The power of receiving a handwritten letter as an incarcerated LGBTQ person

The power of receiving a handwritten letter as an incarcerated LGBTQ person

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88Nine Radio Milwaukee
Volunteers from Black and Pink Milwaukee form pen pal friendships with LGBTQ inmates

The rare art of a handwritten letter, or dare I say, in cursive, has become nearly extinct. Pen pals, however, have managed to survive natural selection and make a comeback for the greater good.

By: Carolann Grzybowski, Intern

Black and Pink Milwaukee is a volunteer organization of people who write letters to incarcerated LGBTQ and HIV positive people. Their goal is to provide support and resources for inmates, and ultimately reduce violence within prison walls.  

I went to the Center Street library to check it out myself. In an otherwise silent library, a conference room was filled with people painting signs, decorating cards, and thoughtfully handwriting letters to both strangers and pen pals that are incarcerated.

I talked with the founder of Black and Pink Milwaukee, Sarah, who has asked us not to use her last name.

“When that person is told that they’re getting mail, it signals to the corrections officer, other staff and other inmates that that person has someone on the outside that cares about them or is watching them. And then they feel less empowered to harass or hurt that person,” she says.

Prison abuse happens at higher rates among the LGBTQ community than the rest of the population, Sarah says.

“Queer people are often seen as people that are hypersexualized. People with HIV are criminalized because they are seen as disease spreaders which is not the truth,” she says.

Black and Pink also focuses on helping inmates feel less isolated and alone. Beyond sending letters, it raises funds for the families of those incarcerated to stay in contact or even visit their loved ones in prison.

Often, incarcerated individuals become estranged from their families because of the cost of communication and transportation.

Sarah says solving these problems starts with people like you. If you want to support the organization and write a letter of your own, all you have to do is show up. For event dates and more information visit Black and Pink Milwaukee’s official website.