We’ve made it into to June, which means summer has finally arrived in Maine and Pride month is upon us. In these busy, warm days, Portland Outright is making art, planning events, and dreaming up a world in which we’re all free. June means heightened visibility for LGBTQ+ issues across the country, and we know that Pride means more than rainbow merch and targeted ads.
This June marks the 50th anniversary of the anti-police violence protests at the Stonewall Inn in NYC, the event credited with catalyzing the modern gay rights movement. At Outright, we know and honor the trans women of color like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera who were leaders of this queer liberation movement. They fought for dignity and survival at Stonewall and founded the radical political collective, STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), which supported homeless queer, trans and gender-nonconforming youth and built power through the collective.
Portland Outright exists within this legacy of radical queer youth organizing, led by young people experiencing many of the same issues that spurred the Stonewall riots in 1969. Despite 50 years of progress, poverty, homelessness and incarceration continue to affect queer and trans youth disproportionately. But much like our heroes of the movement, Outright’s youth leaders and members draw power from working as a collective, choosing each other as family and fighting for our shared liberation. Outright’s vision of freedom includes a world where young people experience care instead of punishment, connection instead of isolation, and home instead of prison or the street.
But we cannot achieve this vision alone. Portland Outright’s youth leaders, youth members, volunteers, staff, and advisory board members invite you, our community of adult allies, to join us. We invite you to join us as Solidarity Members of the movement.
Solidarity Members are adults who want to support the work of Portland Outright’s queer and trans youth leadership. Solidarity Members contribute a monthly donation ($1-$50, sliding-scale) to help create the abundance our movement needs to thrive. Solidarity Members show up for queer and trans youth -- attending events, lending skills, and amplifying youth voices. In exchange, Solidarity Members receive regular updates and a formal role in the work.
>>>Become at Solidarity Member today at portlandoutright.org/solidarity<<<
Your tax-deductible donations will support stipends to compensate youth members for their labor and leadership and will help cover costs of travel, art supplies, snacks, and other basic operating expenses. (If you are already a monthly donor, thank you! We could not do this work without your loyal grassroots support; you are our first Solidarity Members and we hope you will share this call to action with your communities!) Any questions about Solidarity Membership can be directed to email@example.com.
This is our goal: in honor of 50 years since the first brick was thrown at Stonewall, we want 50 new Solidarity Members to join our ranks by June 28 2019, the anniversary of the uprising.
Join the movement today and share with your communities!
Together, we will continue the fight for queer and trans liberation in honor of the visionaries who began the rebellion 50 years ago. We’ll see you in the streets and at our Pride month events.
Maine Youth Justice Campaign Launches to End Youth Incarceration and Reinvest in Communities
Portland, Maine – Today, advocates for youth and communities launched a new campaign to end youth incarceration in the state and invest in a coordinated range of community based alternatives that can effectively respond to the needs of young people, support families, and lift up our communities. The Maine Youth Justice Campaign is a new project of longstanding youth justice organizations Portland Outright and Maine Inside Out, with the fiscal sponsorship of Maine Initiatives. It is a campaign created by and for communities most directly impacted by mass incarceration.
The youth prison model is inhumane, ineffective and expensive. It is also unjust, as demonstrated by significant identity-based disparities. Youth of color represent an estimated 22% of the youth at Maine’s Long Creek Youth Development Center, nearly three times their representation in Maine’s youth population at large. LGBTQ+ and gender nonconforming youth are also disproportionately system impacted in Maine, with 20-40% of Maine’s incarcerated youth population identifying as LGBTQ+, despite making up less than 10% of the US youth population generally.
The goal of Maine Youth Justice is to create safer and stronger communities by closing Long Creek and investing in a continuum of community-based alternatives to incarceration for youth where all of Maine’s young people can not only survive, but thrive. Our vision of youth justice builds on the strengths of individuals and community -- because it is designed by the very communities it serves.
Recent polling shows strong support for this approach among Maine residents, regardless of political affiliation, who favor keeping young people out of prisons and instead prefer community-based alternatives to incarceration that prioritize rehabilitation over punishment. The poll also found strong support for increased spending on youth rehabilitation and investing in resources for youth in their homes and communities rather than incarceration.
The survey of 500 adults found that:
91 percent support treatment and rehabilitation plans that include a youth's family in planning and services.
88 percent support providing financial incentives for states and municipalities to invest in alternatives to youth incarceration, such as intensive rehabilitation, education, job training, community services, and programs that provide youth the opportunity to repair harm to victims and communities.
85 percent support increased spending on social workers and mental health counselors.
83 percent support increased spending on youth rehabilitation.
Maine spends more than $250,000 per year to incarcerate a single young person at Long Creek; at an annual cost to the state of approximately $15 million. Despite national trends showing declining rates of youth incarceration, Maine’s Department of Corrections is inappropriately using the facility to house young people who could be more effectively treated through alternative services. Lack of safe housing and inadequate access to services funnels young people into the juvenile justice system, which was created to punish, not to care for them.
This campaign answers the call from young people who are organizing, surviving and lifting each other up while behind bars to not only imagine, but create, this better future. 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.
“Our current approach, locking up more and more Mainers in response to the harm caused by our gutted social service networks, the opioid crisis, and the conditions of poverty within our communities is deeply flawed and broken.” said Osgood, Portland Outright Executive Director. “Prisons are not the answer, and they are not working. It’s clear that when it comes to youth justice and investing in communities, Mainers are ready for change, and young people are demanding it. Young people need a seat at the table and need to take part in designing the robust continuum of care that will replace the current punitive system -- one centered on connection, healing, and building youth power instead of continuing to isolate and traumatize them.”
Osgood, Executive Director
Tessy Seward, Co-Founder
Maine Inside Out
Maine Youth Justice is a nonpartisan campaign to end youth incarceration in Maine and invest in a range of community-based alternatives that respond to young people’s needs, support families, and build community in support of community alternatives to youth incarceration. For more information, visit https://maineyouthjustice.org/ and follow us on Instagram and Facebook (@maineyouthjustice) and Twitter (@Maine_youth).
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.