The Human Rights Lab and IOP’s Bridge Writing Workshop are collaborating to host a virtual letter writing program for folks currently incarcerated in Illinois. The event will feature mini-keynote addresses from Maya Schenwar and Colette Payne, tools on how to write a letter of solidarity, and guidance for continuing a pen pal relationship beyond this event.
Samantha Dunn from Black and Pink: Chicago will facilitate a breakout group for those interested in long-term letter writing.
Participating UChicago students based in Chicago will also have access to subsidized stamps and envelopes.
Maya Schenwar is the editor-in-chief of Truthout, the co-author of Prison by Any Other Name: The Harmful Consequences of Popular Reforms, the author of Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can Do Better, and a co-editor of the anthology Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? Police Violence and Resistance in the United States. She has written about the prison industrial complex for Truthout, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Nation, Salon, Ms. Magazine, and others. She is the recipient of a Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Chi Award, an Independent Publisher Book Award, the Women’s Prison Association’s Sarah Powell Huntington Leadership Award, and a Lannan Residency Fellowship. Maya organizes with the abolitionist collective Love & Protect and was a cofounder of the Chicago Community Bond Fund. Previous to her work at Truthout, Maya was Contributing Editor at Punk Planet magazine and served as media coordinator for Voices for Creative Nonviolence. She lives in Chicago with her partner and toddler.
Colette Payne is an organizer, leader, student, mother, and grandmother. Her passion is to educate families to build healthier communities. Colette is the Policy Associate for Cabrini Green Legal Aid. In her role, she helps engage those directly impacted by the criminal justice system to become agents of change and creators of solutions. In 2015 Colette joined the delegation to assess women’s prisons in Illinois, becoming the first formerly incarcerated woman to serve in this role in the entire United States. Colette was a 2016 Fellow for JustLeadershipUSA and also serves as one of the co-chairs of the Women’s Justice Institute’s Statewide Women’s Justice Task Force of Illinois.
Black and Pink: Chicago is an open family of GLBTQ prisoners and “free world” allies who support each other. 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 LQBTQ people, and respond through advocacy, education, direct service, and organizing. The heart of Black and Pink’s work is connecting LGBTQ prisoners with pen-pals on the outside. Here in Chicago, we are actively recruiting pen-pals on the outside, to ensure that every member of our Black and Pink family that is currently behind bars in Illinois has a pen-pal. For folks on the outside new to being a pen-pal, we offer a one-hour orientation to LGBTQ issues with the prison industrial complex and the nuts and bolts of long-term letter-writing.