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We are a Queer/Trans Prisoner Solidarity Project in the SF Bay Area, currently connected as a chapter of Black & Pink. Prison abolition is our goal, and our strategy for action. Any advocacy, services, organizing, and direct action we take will remove bricks from the system, not put up more walls. We envision our work as direct solidarity with our community on the inside through letter writing, political education and community organizing to combat the damaging effects of criminalization as they relate to queer/trans experiences and through a queer/trans lens. We are interested in looking closely at the ways that marginalized bodies and lifestyles are stigmatized, surveilled and policed as well as how to resist, respond and build resilience. We always welcome new participants, ideas and leadership. If you would like to get involved, please email flyingoverwalls [at] gmail [dot] com or join us at an upcoming event.
A core framework of our group is support work with TGI Justice Project at their weekly legal support letter writing clinics. TGIJP is is a group of transgender people—inside and outside of prison—creating a united family in the struggle for survival and freedom. Our support of TGIJP has given us the opportunity to increase our legal support skills, our knowledge about resources and current situations facing queer/trans prisoners and our ability to take leadership from those most impacted by the prison system. We look to the leaders of TGIJP as advisors to the work we do.
Every month, we also host our own Prisoner Letterwriting Nights. These sometimes include discussions of current issues within the criminalization system/prison industrial complex or spotlights of individuals who have been targeted by the PIC. We are always available to lead an orientation of our penpal guidelines for new folks, do group check-ins regarding ongoing penpal relationships, and include quiet/social time for letterwriting. Making mutually educational relationships based in respect, friendship, support and solidarity between free world and incarcerated queer and trans folks is one of the most important ways to fight the prison and criminalization systems, which is *designed* to isolate folks from their families and communities. As much as possible, we try to include food or drinks, connection, and flexibility into the format of our events in order to support physical and spiritual well-being. We consider our events and our organization very D-I-Y. We are always open to new ideas and innovations.
To be transparent, a majority of the free world folks who have been involved with our group are white and not formerly incarcerated. We recognize this partially as a result of the current core coordinators of Flying Over Walls being white, which will always affect who we reach and who responds. Beyond this however, we recognize the ways that privileged identities tend to dominate solidarity work (we have spent time discussing this on both a local and national level). Dark Matter put out an amazing piece that speaks to some of these themes, and brings up issues related to how economic resources, political access, and histories of assimilation have on the prominence of privileged identities in solidarity work. We want to support everyone’s desire to deepen their understanding of the PIC and systems of white supremacy while being intentional about creating a safer space for QPOC and formerly incarcerated individuals who want to participate in this work. We always welcome new folks to join our work, and welcome QPOC & formerly incarcerated individuals who would like to join in our leadership team!
We share the analysis of Black & Pink: We are feminist. We are anti-racist. We are anti-Zionist. We want queer liberation. We are against capitalism. And we want revolution. Prisons are part of the system that oppresses and divides us. By building a movement and taking action against this system of violence, we will create the world we dream of.
We also celebrate the beauty of what exists now: Our love for each other. The strength of our planet. Our incredible resiliency. All of the power we have to continue existing. While dreaming and struggling for a better world, we commit to living in the present.
Our work is based in the experience of people who are or were in prison. We also raise up the voices of formerly incarcerated people as members of our “free world” Leadership Circle. We know that those most hurt by the violence of the prison industrial complex have the knowledge of how to tear it down.
Black & Pink’s “free world” membership started in Boston and has spread across the country. We will support one another, share the work of our organizing efforts, and grow our family inside and outside the walls. We would like to increase our national and international membership, creating chapters in more cities, towns, prisons, schools, and neighborhoods.
Flying Over Walls formed at the end of 2011. We began as the Prison Abolition and Solidarity Workgroup of HAVOQ, and began our letterwriting focus after several members of the HAVOQ Migrant Justice workgroup met up with the Montreal Prisoner Correspondence Project on the Undoing Borders Tour and agreed to take over responding to some of their penpal requests from incarcerated folks in California.
When HAVOQ ceased organizational activities and entered into a mediation process at the beginning of 2013, we splintered off into our own independent group, calling ourselves Flying Over Walls. We continued to support and orient penpals, offer letterwriting nights and began the first round of our study group. We then became a chapter of Black & Pink in 2014. We have since joined CURB and have worked all along in collaboration with a variety of other prison abolition organizations in the SF Bay Area, including CCWP, All of Us or None and Justice Now. We continue to build our knowledge and refine our values through organizational collaboration, study groups and popular education workshops as a means to develop solidarity with and gain understanding of the lived experiences of folks on the inside while also continuing to invite our larger LGBTQ communities into conversations about the effects of these systems on all our lives.
Some of our past actions and events include:
2017: Tabling at SF Trans March and sending postcards to over 100 trans prisoners across the west coast, continuing monthly leadership dinners, continuing monthly letterwriting events, now just in Oakland
2016: Focusing more on building our inside and free world leadership circles, starting monthly leadership dinners, continuing monthly letterwriting events in SF and Oakland, organizing a blanket area at SF Trans March and sending postcards to over 350 queer & trans prisoners in 5 nearby prisons, also sending postcards to over 350 queer & trans prisoners in 5 nearby prisons at our annual winter holiday events
2015: Offering the 3rd round of our prison abolition study group, which was our first inside/outside study group, continuing monthly letterwriting events in SF and Oakland, leading workshops at SF State and elsewhere, sending postcards to over 150 queer & trans prisoners in northern california at our annual winter holiday events
2014: Leading our first workshops in May and September (Caging Deviance: An Introduction The Prison Industrial Complex & Queer Resistance), continuing to offer and refine the structure of our monthly letterwriting nights, offering the 2nd round of our free world prison abolition study group
2013: Sending a flagging contingent to the February 26th Chowchilla Freedom Rally at Valley State Prison, sending over 100 holiday cards to incarcerated folks in Northern California during 4 holiday cardmaking events, starting the first round of our free world prison abolition study group
2012: A banner drop and contingent in support of the February 20th Occupy San Quentin event, hosting a Valentines for Prisoners event with CCWP, showing up in support of the Valentine’s Day fundraiser put on by Justice NOW!, CURB, TGIJP, and others by hosting a Valentines for Prisoners table and a photo booth.