Black & Pink National
Prioritizing the needs and desires of people over the logics of systems of oppression
In 2002, Jason Lydon, Black & Pink National’s founder, was arrested and incarcerated. He was sentenced to six months in federal detention, including six weeks in solitary confinement. The letters Lydon received from his faith community allowed him to endure what can be classified as torture, according to the United Nations. The hundreds of letters, poems, and books he received offered him the comfort, guidance, and strength to endure his sentence.
After he was released Lydon supported his comrades who were still inside through the very practice that had sustained him—letter writing. In their letters, his old friends shared their deeply personal struggles with sexuality, faith, and the day-to-day realities of incarceration. To manage the stacks of letters he received weekly, Lydon turned to his faith community for support. Lydon’s pen-pal program is a cornerstone of Black & Pink National’s advocacy work and has since moved to a web-based platform to connect more pen-pals than ever.
In the nearly twenty years since its founding, Black & Pink National has matured into a major advocacy organization operating in cities across the country. The organization is unapologetic about its commitment to the LGBTQIA2S+ community, as well as to people living with HIV/AIDS who have been impacted by the prison system. As Black & Pink National’s current executive director, Dominique Morgan has continued to translate Lydon’s anarchist vision into change-making action.
Under Morgan’s leadership, Black & Pink National operates from a working definition of abolition that rests on the core principles of love and the pursuit of liberation for each and every person. In order to build a future in which police and prisons are not necessary—a future that still seems out of reach to many—Black & Pink National offers a slate of programs and support services to help LGBTQIA2S+ people and people living with HIV/AIDS get closer to liberation in the here and now.
The National LGBT/HIV Criminal Justice Working Group builds on the slow progress that has been made toward equality for LGBTQIA2S+ people and those who live with HIV/AIDS by pushing for bold action to reform legal and criminal justice systems. This national advocacy coalition was coordinated by two formerly incarcerated members of the LGBTQIA2S+ community and has grown to include nearly fifty organizations.
In February of 2020, Black & Pink National opened the first Lydon House in Omaha, Nebraska. Named for the organization’s founder, Lydon House provides housing for LGBTQIA2S+ individuals and those who live with HIV/AIDS as they exit prison and re-enter community. All residents live cost-free, and Lydon House offers wraparound services tailored to each resident’s specific needs and circumstances.
Black & Pink National also recognizes the urgent needs of system-impacted LGBTQIA2S+ youth and youth impacted by HIV/AIDS. The organization’s Opportunity Campus will serve as a space of community-building, healing, and learning for system-impacted trans and queer young people. Together, Lydon House and its Opportunity Campus foster and amplify the spirit and legacy of Black and queer excellence in Omaha.
In addition to creating safe spaces across the country for LGBTQIA2S+ people and those living with HIV/AIDS, Black & Pink National intervenes at critical junctures to provide support. The organization applies sustained pressure to systems that fail vulnerable people again and again, because they were built to intentionally overlook them. The R.E.A.P. program (Restore. Embolden. Amplify. Power.) targets the challenges met by formerly incarcerated LGBTQIA2S+ people when they reenter community after exiting prison. TRANSitions builds a pathway to safe, affirming, sustainable housing for system-impacted trans people. Finally, the Marsha P. Johnson Youth Leadership Institute invites LGBTQIA2S+ youth to apply for an immersive youth advocacy and leadership program where they can train to become advocates in the field.
Black & Pink National makes meaning of the declaration: None of us is free until we are all free. By showing up authentically as advocates for LGBTQIA2S+ people and people living with HIV/AIDS, Black & Pink National has made its name as one of the largest, most recognized, and most impactful advocacy organizations for those groups. Upholding the firm belief that our fates are bound, Black & Pink National’s pursuit of abolition has the power to liberate us all.