A couple of weeks ago, I was having a conversation with my mother about my organizing work. We chatted, and I told her about my current work with Eliminating the Wedge, which is a group in Albany that seeks to close the gap between the gender based violence movement and the anti-mass incarceration movement. She said to me “Yeah, that’s been a problem for a long time.”
And it’s a huge problem. These movements are not mutually exclusive, but are movements are framed in ways that make them so. Police and state violence is not only a Black cis-male problem; it’s everyone’s problem. And more importantly, this violence is disproportionately directed towards women of color and trans people of color. We just don’t uplift their stories.
The other day, another group that I work with called Capital Area Against Mass Incarceration lobbied (amongst many other groups!) at the NYS Capitol for support of the HALT Solitary Confinement Bill. The use of solitary confinement for more than 15 days has been deemed as torture by the United Nations, but in New York it’s often used for months, years, even decades at a time. The proposed bill would end long-term isolated confinement and create more humane alternatives.
It was empowering to lobby for what was important to me, but what I felt that the stories of trans people and women of color were not put on the platform that should have been. Trans individuals are often placed in solitary confinement for years at a time, citing that it is for their own protection. This is the same for pregnant women. The psychological damage is extensive, and the recidivism rates increase when solitary confinement is used. These are the stories that need to be told. We also have to realize that our movements are one in the same in order to create real sustainable change.
But both movements need to center our movements around the most vulnerable to the violence that we are all trying to eradicate. Many trans women of color have been killed by police, but we really haven’t heard much about them. I’m heart broken by this, but I’m also going to do something about it, because I am so tired of hearing of another sister buried too soon. It is important for us to constantly uplift these stories; as organizers, as organizations, as communities, and most importantly in our personal circles. These conversations will probably be difficult, but systemic change is not going to be easy.
Artwork by Laura Wilson