What is your motivation? What pushes and draws you forward when you are not sure of what lies ahead of you? Is it your spouse, kids, friends, church, or is it something inside of you? Is it your a need to do and see more of life, or the need to live as your truest possible self? My motivation is my faith. It helps me to believe that I have a purpose in this nightmare and that all things are possible.
As a kid, I was taught to believe that I have the freedom of speech, but I have learned quickly that “Freedom of Speech” does not apply to people like me me. One minute you can voice your opinions, thoughts, feelings, hopes, and dreams, then the very next minute it can all be taken away from you. Speaking your truth while in prison can and often does, cost you everything.
I need you all to hold on to your Freedom and don’t take it for granted. You have a voice, USE IT. Don’t sit by and complain about the person next to you who is speaking out. If they are using their voice to speak for you, it’s your responsibility to do the same for them. From where I am sitting now, I have nothing but my hopes and dreams to be home with my family and loved ones. The system has taken away our rights, our choices, and for some of us, our dreams for any freedom in the future.
When I was growing up, folks would say,” Keep quiet.. stay out of trouble….don’t hang with the wrong crowd”. The greatest mistake I ever made was keeping quiet after being assaulted, not once but twice. I should have shouted. I should have screamed, “I will NOT be ignored!” Now I am in prison because I listened to them and tried to hide THEIR shame. I am in here because I tried to protect myself when no one else would.
Once someone becomes a part of the system, they are no longer human. They become whatever the state says they are. No choice, no voice. Just a body to fill a bed and a number for the paperwork. And for the worst of them, we are less than sub humans that sadistic monsters feel no remorse about torturing.
For those with loved ones in the system, support them, listen to their needs, ask them if they need help, then find it for them.
For my brothers and sisters caught in the system, do not be silenced. Do whatever it takes to make your voice heard and I promise it will get better.
~ Words of Ky
This month, we are promoting the Write the Governor Campaign. We are focusing on sharing our support videos, writing letters to the Governor of Georgia, and getting signatures on Ky’s petition. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Barnard Center for Research on Women (BCRW), Survived and Punished, Project NIA, Dean Spade, and CeCe McDonald, Freedom Overground now has an amazing promotional video that we hope everyone will share.
Thoughts about the day ahead…. I never know how my day will be or how it will end. I try to have a routine so I will be more prepared for my release plus I like for things to be a certain way. I know that every day I am away from my family and friend I can’t get back but I have ways to stay in contact with them…. not all but some who have reached out to me. Its hard being here and some times I have to remind myself that one day I will be home and I will make the system look at the way they treat us.
I should not have to live in fear but I did for a long time. The system breeds FEAR. The same system that put me behind bars for defending myself . The system tells me everyday that no one cared about what happened to me or people like me. So, now I have taken a stand even from behind these wall and I will be heard I will not be silenced. The only way to change anything is to make your voice heard and there is a way to do that without any violence. Write to the people in charge get petitions, have peaceful, marches, and easily TOGETHER to help change things that needs to be changed. You will face opposition and resistance but if we continue to push we will succeed.I believe it… Do you believe it too?… I hope every one has a safe and productive day. May God bless you all. Be safe and take care.
~ Words of Ky
Today has been a very bittersweet day. I turned on my computer today to be inundated with the news of Chelsea Manning’s release from prison. Shortly after, her first steps to freedom twitter post went viral. There are a number of emotions, thoughts, and questions that I have struggled through today.
My first feelings for her are elation. No matter what you feel about why she was locked up, Chelsea has served her debt to society, and then some. She deserves to be free, and now she will be able to live her life on her own terms.
Then heartbreak. Most incarcerated trans folks spent a lot of time in Solitary Confinement (“for their protection”), making the Post Incarceration Syndrome much worse. PIS is no joke, and it is a debilitating type of PTSD that only those who have been locked-up can truly sympathize with.
In comic books, the story line is always the same… A group of humans is harmed, victimized, or oppressed by someone who believes themselves to be superior or powerful. A hero steps forward and stands up to defeat the oppressor. The people see the “Hero” standing-up and find their courage to fight back against the oppressor. While the hero may win the battle, it is the community and their support for the hero, which ultimately defeats the villainous oppressor and prevents him from returning. Ky is the “Hero” of a very real comic saga. He lives at the center of multiple oppressed communities, ( trans, POC, incarcerated, and survivors), and he needs the support of his communities to bring change.
On February 21st, Ky was pulled out of his dorm and told to pack up his property. Prison Security removed Ky from his dorm and placed him in solitary confinement. The next morning, he was called to his counselor’s office. She told Ky that the DA on his case has requested Ky be transferred to the county jail for a hearing on March 15th and that his status was “Pending Release”.
We believed this to be very hopeful and positive information. “Pending Release” in MOST cases,, means that you are going home. Over the next few weeks, we did all that we could to confirm this information. We also went into overdrive and did all that we could to prepare for the possibility of Ky coming home. If Ky was being moved to a county facility, I would be allowed to visit him for the first time in 3 years. If he was being released, I would need to make sure he had clothes, personal items, shoes, etc. We started a short fundraiser to help cover travel costs so that I could see Ky, document the hearing, and possibly bring him home. I was the hopeful Idealist…. The Dreamer… During this time, Ky sat in solitary, feeling very uneasy about the entire situation.
Ky is the realist and has become very accustomed to being screwed over by the state. During the 20+ days, Ky sat in solitary feeling very uneasy about the entire situation. We had very limited communication, just a few phone calls and emails. My hopes were up and he was insisting that I keep calling the county courts to find out what was going on. I called repeatedly, and every time, they told me that Ky’s name was not on the calendar. Nearly every person I spoke to seemed to think he was being released.
On Tuesday, March 14th, I loaded up my car with our luggage and stopped to pick up my friend who would be joining me for the trip. Shortly after arriving at my friend’s house, I got a call. One of our support team had finally managed to get in touch with the DA’s office. The hearing was postponed until March 22st and it was to “correct a clerical error” in Ky’s sentencing. Ky would not be coming home. My heart dropped, I drove home and unpacked Ky’s think, then I cried for days.
The following Tuesday, I packed my bags, picked up my traveling buddy, started our journey for the second time. This time, I was going with the hopes of seeing Ky for the first time in almost 3 years. I was hopeful because if the state is resentencing Ky and giving him the correct time for his Involuntary Manslaughter Plea, he would be able to re-apply for parole, and probably be released within a year. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. See the video to find out what happened on the day of the hearing.
As devastating as the hearing was, there were some silver linings to the visit. Ky was given basically unlimited access to the phone in the county facility. While spending time with family and loved ones, Ky was able to talk to his brother and sister, for the first time in many years. We were also able to document nearly everything. The trip brought us closer to Ky and his family, and for that, we are eternally thankful.