Good job, Texass.

I am also excited to announce that I will be working on a project with PJL that I hope to present in the spring at the Prisoner’s Family Conference. I don’t have any family currently incarcerated, but I would love to be able to launch my project into a bigger arena. I want to share my work with others who will also be interested in what I’ve done and how to improve Texas prisons. I will be submitting a proposal this fall,  and finding out if I will speak in the winter.  I’ve never done something like this before, but there’s no time like the present!

I will also be writing to some penpals that I find online. I’m going to start by writing some folks I find on Black and Pink. It’s a great site with a fantastic mission to match people on the outside with LGBTQ+ prisoners and work towards creating a more safe environment for those who are inside the prison system. This ties two causes that hold space in my heart together and I think they do incredible work.

With this shift in my focus to prison life, I anticipate learning more than I have before about humans rights violations. I plan to work on community outreach events and to push legislation through proper advocacy and maybe even some letter writing campaigns.

This feels good and it feels right.

I’m ready to make a difference.

If you’ve got an idea for a prison related problem, please  comment it to me.
I want to learn as much as possible about the daily lives and struggles of being incarcerated; I want to learn about what happens when you get out too.

 

Hell in a Church

Some religions make it a pillar of belief to visit holy lands; Jews go to Jerusalem and Muslims make the pilgrimage to Mecca. I would love to go see Italy, but cannot fathom that I’d even bother to visit The Vatican. I can’t trust that I’d keep my mouth shut while there and the last thing I need to do is get arrested for talking about The Pope in Rome. Haha Sitting through my friend’s extra Catholic wedding mass was more than my mouth could handle. I ended it by taking duckface selfies in front of the altar with a rather lovely new ladyfriend and wife of one of the groom’sdudes.

Sitting in a church isn’t something I find myself doing often, but I’m not usually so physically revolted by being inside of one. It’s just not a place I really go anymore. I was raised in the church and I don’t have a problem with most folks who attend or what some of them preach. However, when I walk into a building and I’m met with a display of pamphlets–all of which challenge who I am to the core of my being, I start to feel uneasy. Walking up closer to check some titles made my stomach turn and I became physically ill. It’s one thing to know that the church doesn’t approve of condoms or birth control, but it’s another to see it in black and white as a fun, colored brochure to take home and peruse at someone’s leisure.

Demonic symbolism and titles such at “The Gay Demon” do not sit well with me. Knowing that I am currently inside of  a building that would have me believe everything about myself, my attractions, and my body is wrong makes me want to vomit… and then burn it down.

Happy smiling faces on the pamphlets about chastity contrast darkly with the scared, concerned women on the pamphlets bemoaning the prevalence of birth control in today’s society. The absolute insanity of a world where old, celibate men enforce their views on other people’s sexuality, sexual habits, and sexual health is too absurd for me to believe. Yet, here it was in black and white. I’ve got this weighing heavily upon me, and now I’m expected to smile for the camera and send well wishes to the bridal party? No. No thank you.

I will sit here fighting back the moans and the tears I feel welling up inside of me. I will stifle the animal clawing its way up and out of my throat. I will continually wipe away my tears and pretend it’s because the wedding is just so damned beautiful.  I will do this because you are my husband’s dearest friend and if I ruin this day, you and he may never forgive me.