This month Portland Outright’s director, Osgood, was awarded a 2018 Individual Giraffe Award from the Maine Children’s Alliance for their organizing and advocacy alongside for incarcerated LGBTQ+ youth in Maine. They received the award on November 15th at the Champions for Children Luncheon in Freeport, where frequent Outright collaborators, Maine Inside Out, gave the keynote performance. You can read more about the Giraffe Awards and Osgood’s work here.
Nov. 1 marked two years since Charles Maze Knowles, a 16-year-old trans organizer and Portland Outright community leader, died by suicide while detained at Long Creek Youth Development Center – Maine’s youth prison.
LGBTQ+ young people from poor communities in Maine continue to fall through the cracks left by a broken social services infrastructure and into emergency rooms, shelters, prison and jail. Here in Portland, pervasive homelessness is tied to dramatic gentrification and to our state’s devastating opiate crisis, which has been exaggerated by funding cuts to lifesaving resources. We see all of this playing out in the experiences of young people at our organization, as they navigate different intersections of these oppressive crises and continue to struggle for resources and survival.
Right now, Maine is experiencing a moment with the potential for transformation. This November marks the imminent end of eight years of neglect and indifference under the tenure of Gov. Paul LePage. Our political system needs to shift to meet the needs of all Mainers.
It’s time for those in positions of power to listen to those most affected by the decisions made about public policy – and the tax dollars that follow. It’s time to create the future of youth justice, by investing public dollars in a continuum of community-based alternatives to incarceration for Maine’s young people. Two years have already been too long to enact the structural changes that came too late for Maze Knowles.
Portland Outright stands behind a vision of justice without incarceration for low-income youth, LGBTQ+ youth and youth of color in Maine. We will continue to organize for Maze, and for all young people who are organizing, surviving and rising up behind bars. We ask our new governor and elected leaders to listen and work with us to imagine this better future.
Osgood, executive director, Portland Outright
We, members of the Portland Outright family and community, are grieving the loss of our friend, loved one, and fellow organizer, Charles Maze Knowles.
As a member of SAFE Group--Portland Outright’s team of LGBTQ+, gender-nonconforming and allied youth organizers inside Long Creek Youth Development Center--Maze was a powerful, thoughtful, and fearless leader. He embodied a quiet power that came from seeing people’s whole truth, an unflinching commitment to loving each other boldly no matter what, and naming clearly a vision of safety and justice big enough for all of us. He made people feel welcome and so invited each of us to invest in each other’s safety, well-being, and resilience. Even on bad days he was a beacon. We honor his vision, his life, and love him with the same fierceness he inspired in all of us.
SAFE Group is a family and movement--giving voice and visibility to the youth solidarity taking place across identity and cultural lines inside prisons, where young people are taking risks to commit to each other’s dignity and survival. They are building a better, stronger, more connected community--in and outside of the system--to counter a culture of isolation by cultivating community power. The impact Maze had on this work, on all of us, is immeasurable.
We add our voices to the chorus calling for a thorough and transparent investigation of the circumstances surrounding Maze’s death and for immediate improvements to the living conditions and treatment of all incarcerated young people in Maine, including transgender young people, detained youth, and those navigating mental health issues. We are calling for immediate actions to ensure safety today while we commit to working towards community-based alternatives to incarceration--eyes wide open to the truth that there is no true safety for young people behind bars.
We stand with Maze.
We stand with Michelle Knowles, Maze’s mother.
We stand with everyone whose life was emboldened through a connection to Maze.
We stand with young people who are organizing, surviving, and rising up behind bars.
We stand with transgender youth across the country building power for collective liberation.
We stand behind a vision of justice for low-income, LGBTQ+/gender-nonconforming young people, youth of color, and otherwise marginalized youth in Maine--for all young people--without incarceration.
Rest in Power, Maze.
We love you & promise to never stop fighting.