Four African American lesbian women from Newark, New Jersey were sentenced this past June 14th to excessively long prison terms in New York for the crime of defending themselves against homophobic harassment and violence. These young sistas were railroaded by both a dismissively misogynist judge and by the reactionary, sensationalist media. As Imani Henry writes in Workers World:
Deemed a so-called “hate crime” against a straight man, every possible racist, anti-woman, anti-LGBT and anti-youth tactic was used by the entire state apparatus and media. Everything from the fact that they lived outside of New York, in the working-class majority Black city of Newark, N.J., to their gender expressions and body structures were twisted and dehumanized in the public eye and to the jury.
According to court observers, [presiding judge Edward J.] McLaughlin stated throughout the trial that he had no sympathy for these women. The jury, although they were all women, were all white. All witnesses for the district attorney were white men, except for one Black male who had several felony charges.
Court observers report that the defense attorneys had to put enormous effort into simply convincing the jury that they were “average women” who had planned to just hang out together that night. Some jurists asked why they were in the Village if they were from New Jersey. The DA brought up whether they could afford to hang out there—raising the issue of who has the right to be there in the first place.
It’s gonna take the struggle of people around the country to get these young women out of prison. Here’s information from the organization FIERCE! on how we all can help.
- Pro-bono legal support: Most if not all of the women need new lawyers for the appeal. Finding new counsel is the #1 priority for support. All leads and contacts welcome.
- Media contacts and writers: Journalists to report, community members to write opeds, and media-savvy people to advise the families about working with media.
- Pen pals: Prison is profoundly isolating, as well as boring. Express your solidarity and prayers for the women’s strength.
- Money: Some of the families have depleted their life savings paying legal fees. Also imagine: collect calls from prison, transportation costs upstate for prison visits, paying for prison commissary. Direct financial contributions (even $10, $20, $30) are needed, along with people to organize fundraisers.
- Diverse organizational support: Building a public campaign requires support from all
corners. If you think the sentences these women are receiving are too harsh, there is a place for your support.
NEXT COMMUNITY MEETING:
Tuesday, July 10th at 6:30pm at the new office of FIERCE
located at 147 West 24th Street, 6th Floor
(between 6th & 7th Ave. – 1/F/C/E to 23rd Street)
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!
For more information about how to get involved, please contact:
Bran Fenner [firstname.lastname@example.org], Jessica Robertson [email@example.com], or
Jessica Stern [firstname.lastname@example.org].