Are we doing what we need to do to make our loved ones feel safe during pride? Not as long as police are involved.
It is important to provide sanctuaries for TLGBQIA2S folks of color, especially formerly incarcerated Black trans women, to celebrate themselves and their communities, and that can't happen with the police present. Many more communities are negatively impacted at Pride as well and there are other aspects that need to be addressed to make Pride safe. Here is a list of conditions during pride that makes communities unsafe.
1. Increased jail population for homeless communities: During Pride, the city increases funding to the San Francisco Police Department to initiate sweeps at Civic Center and Powell to “clean up” the streets for tourists and Pride guests. This causes homeless people to be displaced and jailed. The money that is invested in police sweeps can be reallocated to train communities and organizations in de-escalation and problem-solving training. The city also increases funding to the San Francisco Police Department for increased police presence in the Tenderloin. The Tenderloin is the safest district for the most marginalized LGBTQIA communities and heightened police increases arrests and furthers displacement.
2. Not financially accessible: It’s not affordable to all communities to buy food from vendors during Pride. Prices are disproportionately increased during Pride and we don’t know who benefits from that flow of money. An alternative would be discounted activities, food, and beverages for low-income communities attending Pride.
3. Not accessible to disabled communities: There is not enough wheelchair space, not enough chairs, and not enough different accessible options. There should be paid volunteers to support people with different accessibility needs. There should be increased access the bathrooms and drinking water.
4. Commercialized and corporatized: Ban corporations investing and benefiting financially from the Prison Industrial Complex! Pride began as anti-police and anti-prison, it would be a disservice to provide space for those corporations.
5. False sense of pride at Pride: Pride does not celebrate the most marginalized LGBTQIA communities: Black trans women, trans women of color, disabled LGBTQIA, Intersex, and people with low to no income. Pride is celebrating while breaking these communities down, and at the same time, not including them
In addition to TGIJP, St. James Infirmary and BreakOUT are organizations that have "walked out of Pride" in the past.
Toronto, Canada has banned police in their Pride Toronto parade https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/pride-toronto-members-vote-to-keep-uniformed-police-officers-out-of-parade-1.4265114?fbclid=IwAR1sPNYhQMv-0SJAGUubcc2aLv1Hc2nUReo_lB2iynPMeuAq9vkC-LP-HOo
Teen Vogue agrees No Cops at Pride https://www.teenvogue.com/story/why-police-arent-welcome-at-pride?fbclid=IwAR3ed941zH5wZEd4jC1mSKm6-AmNm1lzqsGKN4NfQRP1clAP3s-1kucWXug
Decarceration is the act of freeing our loved ones from institutions. The institutions exist as jails, prisons, reformed jails and prisons, immigration custody, and more. This is one part of the definition of decarceration and another part of the definition comes from understanding the impact of the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC).
Who do we want to free from institutions? Everyone. Since we are TGIJP, we are going to put emphasis on our most vulnerable community: freeing Black trans women.
And yes, everyone. I’ll get to that later.
What else is included in decarceration? Decarceration means more than getting folks out of jails and prisons. Other than freeing our loved ones from cages, the next steps are healing from the debilitating trauma of being incarcerated, improving quality of life and not limiting the quality of life for loved ones released, healing familial and communal trauma with adequate resources/harm reduction and accountability, and continuing the fight to ultimately abolish the Prison Industrial Complex.
So what do all of the points listed above actually mean? How can we begin the steps towards decarceration? How can we begin the step to highlighting our most vulnerable on the path to decarceration?
The PIC does not offer solutions for healing after being traumatized from the Prison Industrial Complex. Once our loved ones are released, they are dependent on court systems and police enforced services and no stand-alone mental health services. This is intentional because it makes police, courts, and surveillance a necessary part of our daily lives while making it harder for us to get the resources we actually need. What we need is high-quality mental health services for our loved ones released. The tinge of incarceration leaves a lasting effect on our loved ones and without proper help, our loved ones can end up re-incarcerated. We want to avoid re-incarceration to continue decarceration. While some mental health services exist, many are operated under the Sheriff’s Departments, courts, or other punitive systems. The post-release systems use punitive solutions to more harshly impact Black and brown bodies, even more so with Black trans women. These systems aren’t designed for us to thrive individually or as part of Black trans, gender-variant, and intersex communities, I mean, they aren’t designed to be successful to anyone, but they are especially disciplinary to those communities.
We need to abolish systems of continuous punishment alike to restrictive, mandatory and punitive/court-ordered programs, police as service providers, restrictive access to state funded resources, electronic monitoring, and more to strive towards decarceration, and break that chain of reincarceration. Continuing punishment after time served decreases the quality of life for our loved ones as they remain trapped in the system even after being released from physical cages. Punitive punishment is the abstract cage. Then, we need language around learning the gifts and talents of our folks, making sure they have access to opportunities when they are released. These opportunities should be completely removed from all parts of the Prison Industrial Complex--that includes sheriffs departments--and based in the communities and organizations that actually help us to survive and thrive.
How can the community stride towards decarceration? Start with alternative ways of addressing harm and community accountability. Start with crisis intervention that is community-based. These are actions that can reduce or eliminate police involvement and further eliminate incarceration. The community can create more resources, alternatives to housing, housing stability once housed, access to harm reduction, food, clothing, and more. In addition to, communities should have access to services once a loved one is released. Families and loved ones can build relationships and with their children when released. They can repair family and community damages. The trauma of incarceration is widespread. Strong communities are the glue to aid in keeping released loved ones safe and out of the system.
I know you just read a lot and it probably feels overwhelming, but reading this is the first step and I’m proud of you. You can start with small steps, really huge steps, or whatever is within your capacity. I’m going to plug some resources below and some allies to check out -- start a dialogue -- come to mail night at TGIJP -- start an abolition chapter in your neighborhood! We love you and together we can continue the fight.
With love and power,
Janetta Johnson and the TGIJP Family
Abolitionist Toolkit -- http://criticalresistance.org/resources/the-abolitionist-toolkit/
Addressing Harm, Accountability, and Healing -- http://criticalresistance.org/resources/addressing-harm-accountability-and-healing/
Community Accountability Wordpress -- https://communityaccountability.wordpress.com/
Guide to Stop Interpersonal Violence -- http://www.creative-interventions.org/tools/toolkit/
Survived and Punished Restorative Resources for Survivors -- https://survivedandpunished.org/analysis/
Involuntary Mental Health Services and Mandated Reporting is a Form of Carceration -- https://mirrormemoirs.com/call-for-participants/
How do we stop the killings of Black trans people and dismantle the Prison Industrial Complex as a whole? Justice for Muhlaysia and Michelle
In response to our sister, Muhlaysia Booker
It has happened again. As we bury yet another Black trans woman whose valuable voice was silenced and whose precious life was drastically shortened, we can no longer afford to believe mouthed intentions. We need action from everyone who purports to be a protector and nurturer of Black trans lives. Are you a bystander while Black trans women are being killed - or are you an upstander? If you actually care about Black trans women’s lives - show it - step up. Now. Another life has been lost and we find ourselves spiraling in grief and fury. Muhlaysia Booker was shot and killed just weeks after surviving a vicious attack by a mob of people in Dallas, TX. Less than 24 hours after her death another Black trans woman, Michelle Washington, was found dead in Philadelphia, PA. Now is not a time for statements of mourning or solidarity. Now is a time for ACTION. All communities come together for action. NOW!
Black trans women experience violence, trauma, and deep losses across our community every single day. We know what we need to survive, to thrive, and to create the world we’re all fighting for. It is time to invest not only in the solutions, but the actual people that have shaped & sharpened the solutions we need based on our lived experiences. We are capable & competent enough to take care of our own, we just need the resources to do so.
If you don’t care enough to take action for Black trans women outside of your funding cycle then say it & stop using us to fund your cis white-led organizations. Don’t you dare exploit Black trans folks for the benefit of white-led organizations. Stop hiring one Black trans woman to show how much you prioritize our community without investing in our community as a whole. We face some of the highest rates of imprisonment, recidivism, violence, housing instability, unemployment, and discrimination. If you are not invested in Black trans safety, say it. Unless we are a part of the power structure & decision-making process, don’t claim that you’re out here fighting for Black trans lives if we don’t have an actual seat at the table.
The hurt, sadness, grief & loss we experienced at the hands of both systemic and interpersonal violence MUST be addressed. We need healing, we need safety, and we need to not be the only ones doing the work to challenge white supremacy, transphobia, and toxic masculinity. We need to challenge what safety looks like for all Black women. The solutions are not found by looking to police or prisons--institutions that have for a long time decimated Black trans community--but rather to ourselves & to our allies because our liberation is tied & none of the work matters if our people are still being forgotten or left behind.
How do we organize around Black trans safety? How do we memorialize Black trans people being murdered? How do we stop the killings of Black trans people and dismantle the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) as a whole? We do it together. We do it by organizations stepping up not only with words, but action. Every single person fighting for trans rights, or Black liberation, or against the PIC: If that is the goal you are fighting for, Black trans women must be a central part of the work. Not just in thought or theory--but in the room and at the table because we were the first phone call you made and the first invitation you extended.
If you see yourself as an ally or organizer, ask yourself: What relationships have I built with Black trans people and organizations? Am I aware of issues impacting Black trans people and do I reach out to the folks I know when issues arise? Are there Black trans people that know they can reach out to me if they need safety or support? How am I centering the expertise of Black trans women when it comes to addressing issues of domestic violence, public safety, healing justice, disability justice, reproductive justice, housing justice, and more?
Black cis men this is your chance. Your chance to check your brothers, defend your trans siblings, and prevent so much of the violence faced by Black women--trans and cis--on a daily basis. The normalization of transphobia, homophobia, and sexism grow these ideas from thoughts & beliefs to acts of violence all too frequently. Have courageous conversations with your brothers and loved ones, show up for ALL Black lives, and support Black trans women trying to make it past 35.
Today, TGIJP will be holding space for Black trans women to celebrate the life of Muhlaysia Booker and all of the Black trans lives that have been lost.
Here are some ways that you can take action & show up for Black trans lives:
As always, be safe & stay strong!
Janetta Johnson & the TGIJP Family