Patricia Maginnis

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Patricia Maginnis died August 30. She was 93 and had lived a long life of fighting for every woman’s right to control her own body and her own destiny. Also known as Patricia, God The Mother, Pat was the quintessential sacrilegious anti-catholic.  She wanted more than reform, she wanted a whole system overhaul.  Pat was a laboratory technician and one of the founders of the Society for Humane Abortion (SHA) in 1962 in San Francisco. Lana Phelan and Rowena Gurner were the other members of the “Army of Three.”

The SHA sought to repeal abortion laws, endorse elective abortions, and offer women any resources it could in the meantime. These resources would come to include “the List,” an up-to-date directory of safe abortion specialists outside the country, classes on DIY abortions, and symposia where sympathetic doctors could confer with each other about the safest and best abortion techniques. More than that, the SHA was the very first American organization to advocate a pro-choice position that centered the woman, instead of the legal dilemmas of the physician—specifically, her right to privacy and choice. Rejecting the gatekeeping protocols, the committees and evaluations and red tape, the only question anyone should ask prior to approving an abortion was a simple one: whether the woman wanted it or not.

In her 20’s, Pat joined the Women’s Army Corps and was stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina until she was spotted walking with a black soldier: The captain told her she was setting a bad example for other young white women and she was shipped off to Panama as punishment.

During those two years in Central America, she experienced a different kind of discrimination. She’d trained as a surgical technician, but she was assigned to the pediatrics and obstetrics wards. There, she was exposed to women suffering from botched abortions, women being forced to give birth, infants with terrible abnormalities. What she didn’t get in surgical experience, she got in perspective. “A general overview of the status of women,” Pat said in an interview with Slate in 2018. “And I wasn’t at all happy with it.”

In 1967, the DA of San Mateo County threatened to arrest anyone disseminating information about abortion so the “Army of Three” immediately scheduled classes on abortion rights. Pat and Rowena were arrested, convicted and sent to jail. Their conviction was overturned in 1973.

Alternative newspapers called her “the Che Guevara of abortion reformers.” Her ideas certainly went beyond the calls for incremental reform made by establishment groups like Planned Parenthood.

Once the Supreme Court ruled in 1973 that women had a constitutional right to abortion, Pat rechanneled her activism to other issues, including gay rights and animal welfare. She also staged regular protests against the Catholic Church, criticizing its anti-abortion policies and demanding accountability in cases of sexual abuse by priests. Kate remembers seeing Pat, already in her 80’s, standing in front of the Cathedral of the Light in Oakland handing out pamphlets with her own funny and slightly lewd cartoons.

Tory says, “I remember doing abortion clinic defense in Oakland with Pat God The Mother Maginnis in the 1990’s.  One particular time I took a flying leap spectacularly breaking my wrist, in an effort to defend someone trying to access the clinic from an evil anti abortion fanatic.  Ever after that when I ran into Pat for many years, she always inquired after my wrist, fussing over me, treating me with revered respect for being a fallen soldier in the battle to save abortion.”

Barbara Hoke, an old friend of Pat said, “A precious friend and Feminist icon is gone. Patricia T Maginnis gave her all in the fight for women’s freedom, worked in the trenches protecting animals, fought racism and homophobia, lived a consistently righteous life with humor that brought the haters to their knees. The world is less friendly without you, Pat.”

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cartoons by Patricia Maginnis

Alix Dobkin

“There are only two responses to freedom. One is trying to control everything. The other is to be creative and take risks.” Alix Dobkin, 1994

photo graphic of Alix Dobkin

 Alix Dobkin, a lesbian singer and songwriter died on May 19th from a brain aneurysm and stroke. She was 80 years old. 

Alix was born in 1940 into a radical Jewish family in Philadelphia. She was named after her uncle, Cecil Alexander Kunstlich, who had been executed by a firing squad while he was fighting against the fascists in the Spanish Civil War. According to her ex-lover Liza Cowan, she “spent her early years listening to the music of Paul Robeson – who once visited her family – Pete and Peggy Seeger, Leadbelly, The Red Army Chorus, and her much- loved songs from Broadway musical theater. Alix’s parents were members of the American Communist Party until they quit in the 1950s [because there were too many FBI informants in the Party]. From them she gained a passion for civil rights and social justice.”

Alix graduated from the Tyler School of Fine Arts / Temple University, and after graduation performed in folk clubs in New York and Philadelphia. She met Sam Hood, who she married and in 1970 had a daughter, Adrian Hood. Later that year Alix got involved with the women’s movement. According to Liza, as Alix listened to a radio interview with Germaine Greer on WBAI, “she realized that this would be the cause of her lifetime. She joined a Consciousness Raising Group, separated from her husband, and struck out on her own. She picked up the guitar once more, and wrote a letter to the producer who had done the interview which had so inspired her, asking if she could perform on her program. The night they did the live on-air broadcast, Alix and the producer, Liza Cowan, fell in love, and soon moved in together, along with 11 month old baby Adrian. Alix was now a capital L Lesbian.”

Alix formed Lavender Jane with musician Kay Gardner. Because commercial record producers weren’t interested, they produced on their own label, the first known album of “lesbian music” Lavender Jane Loves Women in 1973. Their songs, such as View from Gay Head, had radical feminist, dyke-affirming lyrics such as:

Carol is tired of being nice
A sweet smile, a pretty face, submissive device
To pacify the people for they won’t defend
A woman who’s indifferent to men
She’s my friend, she’s a lesbian
And women’s anger Louise explains
A million second places in the master’s games
It’s real as a mountain, it’s strong as the sea
Besides, an angry woman is a beauty
She’s chosen to be a dyke like me
She’s a lesbian, lesbian
Lesbian in no man’s land
Lesbian, lesbian
Any woman can be a lesbian

Alix produced several more albums and toured the US and many other countries.

According to Liza, “as the women’s movement changed, and as Alix aged, she continued to perform, but devoted much of her time as a steering committee member and co-director of Old Lesbians Organizing For Change (OLOC), an advocacy group. In 2009 Alyson Books published her memoir, My Red Blood, recounting her early years growing up as a Red Diaper Baby in a communist family, and the early days of her folk music career.” During the controversy about inclusion of transwomen in OLOC, Alix supported that OLOC was open to all who identify as lesbians.  

“Alix spent the last half of her life living in Woodstock, New York, raising her daughter along with former husband Sam, leaving only to tour. In her later years, she spent her days working for OLOC, performing rarely, and helping care for her three beloved grandchildren.” 

Chaya and I met Liza and Alix in the 1970s in Seattle. During that time, the identity of lesbian was very big – for many of us big enough to include people who are gender queer, male-identified or butch, as well as people who identified as women or femme or fem. Alix Dobkin was a part of that time – lesbian love, lesbian sex, lesbian revolution! Thanks Alix.

— deeg

Prisoners’ Submissions

pencil drawing from prisoner

graphic by Toni Love Valenzela #3144589, Lacy Facility, 51 City Dr. South, Orange, CA 92868

Making a Change

I read your newsletter every time it glides under my door and I read it again and again. It amazes me how out of touch this prison is when it comes to most of the things you all talk about.

Yes, I am a Lesbian. I was when on the streets as well as now. I have been the queen of many drag shows even though I am a woman. I have been dubbed by our Mother herself out of Modesto CA. I have been here for 18 years, doing a double life sentence. Although I love to read about our community, I’m afraid not a lot of the women nor trans are as educated as I wished them to be. The C.O.s still address them as ‘mam’ or ‘she’ even though it’s clear they are in transition. We have a small amount of what we call the “real deal” (-: A lot of these girls come in here looking for a quick fix for love [for the] rest of us this is a life style.

The ‘Finally a Change” and “Prison is Still Prison” articles brought tears to my eyes. It still blows me away how ignorant people still are after all this time. I haven’t been out for a while but when I see the TV and there is a Vera Wang wedding ring being advertised and you see 2 women or the Black girl with freckles or big white girls in clothing ads or the Asian girl on the make-up ads … even the ones where we are all united looks like a step forward. I mean, come on, that’s what United States means, right? Coming together. This next generation, man, everyone better watch out. It could go many ways. My heart and my soul are into making a change. If anyone can help me do that here in this prison, please write me. Oh and all you that are coming, welcome. Please look me up, I am in IAC. Hopefully we won’t be locked down for quarantine, I can show you around.

Darlene R Fouse #X17951, CA Institute for Women/WA-860L, 16756 Chino-Corona Rd. Corona CA 92880

Expose the Unjust Justice System

First off, I want to shoot a recognized shout out to my LGBT Family! You are the only family I have and I cherish that to the fullest extent. However, my intentions of writing this article is not based on sentiment. It’s all love though! Now down to business.  Our family here at Jefferson City C.C. in Missouri is facing oppression that we should not have to face. As well as the rest of the population that inhabits this prison. We are all being denied adequate Health Care.

The medical staff tell us we must fill out Health Services Request forms (HSRs) whenever we have a complaint. Well, there’s two major problems with that declaration. The first being they do not provide us with sufficient access to those forms that they insist we fill out. Secondly, when we are able to obtain one of these nearly extinct “proper medical forms” and we fill it out with our professed complaints and we turn them in, we do not receive any kind of notification or response that our request has been received let alone acknowledged. This is blatantly denying us all the right (as human beings) to access to adequate medical care. That is also a direct violation of our constitutional rights under the 8th Amendment: the right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment. We cannot obtain relief even when we seek it through the “proper channels” that they call protocol!

As I am a Transgender woman currently undergoing Hormone Replacement Therapy, this is a more personal issue. This does not change the fact that I am NOT the only one affected by this deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. Being placed on HRT puts me into a special medical category called “chronic care. Any person placed in “chronic care” is supposed to be monitored and assessed every 90 days by a medical team and on an ‘as needed’ basis. I am going to expose the fact that they have not followed that protocol either. This is the scariest part of all these evil wrong doings (at least from my point of view speaking specifically HRT). Estrogen has high risks especially when taking it in high doses. One of the risks is cancer. How do I know that these lumps that are forming in my breast aren’t cancer cells instead of growing buds, if I can’t get medical staff to assess me?

Due to the severity of the danger presented to the LGBT people of this prison as well as others, I am calling out in despair for action against these evil tormentors especially during a time of crisis such as the Corona Virus Pandemic!! Please anybody that is on the outside, and inside, that is willing to help, that would be greatly appreciated! This oppression needs to come to an end! Let’s expose this unjust so called ‘justice system’. Much love and respect from the United Homosexual Family here in Missouri and from Tequila AKA Seaneal. Ms Sease Beard #1251289, Jefferson City C.C./8-B-108, 8200 No More Victims Rd. Jefferson City MO 65101

It’s Gotten Out of Hand

We can’t even exist amongst anything without giving it a damn title. Today, more than ever before, critics are compelled to push labels onto other human beings as if we’re some canned food on the shelf. At one point, and of course currently in many places, I was exclusively identified as: Blacky, Africano, Negroid, Hood, Ghetto dweller, Thugg, Drug Dealer, Gangster, Gang banger, Pimp, Convicted felon turned Crime Novelist.

Each of those rather hard core attributes fit for some [that] Society will aim to keep in the most darkest place of misfortune – Prison. Would any names be softened if the target was of the LGBTQ+? Nope! To my discomfort, I’ve stood in pain while listening to my former circle call Trannies “fag” or “punk”. The pain came from wanting to safeguard my own secret from the verbal abuse. Yet I wish those Trannies could stand next to me now because while they were taking those jabs, not once did they consider to expose me. I’ve partied with them and they chose to let the experience stand as a lesson of what I’d face eventually.

In the 90’s era of hip hop, the rapper (Nore) called people like me Homo-Thuggz in his song ‘What-what’. Wendy Williams was a radio host at Hot-97 during that same time and used a game called “Guess the Gay rapper” to expose a rapper from Jersey City. But on the whole, we were all subjected to the tag of “on the down low”.

Wow! Can I please just be considered me? Why has that been so hard to understand? For so long, society has made it difficult even for myself to accept my own truth.

Crazy love to my entire LGBTQ+ Fam! I was amazed at all those who recognized my short comment in the previous issue. I just want to add, it’s not over. Keep that mask on! Stay safe! Robert A (the Boogie Mann) Thompson #AN7958, CTF/north RB#326, PO Box 705, Soledad CA 93960

drawing from prisoner

Survival: My Only Option

As a Trans-woman who is 110% out and proud, I get my fair share of hate coming my way. We as LGBTQIA+ have been hated on since the dawn of time. Where do you think that has led us? It has led us to be the highest group of people to commit suicide! LGBT+ people are twice as likely to commit suicide compared to the general population with Trans people being four times likely. I have tried to commit suicide on multiple occasions: OD-ing on pain pills, cutting my wrists and/or jumping off roofs. I did these suicide attempts because people were not accepting me as the woman I am, instead of the man I NEVER was. The main people that caused me pain were my parents and siblings once I told them I was Trans and they kicked me out of their life.

It has been 11 years since I spoke with my family but I’m proud to say I am doing good despite not having them in my life. In fact, I’m doing GREAT. The last time I tried committing suicide I was 24 years old. I’m 29 now so it’s been almost 5 years since that time. Since that time, I have come to realize in prison that survival is my only option. I have been sexually assaulted, physically assaulted and verbally assaulted dozens of times in the past 5 years that I’ve been here in prison but it has not changed me. There are going to be times when you feel like killing yourself over another person hating you for who you are and there may be times you got assaulted. I want you to know you CAN be a survivor like me. I am proof that just because you are hurt, does not mean it should take control of your life. I am living proof that you can survive as long as you put your mind to it! I may not have family support but I still have family in the LGBTQ+ Community. All you folks who think you are alone, you need to know you are loved by your brothers and sisters.

Having LAGAI, the Transgender Law Center, The TGI Justice Project, The Utah Pride Center, The Utah Equality Center, Black and Pink and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (just to name a few) has really helped me survive! Please take advantage of the many resources that are available to in our community. You are LOVED. You are important. And you CAN survive!

Feel free to write me any time and I will write back. Please only use lined/blank paper or postcards when you write me. Also: only blue or black ink. Utah state rules.

Daisy Mae Ross/David Torrey #228565, Utah S.P. PO Box 250, Draper UT 84020

Shorts from Inside

When was the last time someone was hurt by equality?  #erasehate.  AC, Cheshire CT

Since 2015 I’ve been struggling as a transwoman on all male units. For the past three and a half years I’ve struggled to not only gain recognition of my gender identity – but trying to obtain medical care as well. Through the encouragement I received from so many readers of UV, I kept trying. I’m so excited to announce that my efforts have not only helped change policy, but that on March 23 I had my first appointment (via zoom) with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Sexual Health to begin medical transition. My legal transition was completed in 2017. To my brothers, sisters and other beautiful people I want to share the words that have, and still continue to, move me forward: “All we can do is try, if we make an attempt, then we didn’t fail. So far I haven’t failed and neither will you.” – Lisa Strawn. Kendra-Michelle Lovejoy, Moose Lake MN

I am a 30 year old trans-woman half white-half Filipino, serving 12 at an Arizona Men’s Prison! I’ve been on Hormone-therapy for 2 years, 5 months and am allowed to order women’s clothing (bras, panties), make-up and other items like curlers and barrettes. I am currently trying to legally change my name through my county’s Superior Court (Maricopa County). I’ve been denied two times for my sex-reassignment surgery because the AZ DOC said they weren’t going to pay for it! I get released in 2025 and am trying to prepare for my surgery as much as I can before release. I think about GASS and suicide everyday in here and have attempted both several times. God bless UV and hello to all my sisters!  Amy Rose Vehmeier, Florence AZ

It’s 2021 and runaway kids are still unable to get a proper education. In fact, runaways are part of the Ultra Violet Prism. I think it’s time for a change.  It’s 2021 and we should provide more resources for all youth. We as a people can do that. In and outside the LGBTQ Community, people are miseducated or not educated at all. (On so many levels.) Runaways have it even harder because the youth don’t have access to the things most people have. Prison, Death or Addiction is very likely to be in a runaway’s future. White Raven, Florence AZ

I especially enjoyed your March/April edition. I appreciate the way you present such colorful perspective, and the perseverance and grit that always fills your pages. I was moved to read about the legends you lost this year. The smiles they carried were incredibly telling. I’m smiling myself after a recent accomplishment and hoping you might share the moment with me. I was a guest speaker yesterday for a university law symposium. They booked me from Ad-Seg; I’ve never heard of anything like that. A lot of tears were shared … Cissy Lovey, Boise ID

Please support and promote #GONELONGENOUGH on all your social media. #GONELONGENOUGH stands for a number of criminal justice and prison reform issues, including: lowering sentences and abolishing mandatory minimums. We’ve made the first step. Without a second step, there’s no real progress being made. Let’s move together in criminal justice and prison reform. Make #GONELONGENOUGH that second step. Kelly Jones, betweenthebars.org/blogs/747

Hello out there. I want to express that I worked 7 long months to create a LGBTQ bookshelf on my unit. I’m a big reader and got tired of not seeing anything related to the LGBTQ [community] so I got to work. We are one in all LGBTQ prison communities and we need to stand together. Alexander Williams, Navasota TX

To all my trans family, I know it’s been a tough year dealing with COVID-19, but we made it. We as trans people have to stick together, we need each other, we lift each other up. It’s bad enuff we have to deal with CDCR and their BS, we don’t need the hate amongst us, between us. Because at the end of the day, who understands you? Your trans fam. C’mon y’all. Love one another! Punkin Pie, Mule Creek, CA

Hello UV and LAGAI! I just now received my very first UV issue and I am already hooked! I am a proud member and advocate of the LGBTQ community and have been openly gay since 2012. When I was arrested and sentenced to FCI Elkton where I currently am, I felt abandoned and shunned by those on the outside [that] I thought were my friends and family. But now since I have been down over 3 years I have found a stronger, closer family: all of you in the LGBTQ family! Because of you all I have become more comfortable and accepting of myself, and no hate or evil in this world is going to change that! I hope everyone is staying safe throughout this COVID crisis. Let us all stay strong and united and spread all the love we can in this world. Jamie AKA “Spark”, Lisbon OH

Hello to all you kings, queens and royals in between. I’m Dominic, a 25 year old transgender and currently incarcerated. I have 12 years left! Reading UV has had a big impact on me. I enjoy reading about out LGBTQ Community and of course the inside short stories from other people like myself. UV family, you give me hope that I will make it out of this horrible place. I’m so proud to be a subscriber. To all my LGBTQ Family across the world, remember we must stick together, together we can make a change. DH, Taber City NC

This is Ms Foxie B, founder of the Rainbow Coalition of Arkansas. This has been a great year so far even while the sky is fallin. Bowels of this prison, the walls rise twenty feet, blocking out the sun, creating a cement and steel tomb for the living whose life of hell is never done. No quiet or solitude yet always alone, trying to keep sanity in place. A hard task for any person who has to wear a mask to cover all emotion. Within the dark bowels of this prison, the animal instinct needed to survive exists in each prisoner’s heart and mind, as he continues his lone fight to stay alive. I just want you all to read and understand life. Girls, stay out of the SuperMax 18 month program.  It’s harsh time. Ms Malakhen Asar Maakheru, Grady AR

I am super excited to now be a part of an amazing newsletter I’ve heard so much about. I have to admit, after receiving my first ever newsletter, March 2021, some of the articles brought tears to my eyes. UltraViolet has put forth a tremendous platform for each one of us to be able to come together. I look forward to all of my future issues and hope to learn more. To all, keep up the great work and never stop fighting for what’s right! Stay beautiful. TV, Orange, CA

I’d like to give a shout out to all the great, hardworking staff of UV and all UV readers. Special shout out to Joe Rouse in MI, Tara Belcher in AL, Chantee Haywood in TX, Mia Rosal, Lindsey Heiman, Brianna Harding, Jodi Arias in AZ, Eva Contreas in CA. And any others I might’ve missed. You are all beautiful women worth fighting for. I’ve been locked up 16 years with 1 more to go. I promise to keep in touch with all you! Please have faith. Adrien Espinoza, Phoenix AZ

The Process for My Change

I have recently begun the process of getting the prison to recognize my trans-gender identity. The process is a little involved I’m sure you know. In New Hampshire it starts with a visit to Mental Health (MH) sick call. As I was a scared, confused person, working with a MH counselor was a good idea. The MH counselor meets with you four or five times over the course of a month or two. It’s a process designed to “weed out” the insincere or those who are not actually trans (their words, not mine).

After this rigorous screening, the MH counselor puts in an official request to the “GD Committee”. This committee is made up of relevant department heads and they decide if you are actually trans or not. If you are found to be transgender, you are given the MH diagnosis of Gender Dysmorphia. A mental disorder or illness. So, there are some things about this process that should alarm us. Like the fact that I need ‘authorization’ to be transgender! I just don’t understand the thinking. It’s demeaning, disgusting and degrading. I realize that in prison security is important and that the costs of treatment can be expensive. So, stop locking us up!! To tell someone that the essence of their being is wrong or invalid is just plain evil.

I guess out there [in the streets] you only need to state you are trans and that’s that. In here, it’s a punishable offense to wear make-up if you’re not an official trans-girl. I have a skirt that I made, that’s a huge no-no. A bra or feminine underwear? Absolutely not. I have been in for fifteen years now. I’m not a young and pretty girl any more (to be fair, I was never that pretty). I would never have opened myself up to the abuse and drama that every trans-girl gets from both prisoners and staff, if I was not a transgender. Being queer is invisible, wearing make-up is like wearing a target on my face. Survival is heavily dependent on staying under the radar. I have not yet been ‘approved’ to be transgender but I’m already getting the negative attention. I’m ok with that. I’m trying to learn to use it to my advantage. So far, not so well.

But the thing that really bothers me, and it should bother all of us, is that being trangender is a “disorder”. WTF? There is nothing wrong with me (not in that regard at least). This feels like some sort of concession to the morality Nazis who insist that if you’re not a straight heterosexual, you are an abomination, a sinning SOB destined for whatever Candyland Hell they believe in. If I am not hetero then I am not normal? If I am not born the biological gender of my soul then I have a mental disorder? Wouldn’t that be a physical disorder? Oh no! That is not possible because god doesn’t make mistakes. Oh alright, that makes it all make sense!!??

I am a Native two spirit. I am a Heathen who honors the God and Goddess, Odin and Freyja. Every aspect of who I am has been attacked and destroyed by the ‘dominant culture’. I am in the minority, I know, but I wish others would feel the rage I feel and fight back against the systemic disrespect and oppression leveled at us all. I mean no disrespect to those of you who are part of the ‘dominant culture’. It’s not the people of the culture I hate, it’s the culture of the people. And I do mean hate! For over a thousand years that culture has been killing my people, my religion and my identity with the assurance that they were doing good. If their beliefs could co-exist with other beliefs and not try to convert, save or fix everyone else, I’d be fine. Live and let live. But they can’t. They believe we are doomed and they want to save us. It’s a real tragedy, good people doing evil things believing it’s good.

I want to contribute to UV. I want to get into the fight, effect change, motivate others and shed light on the secret lies of our society. Especially the prisons and ‘criminal justice’ system.

Your ally, Amber AKA Gregory LaVallee #79373, PO Box 14, Concord NH 03301

Landlords, Nonprofit Directors, and Politicians Turned Low-Income Hotels into COVID-19 Hotspots

by Toshio Meronek

Reprinted from the Institute for Anarchist Studies’ special online issue “Pandemics from the Bottom Up.” Support their work: anarchiststudies.org/support-the-ias/

Low-income tenants in San Francisco are forced to fend for themselves as the for-profit landlords and executive directors for some of the city’s largest nonprofits use COVID-19 as an excuse to turn on their “Out of Office” messages. The disabled, elder residents who fill most of the city’s 19,000 subsidized Single Room Occupancy (SRO) units are used to neglect, but the surprise evaporation of the bare-minimum services that SRO management companies usually provide means tenants have to act or die trying. Their landlords stopped doing the bare minimum, like cleaning common areas and allowing food pantries like Meals on Wheels to deliver food.

Four disabled seniors at the Altamont, which is located half a block from the 16th Street BART station in the city’s Mission District, are asking for what might be the tiniest bailout in the US: free access to the coin-operated washing machines in their building, which would allow them to follow the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s guidelines that specifically lay out how to minimize the spread of COVID-19 at SROs.

The Altamont is operated by the nonprofit Mission Housing and its for-profit arm, Caritas Management. Shortly after San Francisco’s March 16 shelter-in-place order, residents noticed flyers taped to walls stating that due to COVID-19, Mission Housing would immediately close its Administrative and Resident Services offices until further notice, and food bank deliveries would cease. Two of the front desk clerks who police tenants, whether there’s a pandemic or not, also didn’t have answers as to why food deliveries were cut off even though they continued at non-Mission Housing SROs. 

Out of necessity, a longtime tenant named Kimberly James raised money for groceries, while the queer anti-gentrification group Gay Shame started a “quarter drive” so residents could use the coin-operated laundry machines without having to break the shelter-in-place order to hunt down a working change machine, or panhandling. The nearest laundromat with a coin exchange is half a mile away–not impossibly far, but a literal pain for people with mobility disabilities. 

James said that at first, she and her neighbors weren’t alarmed. After all, most of them have never met the executive director of Mission Housing, Sam Moss, whose position is controversial among low-income housing activists, given that Moss hails from the real estate industry and is a fixture at pro-development events, giving speeches to groups like YIMBY Neoliberal, a libertarian-leaning organization founded by a Google staffer and aspiring local politician, Steven Buss.

But when the food pantry services stopped coming in with no warning from Mission Housing, James didn’t have a choice but to figure out how she and her neighbors were going to eat. One of James’s longtime neighbors, who asked not to be named out of concern that they would become a target by Mission Housing and Caritas, said that even though they’ve lived at the Altamont for years, “It’s so funny, this disease is really bringing us together.” 

photo illustration

The resident is worried the techies still moving to the Mission will try to push SROs, which are funded in part government subsidies and one-third of each residents’ social security checks, and low-income people out of the neighborhood. 

“These mayonnaise-colored mother*******–no offense–” [The author of this article is Asian and white–and took no offense.] “The best they can come up with is to spend a million dollars to make us another app,” which was a reference to the nonprofit sf.citi, formed back in 2012 by tech investor Ron Conway. Conway’s big pitch got tons of play in the media: sf.citi would “disrupt” homelessness via a phone app that could connect people living on the street with local services.  (Conway’s app never materialized–though his organization helped to fund an app developed by the SFPD and the Department of Homeland Security, JusticeMobile, which arguably just further streamlined the criminalization of homelessness.) “I’ve got an Obamaphone. So, what do you want me to do with that?” 

As tenants at the Altamont worried about going hungry, Google employees who are now working from home fumed on social media about the perks they can’t access, such as the gourmet meals served up at Google’s headquarters (as one engineer lamented how “I now need to cook, do the dishes, etc.”–tasks he wasn’t prepared to take on, that were “previously handled by the office cafeteria”).

In an email, another Altamont resident wrote that “We need off-the-market, deeply affordable housing and SROs, which are being converted into luxury techie dorms like Sonder thanks to politicians like London Breed, Rafael Mandelman, and Scott Wiener.” Mutual aid projects such as the laundry-quarter fundraiser are important, they continued, but “we poor folks should not have to depend on charity.”

Still, the community organizing at the Altamont worked–to an extent. Mission Housing started allowing food deliveries back into its buildings at the end of March, seemingly responding to resident organizing and a lengthy back-and-forth between tenants and Mission Housing rep Marcia Contreras and the Mayor’s Office of Housing, which eventually sided with the resident and requested that Contreras and her team allow food bank deliveries to resume. However, Contreras refused to contact the third-party vendor that banks on the coin-operated laundry machines, or help distribute the money or laundry supplies collected to residents.

At other SROs, the situation is slightly better, but often worse. Weeks before the shelter-in-place order was issued on March 20, an SRO nonprofit in SF’s Chinatown, the Chinatown Community Development Corporation (CCDC), had already doubled janitorial hours throughout its system of over 3,000 SROs and apartments, and continues to update cleaning staff about best practices as healthcare experts learn more about how COVID-19 is spread. 

Matthias Mormino, Policy Director at CCDC, explained the importance of “vulnerability assessments” it was conducting, which identifies residents who will likely need help during and after the current outbreak. “We’re calling all our buildings and doing surveys,” to find out “if people need have a health problem.” CCDC’s resident advocates then “triage them and can be like, ‘Hey, these ten people are really vulnerable, so let’s make sure we talk to them as soon as and as much as we can.’” In particular, CCDC staff is available for phone and in-person meetings to help residents who are dealing with spiraling financial hardships to fill out the often-confusing and language-barriered forms that can help them get temporary financial aid. 

On the other end of the spectrum, there are places like 504 Valencia Street. Otherwise known as Casa Valencia, it’s an independently run nonprofit where management posted signs on March 16, to inform tenants that due to “the extraordinary circumstances we are all experiencing,” the next day they’d suspend janitorial services, and expected all residents to clean up after themselves. 

San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s administration announced weeks ago they’d suspend homeless tent sweeps while the city fails to offer the vast majority of people on the streets anywhere to “shelter-in-place.” Local law enforcement and the Department of Public Works continue to put tents and people’s belongings into dumpsters. And the mayor issued an eviction moratorium in early March that was soon circulated by the largest corporate media outlets around the country—which failed to ask for details. Eviction court proceedings continued as late as March 18, and physical evictions continued until at least a week later.]

Bay Area renters join others in the US who in an international rent strike movement to try to crack the real estate industry’s increasing stranglehold on the increasing numbers of people in the US who are on the edge of homelessness. At SROs, a rent strike is a tougher proposition, since SRO owners and operators are mostly paid directly by the government, which subtracts money from the social security checks of James and her neighbors.

In April, ten out of eleven of SF’s Board of Supervisor’s asked why SF’s mayor wasn’t following through on his mid-March promise to open up many of the city’s more than 30,000 empty hotel rooms to homeless people. Mayor Breed’s public relations strategists have successfully pushed the national media to push her image as a progressive hero. The mayor’s position means she’s able to ignore the Board, and people dying on the street, as she continues to align herself with her donors from the tech and real estate industries. 

photo of rent strike banner

Mission Housing’s inaction around the pandemic is giving us a naked view into how bad things can get when administrators of large nonprofits have little connection to the people they’re hired to help. And it also makes the direct action and perspective of people like Kimberly James, people who are working without the help of politicians, risking their lives and homes, as comforting than ever. “As you grow older,” she told me, “you will discover that you have two hands. One for helping yourself, and the other hand is for helping others.” Especially when the government and its contractors chase money and media attention while revealing how deeply they loathe poor people.

Resources

Anti-Eviction Mapping Project. “COVID-19 Housing Protection Legislation & Housing Justice Action.” COVID-19 Housing Protection Legislation and Housing Justice Action Map, antievictionmappingproject.github.io/covid-19-map.

Footnotes have been removed from this article. If you want to see the sources, go to https://anarchiststudies.org/landlords-nonprofit-directors-and-politicians-turned-low-income-hotels-into-covid-19-hotspots/

Check out Toshio’s essay about LAGAI, “How a Queer Liberation Collective has Stayed Radical for Almost 40 Years:” https://anarchiststudies.org/how-a-queer-liberation-collective-has-stayed-radical-for-almost-40-years-by-toshio-meronek/

Moms4Housing Shakes Up Movement For Housing Rights

by Stasha

Around 5 AM on January 14th, the Alameda Sheriff’s Department arrived to evict a group of black mothers — Misty Cross, Tolani King, Dominique Walker, Sameerah Karim — and their children from a house in West Oakland that they had been squatting for upwards of 50 days. Police arrived in alarming fashion: with an armored vehicle, fatigues, semi-automatic rifles, and a bomb-detecting robot. It’s incredible the kind of resources the state suddenly has at its disposal when it comes to mobilizing violence against black folks and the unhoused. This spectacle of force was unfortunately not an anomaly in an area where a hyperactive style of policing has become the primary state response to the neediness of the unhoused.

Moms 4 Housing, a collective of unhoused and marginally-housed women, along with the direct support of Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), captured broad attention and support from a responsive network of people, including neighbors and local community organizers. The owner of the house, Wedgewood, a colonizer land speculation and eviction racket located in Southern California, acquired the property at a foreclosure auction and had been planning to flip it. The eviction came on the heels of a decision by the Alameda County Superior Court which denied the mothers’ claim of a right to possession and ordered that they vacate the property within five days.

Though they were ultimately removed from the property, the acquisition of the exact house itself was not intended to be the final goal and stopping point of the action. It’s worth noting that this is not ACCE’s first fight with Wedgewood or CEO Greg Geiser. In 2014, ACCE supported a couple in Los Angeles who had been evicted by Wedgewood and picketed outside of Geiser’s home. That said, the Moms pulled off an impressive demonstration of the kind of community power and energy that is active around housing justice in the Bay Area.

demonstration Moms4Housing

The tactic of this Moms’ action involved specifically targeting vacant houses being used as investment vehicles by “big banks and speculators,” according to the Moms website, rather than as lived-in homes for the growing numbers of people who need them. The messaging was straightforward: housing is a human right; vacancies outnumber the unhoused; the problem is distribution, not supply. The estimated number of unhoused residents in Oakland was just over 4000 in 2019, 70% of whom are black (in a city that is 25% black). The crisis in housing is a man-made, gross distortion in access to critically needed shelter and other basic resources for living.

As they navigated various court dates and the looming fear of eviction, the Moms were able to regularly mobilize hundreds of supporters to the house and to the court in Hayward, sometimes simultaneously. The night of the eviction, hundreds of supporters arrived to the house within minutes of a call for emergency support. Police waited until the crowd dwindled down to about 50 people, early in the morning, to carry out the eviction. The Alameda county sheriff department said the eviction cost “tens of thousands of dollars” – an amount which could house the mothers for the better part of a year if not longer. The moms, meanwhile, have relocated to a shelter. Politicians keep asking: just how much below the bare minimum do the poor deserve? This was a good way of telling them: we’ll just take the houses ourselves, thanks.

As the World Burns or Drowns, CalSTRS Won’t Divest from Fossil Fuels

by Carla

This year as we watched the Amazon, the “lungs of the earth”, burn, and as we witnessed more and greater climate catastrophes around the world, as the temperature increases result in ice melts and rising oceans and torrential storms that disproportionately affect peoples and nations which have not caused the problems they face, it would seem that a policy of divesting from the fossil fuels that cause climate change would be a reasonable course of action.  Yet, the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) and the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) still refuse to seriously consider the demands to divest from their current holdings in fossil fuels, and to work on a model of sustainable investing.

Adults working along with Fossil Free California, in conjunction with youth groups such as Youth vs. the Apocalypse, Earth Guardians and Warriors 4 Justice, have been trying to educate the CalSTRS (State Teachers Retirement System) Board about the need to divest immediately from fossil fuels.

In September 2019 students from youth groups traveled to Sacramento to make their third appeal to the STRS board to divest from fossil fuels.  The board unflinchingly dismissed their demands to simply investigate the possibility of divestment. The middle school students, who came from Oakland schools, had researched and prepared a script which they passed from one person to the next since they were limited to a minute per speaker.  After speaking, students brought up to the dais a stuffed animal, each representing an endangered species, and left them for everyone to view.  They were admonished by the Investment Committee’s board chair, Harry Keily, to not approach the board due to security concerns. 

Students, both middle school and university students, presented at the STRS board again in November, 2019.  Students disrupted the CalSTRS meeting, playing Greta Thunberg’s speech and unfurling banners.  One student did a performance dance to the speech, and was about to be forced out.  After a 2 hour postponement of the meeting, the meeting continued where students and teachers were allowed to address the board for one hour.

photo of demonstrators

The STRS board argues that it has to make decisions based on fiduciary concerns, representing all of California’s public school teachers.  The board claims that it would be irresponsible to even consider divestment at this point in time, and uses the argument that if STRS continues its investments in fossil fuels, STRS also has the ability to influence policy.  As of December, 2019 we have not seen any changes in the policies of the large fossil fuel companies that will have any impact on the pressing problems created by climate change. 

In January, the CalSTRS Investment Committee presented a report, in accordance with SB 964 (2018) which requires that CalSTRS and CalPERS report on the financial risk associated with their investment portfolios in climate related investments.  The report does not acknowledge the extreme danger that is faced as the world approaches the 2º C maximum temperature increases.  It does not acknowledge the crisis that we currently face.  On the other side, California State Treasurer Fiona Ma, an ex-officio member of the investment committee, supports the divestment of CalSTRS from its fossil fuel funds.

CalSTRS is the second largest public pension plan in the country.   In September, shortly after the students addressed the STRS board, the University of California announced that it would be divesting both its endowment and pension funds from fossil fuel companies, including stocks and bonds. 

After a six year fight by UC Fossil Free the University of California system agreed to divest.  The argument the UC chancellors cited was that the investments in fossil fuels are fiscally unsound and represent a non-sustainable model of investment.  According to articles in the Nation magazine (Oct. 8, 2019, Williams, Emily and LeQuesne, Theo) the UC Board of Regents knew as early as 2013 that “fossil free funds have been outperforming” fossil fuel funds.  The activists at UC understand that divestment is the strongest way to put pressure on fossil fuel companies and to fight against the racist and classist impacts of fossil fuel companies’ policies.  The University of California’s (UC) announcement “declaring a climate emergency” came after the Climate Strikes around the world led by youth.  A political movement created the conditions for the response from Bachner (UC’s chief investment officer and treasurer) that UC needed to look at a new model for investment that is founded upon environmental sustainability, social responsibility and a fiduciary responsibility.  After years of activism, UC acknowledged that it can earn more money for its endowment and pension fund by supporting a sustainable economic model.

Similarly, New York City was pressured to divest its pension funds from fossil fuels in 2018. New York City has the fourth largest public pension fund in the country.   DIVEST NY, a coalition of local climate change organizations and public unions, led the fight for divestment that started in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy.  Labor played a large role in organizing for divestment under the name Labor 4 Sustainability.  The comptroller of New York City, Stringer, speaks about the fact that divestment from fossil fuel funds is not only ethical, but also fiscally sound.   Even the governor of New York, Cuomo, has come out in support of divestment of public funds from fossil fuel companies.  

Recent studies (done by Corporate Knights, a media and analysis firm) show that funds in the fossil fuel sector are actually underperforming, and therefore, a bad investment for the future of the retirees. Corporate Knights claims that if CalSTRS had divested from fossil fuels 10 years ago, the retirement fund would have gained $5.5 billion dollars.

Those people who have addressed the STRS board by speaking at meetings or sending emails have made clear that due to the climate disaster we don’t have the luxury of waiting to see if we can influence the policies of the fossil fuel industries and the banks that fund them.   Therefore, Fossil Free California is urging an immediate divestment of public pension funds from fossil fuel industries, and a reinvestment of these monies into clean energy, supporting a green new deal. The CalSTRS Investment Committee does not believe that divestment has the support of its stakeholders, public school educators and retired educators.  Fossil Free California, in response to the CalSTRS report that they will not be changing their investment model, is calling on educators, students and community members to address the investment committee’s board meeting on January 30, and to commit to on-going pressure on CalSTRS to create a sustainable investment model.   Information can be obtained at the Fossil Free website (https://fossilfreeca.org/).  The website also contains links to send emails to the CalSTRS and CalPERS board.  Both CalSTRS and CalPERS need to feel pressure from their stakeholders that they no longer will tolerate the intransigence of the Investment Committees in the face of growing dissent and mounting evidence against their views.

Is there a special punishment reserved for Black People who stand in solidarity with Palestinians?

Boycott Manny's demonstration

by Toshio Meronek

 This past year, it was hard to miss the news of CNN’s firing of Marc Lamont Hill, after his fairly vanilla call to end the violence in “Palestine, from the river to the sea,” or the controversy that flared when a civil rights organization in Angela Davis’s hometown took back an award due to her pro-Palestine activism.

One of the world’s most beloved poets, June Jordan, once told The Los Angeles Times about the “huge smear letter-writing campaign” started by feminists who said Jordan was “trying to divide the women’s movement” after she became one of the most visible Black critics of the Israeli government’s abuses of Palestinians. In her poem “Apologies to All the People in Lebanon,” she searingly describes how the US funds “the bombs and the planes and the tanks that they used to massacre your family.” (Today, the US gives about $4 billion each year to Israel’s military.)

 Black and Palestinian solidarity was the basis of weekly protests by Black, Brown, and Jewish groups outside a new wine bar in San Francisco’s Mission District, called Manny’s. Protests began when the place opened in November 2018, but they leveled-up in August, when cops arrested two protesters, one Black and the other white and Jewish, after a Zionist—a supporter of apartheid in Israel—pushed into the crowd and began destroying the sign of an anti-Manny’s protester.

 To the protesters, Manny’s represents a near-perfect mix of ingredients that make it a worthy target. Over megaphones, members from groups like the Bay Area chapters of prison abolitionists Critical Resistance, the Palestinian Youth Movement, and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, chant “Manny is a gentrifier and a Zionist!” while holding signs with messages like STOP THE WOKEWASHING OF THE MISSION. 

 Naming the place after himself, Emanuel Yekutiel was still in his twenties when he retired into the wine bar business. Previously, he made a living as a political strategist for clients like Hillary Clinton, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, and the Israel lobby group A Wider Bridge.

 Yekutiel says he wanted Manny’s to be more than just a restaurant. According to the Manny’s website, it’s “a people-powered and community-focused meeting and learning place.”

 In preparation for the wine bar’s opening in November 2018, Yekutiel hung portraits of black people on the walls, and had his menu translated for Spanish-speaking patrons in the Mission District—a District where about half the population was Latinx, until recent gentrification and evictions uprooted thousands of long-time Latinx residents.

Flexing his political connections, Yekutiel has booked appearances by presidential wannabes like San Francisco’s pro-Israel former District Attorney Kamala Harris, along with Cory Booker and Beto O’Rourke.

 Others have cancelled events at Manny’s due to the boycott, including Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers’ Alliance, and radio host Davey D.

 Chicanx students from SF State, plus a dozen other groups, point out that Manny’s used its “social justice” spin to get cheaper rent in the bottom floor of the Altamont Hotel, a public housing building whose landlord is a nonprofit called the Mission Housing Development Corporation (MHDC). MHDC’s Executive Director Sam Moss, a pro-gentrification activist who in June was the featured speaker at a event on free-market capitalism, says that Manny’s deserved a lower-cost lease because the “community-oriented” bar would make the neighborhood “safer.”

 But non-white, non-wealthy residents knows that a “safer” neighborhood can mean very different things to different people.

 The coalition of Black, Brown, and/or Jewish people running the Manny’s boycott point out in their social media that when a business like a wine bar opens in a historically low-income neighborhood, it means more “quality of life” (311) calls to the city by new, rich neighbors. It also means more of a police presence, and ultimately, more dead Black and Brown people.

San Francisco is the city that anti-Zionist James Baldwin famously called out for its “Negro removal” beginning with the “urban renewal” projects of the 1960s; the same city that today is bleeding black people, literally and figuratively. San Francisco mayor London Breed promised during her campaign to hire 200 new cops despite violent crime being at its lowest point in decades. (Crime stats never include murders by cops, of course.)

 Why is the city “providing reduced rents to wealthy businessmen while tens of thousands of San Francisco residents are homeless and countless others are being forced onto the streets because they cannot pay the absurdly expensive rents in the city?” is the question posed by creators of a GoFundMe page set up to help cover the bail of arrested protesters Dayton Andrews and Max Goodwin.

The night of his summer arrest on August 6, Andrews saw firsthand “the relationship between local government and private businesses.”

 The protesters had picked August 6 because that night Yekutiel gave a warm welcome to speaker Jeff Kositsky, the city of San Francisco’s “homeless czar.” Kositsky’s the man who told the San Francisco Chronicle he’s “thrilled” with the brutal homeless tent sweeps by the police and the Department of Public Works that target people who generally do not look like Yekutiel or Kositsky: Black, Latinx, Native American, disabled, and/or queer and transgender people are overwhelmingly on the receiving end of these sweeps.

 During rush hour that night, a Zionist counter-protester walked, zombie-like, into the center of the crowd. He grabbed one protester’s signs and proceeded to break it into pieces. When multiple police squad cars drove up, instead of arresting the Zionist, they handcuffed and charged Andrews and Goodwin on five counts that have since been dropped–though the District Attorney’s office has up to three years to pick them back up.

 Corporate media has universally praised Manny’s and its alleged “social justice” theme. As soon as the protests began, the San Francisco Chronicle gave Yekutiel a platform to call boycotters the ‘alt-Left.’ (The ‘alt-Left’ is a term made popular by President Trump and right-wing blogs like Breitbart, which tries to paint anti-conservative protesters in the US as domestic terrorists.)

 Some supporters of Manny’s claim that protesters are “anti-Semitic.” But as two Jewish women who live and work in the Mission wrote in their response to Yekutiel,

Zionism is a racist ideology that supported the creation and maintenance of a settler-colonial state in Palestine. Anti-Zionists, including Jews, oppose the oppression and displacement of generations of Palestinian people. Zionism, as a racist ideology, has no place in LGBTQ+ and antiracist movements whose goal is the liberation of all people.

Manny’s also reflects development plans to replace working and poor LGBTQ+ people, brown and black people, and other longtime residents of the Mission. Manny’s is yet another imposition on a community that is suffering from the opportunistic marketing of creative, progressive culture; it is the exact opposite of a community-rooted space for civic discourse about social justice issues, as Yekutiel claims.

 What role does Manny’s play in mainstreaming gentrification? Yekutiel is attempting to commodify social movements to promote his establishment and his agenda…

 On August 29, Andrews described over the phone what moved him to join the Manny’s protests, and what Manny’s represents. “The struggle against gentrification can’t just be limited to one neighborhood,” whether it’s in San Francisco, or on a block somewhere in Gaza. “If we don’t work in solidarity, then we’re not able to build these movements to actively resist these things” in a way that will ever touch the world’s most powerful people. Many of these people are part of the racist, sexist, and classist tech industry in Silicon Valley, who argue that techies constitute a “class” of people who should be covered under hate crimes law.

Protesters believe that the arrests at Manny’s are another example of how Black people in the US who speak out against injustice, whether it’s in the Mission District or in Palestine, are usually met with outrage, condescension, and silencing by people who control politics, corporate media, academic institutions, and businesses.

[Ed Note: Since this article was written, Cristina Gutierrez, who identifies herself as the lead organizer of Moms on the March and is a leader in Black and Brown Social Club, very publicly ended her participation in the boycott. She attended an October 23 event at Manny’s about Israel (with no Palestinian or anti-zionist speakers). She has since worked with Manny to schedule another program also without Palestinian participation. The boycott of Manny’s is still continuing, and Manny has repeatedly refused to make a statement supporting Palestinian human rights and the campaign for boycott divestment and sanctions (BDS) of israel.]  

Disaster Capitalism is Shaking it Up in Puerto Rico

by Amanda

What do you get when you have two major disasters in an island colony saddled with billions of dollars of debt? It’s not pretty.

Over 500 earthquakes have hit Puerto Rico in the last 3 weeks including 4 powerful quakes ranging from 5.2 to 6.4. In 2019 when I visited PR, the day’s seismic activity was part of the weather report with several quakes each day I was there.  Thousands of people are now living out in the open or in shelters, their homes destroyed or unsafe, or they’re too fearful to sleep in them with the constant and unpredictable quakes. The fear of not knowing when another major quake will come is a terrifying and constant stress. Puerto Rico is located between 2 tectonic plates both moving toward the island from opposite sides, squeezing the island. And, the debt is squeezing the lifeblood out of the people.

As happened with Hurricane Maria, it isn’t the natural disaster, terrible as that was, that is the worst problem. The infrastructure of Puerto Rico was crumbling before Maria and the orange man refuses to release the billions of dollars allocated after Maria due to the island’s “corruption and financial mismanagement”.  There is corruption: 2 high-level FEMA administrators have been indicted. Then there was the tiny inexperienced Whitefish company, owned by one of Trump’s major donors, which got a no-bid contract to restore the power grid after Maria. The post-Maria blackout was the longest in US history and the second longest in the world. Spoiler alert: the power grid has still not been restored. Electricity is still erratic and black outs continue. Puerto Ricans now refuse to donate or funnel supplies through the official US and PR government sites. After Maria a FEMA official was put in charge of communications to hearing impaired people although she had no knowledge of ASL and just made up signs. Disabled activists called her out. And on and on.

   So, yes, there is corruption. And the emergency funds to rebuild after Maria are still desperately needed to repair homes and infrastructure, schools, and hospitals. Instead, the PROMESA fiscal board overseeing the debt promotes austerity and wants to close schools and hospitals, ignore the crumbling infrastructure while cutting health care, schools, pensions, and salaries. Schools crumbled in the quake, never having a seismic engineer inspect them after Maria. Students couldn’t go to school after the quakes because they were waiting to have their schools inspected. Schools also serve a dual purpose as emergency shelters.

There has been a mass exodus of young and skilled workers after Maria since supporting a family is almost impossible. Many areas are depopulated especially of young people. Doctors and mental health professionals have left. Instead of the needed massive recovery to rebuild renewable energy and help people survive, only 10% of Maria recovery contracts have gone to local Puerto Ricans. Workers from the US are brought in, paid a far higher wage plus travel and living expenses to stay in hotels. Despite a law passed in PR requiring 12% renewable energy by 2018 and 40% renewable by 2025, only 2.3% of energy is currently renewable.  The electrical company is in the process of being privatized and the US controlled PROMESA board, “the junta”, calls the shots. The petroleum industry, who care nothing for the survival of any being on the planet, continue to develop and export oil, coal, and LNG and are so happy to have a colony to play with.  

   Almost everyone on the island lost power after the January 7, 2020 earthquake. It took days to restore power and, even restored, the electricity remains unreliable. Hundreds of thousands were without water, which is often not accessible when there is no electricity. Even in San Juan, blackouts of hours to a day or more have occurred frequently over the last years. Elsewhere on the island it is worse. Everyone on the island has lanterns and solar lights, generators, propane refrigerators, water filters or as many emergency supplies as they can afford. Donations are constantly needed.

   After Maria, instead of replacing the damaged and aging oil and coal fired power plants with solar and wind, the power plants were falsely claimed operational. As it became impossible to deny how dysfunctional they were, the decision was made to move to more liquefied gas plants and allow the 9 (out of 22) oil-fired plants that are still somewhat functional to increase their output and up their pollution limits. This will result in more health problems, carbon emissions, and fossil fuel dependency. There are large petroleum and LNG (liquefied natural gas reserves) offshore, which Boricua have fought not to explore and develop for 50 years. Can you imagine (more) fracking in the south of PR, the site of all the earthquakes? In Oklahoma fracking has brought hundreds of earthquakes to an area that hadn’t even had them previously. 

Many of the most remote areas of Puerto Rico waited nearly a year for power to be restored after Maria. The cost of providing solar panels, that could be taken down for a hurricane, to all these vulnerable families would be less than building a new LNG plant. But, the goal is for Puerto Rico to be the LNG hub of the Caribbean with LNG plants ringing the island and a proposal for 3 gas import terminals. Meanwhile, grassroots activists are showing the way by installing solar across the island in health clinics, community centers, and homes in vulnerable areas.

  A difference between Maria and the current earthquake disaster is that the damage is much more localized to the south and west of the island. Puerto Ricans from the north have collected food, water, and emergency supplies and driven south to deliver the aid and help with building temporary kitchens and shelters and other disaster help. Since everyone knows that supplies post-Maria sat on tarmacs and were never delivered there is no trust of government or FEMA aid. A government warehouse full of never-distributed emergency supplies from 2017 was just discovered in Ponce. Water, food, baby formula, and tarps had been sitting until an inspector found them after the earthquakes. Thousands of people died after Maria and those supplies were, and still are, desperately needed. I heard a story of one man still waiting for promised funds to rebuild his house from hurricane George in 1998. There are many blue tarps and thousands of destroyed homes waiting to be rebuilt from Maria in 2017.

 We must call for a release of the aid already promised to Puerto Rico for the damage of hurricane Maria. The US states have received and spent their Maria money.  There also needs to be more money allocated for the damage of this new major disaster. And, of course, the debt must be dropped or renegotiated. As graffiti across PR says, “The debt is not ours.” The banks and the politicians created the debt; the people should not be made to pay for the colonizer’s debts.

  I want to salute all the amazing grassroots activists in Puerto Rico who are feeding people, rebuilding agriculture, fighting for the education system, providing acupuncture, health care, mental health services, marching in the streets to demand people’s needs and priorities, kicking out the corrupt governor,  and so much more. The beautiful spirit of Puerto Rican people in the face of all this adversity refuses to be crushed. La luta continua.

BRIGADA SOLIDARIA DEL OESTE is one of the grassroots groups doing great work since Hurricane Maria. Donate through Pay Pal brigadasolidariadeloeste@gmail.com
Donate through a check to Eury Orsini, Calle Mariano Abril, 101A, Bo. Buena Vista, Mayaguez, PR 00680

Prisoner’s Writings

LGBTQ Groups at San Quentin Prison

San Quentin prison, for the first time in the history of the prison, has a transgender support group that began May 1st 2019 and the first ever gay, bisexual, gender non-conforming group.

The transgender group meets on Wednesdays with the help of 2 mental health clinicians and myself as an advisor to the group. No subject is off limits to be discussed and if any transgenders wants to share her story about her transition then she has a safe space to do so. The first rule of the group is everyone has opinions and the right to their opinion. The group’s goal is to give all of the transgenders a safe place to be who they are, support each other and a place for any transgender to feel they are accepted for who they are.

While the gay, bisexual, gender non-conforming group has the same concept and principles, it serves a larger community of incarcerated people. 

So far, the transgender group has had clinicians from the prison sit in on the group as well as administration and scheduled guests from outside. Including from the C.D.C.R. headquarters. All in all it’s about time for the LGBTQ population to have groups that they can say are for them and give them the sense that they are all worthy of such groups for now and for the future of the San Quentin prison. Lisa Strawn #D01271, S.Q.S.P. NB 3-18, San Quentin CA 94974

[ed. note. Lisa also sent an article from the San Quentin News about a pilot prison program started 4 years ago, a pilot program that hopefully will go to other prisons in CA, but hasn’t yet as far as we know. It’s called Acting with Compassion and Truth (ACT) and it “explores how cultural differences affect the way people with diverse sexual orientations are treated. The group consists of LGBTQ people as well as heterosexual/cisgender people.”]


Shorts From Inside

Well, first off I had to look up insurrection. And so far I am with it. I am a lesbian living in a very conservative state (Virginia). I have done a total of 14 years of my 38 incarcerated and I have had to withstand a great deal of profiling, prejudice and bullying.  I would be stoked to get the UltraViole newsletter. SN Virginia Beach VA

I am a 41 year old gay man. I just came out of the closet after years of lying to myself, my friends and worst of all my family. Unfortunately I am in jail up in Humboldt County for about 10 more months. Since I have come out of the closet though 3 people in my dorm came out right after me! It was so amazing! Now I am in talks with the jail to let me do a gay awareness and sensitivity class. JB Eureka CA

May this short letter find you all in good health and good spirits. Unfortunately I have been getting moved around quite a bit lately. I was here then I went there. Then I was there and now I am back here. Such is the case. Anyway keep me on the mailing list. I love the “UltraViolet”! JB Deer Lodge, MT

Dear Sirs and/or Ladies. We are a group of prisoners who have formed an all-inclusive group for those of us on the fringes of society. Our mission is to help each other come to terms with who we are as well as educate our society as to who we are and are not. We are a newly formed group and are looking for any outside support. We are also open to any suggestions about how we can best assist our community as a whole. We are interested in giving back, not just taking. Goose Creek LGBTQS Group, Goose Creek Correctional Center, 22301 W Alsop Rd. Wasilla AK 99623

I am a proud openly Gay Queer femme person. I have been locked down for almost seven years now. I just heard about your organization. I really appreciate your effort to help our community within this cinderblock world. BM Georgetown DE

Hello my name is Dylicia. I am a Transgender prisoner serving life without parole in Florida. [UV] helped me deal with the courage of coming out. I am right now on 24 hour solitary confinement and I will be this way for the next year. I have been having the hardest time trying to get these All Male Prisons to honor my rights as a Transgender. I have no family because I grew up in foster care and I’ve never been stable or situated when I was free so I never gained any Resources or freeworld friends to help me. Hopefully someone will be able to contact me with help of Advice. Maybe even some words of encouragement. Dillon J Gresham #U39504, Santa Rosa C.I. 5850 E Milton Rd. Milton FL 32583

The first Transgender Day of Remembrance is happening on November 20th [at San Quentin Prison]. There will be music, speakers, poetry and a lot of outside guests that day. We have outside media and inside media to cover the day. But I would love for you at UltraViolet to be here. P.S. you can listen to a podcast that I did for Orange is the New Black; podcastsapple.com From Where She Stands, episode 3. P.S.S. I will always be a part of your lives. For it is all of you who gave me a space in your paper almost 6 years ago to share my thoughts with everyone. I cannot and will not be able to thank you enough. You are all my family. Lisa Strawn San Quentin Prison, San Quentin CA

As a gay man, thank you for UltraViolet. I am looking for any/all prisoner snail mail resources to contact. I am especially interested in Lifers, end LWOP, end slavery/servitude/work in prisons. Colorado abolished slavery/servitude but the DOC still forces work and punishes for failure/refusal to work. Any help appreciated. I can receive prisoner mail. Charles A Garrison #108271, 12750 Hwy 96@Ln 13, Ordway CO 81034

Today I got the latest UltraViolet and wanted to say thank you. These newsletters help me a lot. Being in a level 4 prison, it’s hard to find out what is going on with the LGBTQ fam, and your newsletters help keep me updated and give me a way to both seek help with some of my conflicts and to offer other LGBTQ Fam help and advice with what they may be going through. Gideon Tehachapi CA

Many years ago when I came to prison, you all were the only people who sent me a newsletter. I wrote several of the ‘free’ places on all of the papers that I could find around the compound  but UV was the only newsletter I ever received. Thank you for that. My time will be up in December and I will be able to be free after 8 years! Being a Trans guy in here [Virginia C.C. for Women] has been hard. I’m ready to start my life all over again as Steve … no longer Stephanie. I wish you all the best of luck and keep doing what all you do for people incarcerated. With love, Steve. [ed. note: congratulations Steve, we wish you all the best in your new life. Keep in touch]

I wanted to make a recommendation that might make some of you to smile and others to cry.  It’s a song by the beautiful transgender artist King Princess, called “Talia”. Check it out. Oh I wanted to apologize to Robert Holmes for not writing him back. I would have if I could have! Love to my friends Leaf and Si’moan. Blessed be. Rayne, FL

It was heartening to read about the continued grassroots efforts to get law enforcement out of Pride activities. I also read with interest the article about opposing Zionist suppression of the Palestinian professor. The Zionist Apartheid of Israel is often reported too little. Finally it was also good to read about an effort to curb killings by police in California. Perhaps it is time to push for an effort to disarm the police, save for special units? Gender and sexuality are complicated. Keep up the good work. CF Torrington WY

I thank you for publishing the last article I wrote. Now I’m sending the new memo we just got about the tobacco issue. I have a feeling that sometime in July for a few days we will be on lockdown to try to find all our tobacco by searching all the units of the campus at SCI Muncy. This is horrible. I feel bad for the lifers here that have been smoking for 20 years or more and now, they and all of us other inmates have to stop by force not by choice. The prison doesn’t even supply nicotine patches for all the inmates who need it to help with their nicotine cravings. Inmates are already trying to be sneaky, hiding lighters and tobacco under the grounds all around the compound and staff is finding it with their metal detectors as the staff randomly searches the campus. Anyway, I love your newspaper, in a way you are our supporter of freedom of the press. Your friend always, AA Muncy PA

I am a 33 year old lesbian stud. Here at Chillicothe C.C. we have no support groups for my fellow family LGBTQ. It saddens my heart because we really need support and need to stick together. If anyone has any info on how I could go about starting a support group, please write me. I just want to tell all my LGBTQ family to keep their heads up and I have mad love for you all and remember the rain won’t last forever, the sun will come out. I know it can be lonely in prison. Vanessa Tawwater#1286656, C.C.C. 1L-140, 3151 Litton Rd. Chillicothe MO 64601

Know that I really appreciate your newspaper. It helps me to network with other prisoners around the country and to learn what is going on in other prisons as well as on the streets. Keep up the fabulous struggle, knowing that we are doing the same in here. JN Jackson MI

I got your news paper and I was blown away! See, as a Two-Spirit Native American seeking True Culture,, I saw where another inmate put “Lavender 2-Spirit Foundation” in there [the UV] and it completed me. I’ve written a lot of places and no-one has ever answered. I only wish to take part in my Native Culture: I’m not asking for too much. So thank you UltraViolet for your hard work in uniting people together. We got a GSA type of thing here called “The Equals”: we strive to accomplish “Stop Hate in Kentucky” but right now I’m in the hole because of Prison bullies so maybe I’ve lost or maybe I’ll make a comeback. Who knows but I hope my/our Creator answers my prayers. There is this Native saying, “Your breath is your spirit of life. It carries your words which are the secrets of your spirit. You must speak straight. What you say comes from inside you. What you have inside you is who you are. Never let your breath of life carry what is not true.” Please post. I can get inmate to inmate mail. Edward Oney #282802, E. K.C.C. 200 Road to Justice, West Liberty KY 41472

I’ve been getting UltraViolet for over a year and have been excited for every issue that’s on its way. For a long time I’d been very depressed. There’s nobody who’ll write me and my family frowns on and pretty much told me to fuck off in the most “Christian” way possible. I almost gave up before a close friend of mine gave me y’alls’ info. I’m standing today a proud gay man I am and am running for vice president of education for the JHCC New Dawn Gavel Club in hopes I can inspire those “in the closet” that you cn become somebody of influence if you apply yourself.  Raymond Jenkins #655093, JHCC, PO Box 548, Lexington OK 73051

Dear UltraViolet . I am here doing time in a California Health Care Facility. I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer that has spread to my bones. I was told that I am terminal. Anyways, one of my only comforts is receiving UltraViolet. I really enjoy reading the articles and letters. I don’t have anyone in my life since my mother passed away 4 years ago. I am a 48 year old guy who is very lonely. It is hard to make friends in prison especially when I am open about being bi. I get hit on a lot in here but they are not gay. I did get some good news the other day, my cancer is stable right now. I mainly just wanted to write in so I could tell you thank you for the newsletter and if anyone out there would like to write to me, I would not mind one bit. Joe White #AK3192, C.H.C.F. D7B-111, PO Box 32200, Stockton CA 95213

want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the newspaper for us LGBTQ inmates. I’d like to send a message to my soulmate, Christopher. This is your boyfriend Derek, just sayin baby, keep your head up and know I’m yours forever. Stay strong and just know it’s us and our 3 kids til the end of time. Love always, your soon to be husband Eko. DH Pound VA


Universal Rose

My latest goal is called the “Universal Rose Project.” I have been sending out the Universal rose brochures to many organizations and individuals since July 2019. I have had many ple and organizations respond to my request to help spread love, compassion, peace and unity by making coor copies of the brochure and giving them to people with a hug and the words, “YOU ARE LOVED”. My vision is to see the message of the Universal Rose spread across the USA and abroad via loving compassionate people. For copies of the brochure or more info, Rev. Eyvind Odinsson #1210152, Greensville C.C. S2-4-223T, 901 Corrections Way, Jarratt VA 23870

drawing of rose

Incident of Persecution

I am an inmate at FCI Texarkana Camp. There was an Incident in June. I am writing on behalf of my friend, Bryan, “with his permission”.  Another friend, Jordan, who is transgender was forced by BOP/RDAP [Residential Drug Abuse Program} staff to stand in front of a hostile group of inmates while they questioned her about her sexuality. [They] made her admit that she was a man and not a women etc etc.  Bryan stood up for her along with another inmate. Jordan has since been released because she was sexually assaulted by another prison staff member but Bryan continues to be persecuted for taking her side. His Dad is gay and has been ridiculed before and knew it was wrong. Bryan was sanctioned in June and given a ‘plan of action.’ He completed that and then was told he was suspended for 90 days. He completed that and then was told that he can’t take RDAP at this facility. Inmates have to wait until the end of sentence to apply to RDAP and then the sentence is reduced by one year upon completion. Now Bryan will run out of time and will not benefit from the program. Can you help so this doesn’t happen to me or another LGBT in the future?

Please call the Texarkana warden 903-838-4587 and the Regional Director 972-730-8600 and tell them to change their policies toward LGBTQ persons. Paul McKinney #07244-380, FCI Texarkana Camp, PO Box 7000, Texarkana TX 75505


The Lack of Dignity

The frustration that comes with being incarcerated (enslaved) is an enemy that weighs heavy on the mind. Even more so when we as those enslaved try to receive help; no one wants to take a stand to help bring about changes.

Given I am a victim of this bias system it is hard for me to find the proper help needed to have my freedom restored. So although I may not want to be a product of this growing complex, I am and that’s why it is so important that we come together to demand change. As much as people may want to deny the facts: mandatory minimum sentencing is an out of touch, biased and unfair mechanism in the criminal justice system that disproportionally affects people of color. It’s a shame when certain people of color fail to acknowledge these facts. So they continue to lie to themselves and turn a blind eye. The truth is those people are the problem. Praying that we who are incarcerated will continue to fight and let our voices be loud and clear. We are not animals, we are human beings who deserve to go home.

Together we must be smart, wise and productive. You can count on me but I request only the serious minded. I do not have time for nonsense by (no) means. Only contact me if you are about your business. Thank you. Antonio L Ripley, Licensed Minister, #0344995, Nash. Corr. Inst. PO Box 600, Nashville NC 27856


To All My Transgender Sisters Doing Time

You are not alone. My name is Gideon Griffin AKA G. I’m an advocate with GCM Advocacy and Support Network. Though I’m not transgender I will always fight for transgender rights. All women are beautiful and strong, it should not matter if they were born female or not. Back in high school I met a girl named Jessica. She and I dated for 6 months before I found out she was transgender. On my way to her house, I saw 4 boys jumping her, one had a knife and I tried to stop them, he stabbed me 6 times. Later that week, her mom came to see me, Jessica wanted her to give me a note letting me know she’s transgender and that’s why those boys jumped her. It didn’t change the fact that I was still in love with her. Two months later I was well enough to go back to school. Jessica was not expecting what came next. Since everyone now knew she was transgender, I put my arm around her and in the middle of the school yard I yelled, Jessica is my girl no matter how she was born, I love her. Then I asked her to prom. Since that day, I’ve done everything I can to promote transgender rights. Up until last year, Jessica and I were still together. She passed away in a car crash on her way to visit me in prison. Gideon Gresham #BG4125,  CCI-Tehachapi/4B-6-A108L, PO Box 1906, Tehachapi CA 93581

All Over the World

photo of Climate Change protestors
photo of Climate Change March
photo of youth on Climate Change march

From Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Europe, North America and South America, students from all over the world took to the streets to demand change. More than 1 million students skipped school on March 15 to protest government inaction on climate change. Organizers said there were more than 2,000 protests in 125 countries.