1. Emmy Nominee Laverne Cox is lending her voice in support of a petition demanding safe housing for trans people in New York state prisons.
2. In a video, released by The Sylvia Rivera Law Project, Cox reads aloud a personal letter from transgender Latina inmate Synthia China Blast – incarcerated in the state of New York for 21 years now.
3. Cox begins to read aloud the “self-interview” in which Synthia describes her treatment in prison, where she has lived mostly in isolation for over a decade, as well as her experience on the Prisover Advisory Committee (PAC):
4. The video also features art work from Sylvia Rivera Law Project’s PAC members. Here are a few sections from the letter:
5. “I was born and raised in the South Bronx, however since age 15 I’ve been raised in prison. In fact – since age 16 – I’ve only been home once, in 1993, for three months. I’ve been in prison ever since. I’m 38-years-young.”
6. “I am a political transgender woman ‘slash’ prisoner. I strongly support the rights of LGBT brothers and sisters in the community who are imprisoned also.”
7. “They may not live in a cage 23 to 24 hours a day like I do, year after year, with no fellow prisoner contact, but they too face the constant torment that LGBT prisoners face in here.”
8. “Lack of adequate medical care, abusive and evasive treatment by law enforcement officials, denial of basic human rights, the freedom to live among the straight society without fear of retaliation.”
9. “As a whole, in or out of prison, we all suffer,” Cox reads.
10. “My members consist of one voice. I want my voice to be heard, I want my dreams to matter, I want people to know who I am because tomorrow is not promised.”
11. “We each have to be an example for one another, we are minorities in here. If you are part of PAC, you are either directly or indirectly part of the LGBT family.”
12. The letter concludes: “So when I’m asked why did I join the Prisoner Advisory Committee, I smile because I didn’t join anything. I found my family.”
13. Watch Cox read the entire letter aloud and read the full petition demands here.
On Friday, after information about Synthia China Blast’s conviction — the rape and murder of 13-year-old Ebony Williams — began circulating, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project removed the video, at Laverne Cox’s request.
In a statement posted at the project’s website, the group stated:
“Laverne Cox partnered with us on our End Solitary campaign by reading a letter from SRLP member Synthia China Blast in a video, but has since requested that we remove the video from our site because of her concerns about Synthia’s convictions. We understand her decision is based on concerns about violence against children. We also understand that it is challenging to respond to the reality of violence within our communities, and is an ongoing challenge many of us face in our lives and work. While we understand this struggle, we also reaffirm our support for Synthia China Blast, and our position on prison abolition and transformative justice.”
Read the full statement here.