Women in Prison Honored at One Billion Rising Pittsburgh Respond

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Life Size Solitary Cell at One Billion Rising

One Billion Rising Pittsburgh honored 5 women who are currently incarcerated on February 14, 2013 for standing up to abuse. Below you can read their responses to letters, articles and pictures of our event.

Tanika Dickson was sentenced 15 years to life in New York for defending herself from a man who repeatedly threatened her racially  and physically. You can see her tell her story in the movie The Mothers of Bedford. In two years Tanika will be eligible for parole. You can find more information about Tanika on her lawyer’s page

Tanika writes:

I hope that you and your continuous war against injustice is blessed with favor, indefinitely. I apologize for taking forever to write…it gets like that…get tired~depressed; especially as of late. Being moved to this dreadful place~6 hours from home~nothing to do but think and feel; I am real sad. However, I shall bounce back!

I don’t think I’ve written you since those photos from V-Day?! Thank you for making my endeavor for freedom apart of your battle. I was a bit intimated by your work on my behalf – so soon, so major, so real; it’s scary, yet I am so ready to go home. It may feel like an oxymoron, yet I feel like my time is just beginning….word.

I read a little blurb in the Glamour magazine. It mentioned One Billion Rising in relation to Eve Ensler. She did ‘What I want my works to do to you” and there was a mention of V-Day. Anyhow, I just wanted to show you some love and let you know I appreciate you!

Many Many thanks! Take Care and Stay in Touch… Always Real, Tanika

Write Tanika at: Tanika Dickson #OOg1158 Albion Correctional Facility 3595 State School Road. Albion, New York 14411

The New Jersey 4 – Patreese Johnson

Patreese Johnson of the New Jersey 4
Patreese Johnson of the New Jersey 4

On August 18, 2006, seven young Black lesbians traveled to New York City from their homes in Newark for a regular night out. When walking down the street, a man sexually propositioned one of the women, After refusing to take no for an answer, he assaulted them. The women tried to defend themselves, and a fight broke out. The women received between 3.5 and 11 years in prison. Patreese Johnson, who received the longest sentence, scheduled to be released later this year.

Patreese writes:

“Thank you for sending me the Articles and pictures of the event. Which I think was AWESOME!

….Now I’m doing this spring semester. I’m glad it’s only one class because it’s a lot of work. On top of that this facility is suppose to be closing and I’ll be moved back to Taconic. Dam! I feel like I’m going backwards (101) I say that because I have been to every women’s facility in the state of N.Y. during these last 6 years. I’ll be going home in 4 months (August 13, 13) Yeah, it’s almost over for me. Believe you me, I’m ready.

What you have done out there in PA was AWESOME. If everything works out for me when I come home, I would hope to attend your next event. I really appreciate what your doing out there and I appreciate your support and writing me. God Bless your heart.

Stay Safe.

Love is Love, Patreese

Write Patreese at: Patreese Johnson #07g0635 Beacon Correctional Facility P.O. Box 780 Beacon, New York 12508-0780 (Until August 13th! Her parole date.)

Stand Your Ground Marissa Alexander

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Marissa Alexander

Marissa Alexander has been sentenced to 20 years in prison. Marissa is the victim here. Her husband beat her while she was pregnant. After yet another beating, Alexander fired a warning shot which traveled through a wall and into the ceiling. That shot saved her life. Prosecutor Angela Corey did not take into account that Marissa Alexander: Had a court injunction against her crazed husband,Had Given Birth 9 Days Earlier,Was trained to use a weapon and earned a concealed weapons permit.

Marissa writes:

“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Wow those pictures were awesome. The event looked amazing to see all those beautiful women supporting other women! Truly made me proud! The super amazing thing was that people in 200 countries participated?!? WOW! Absolutely fantastic! Thank you so much for taking time to share with me.

Charmaine’s story really touched me, how and why is that even allowed in this country, boggles my mind. I can’t wait to get out and rally and speak on behalf of women like her. I pray all the time that God makes a way for me to help his precious daughters out of situations. I know he will. I know my purpose!!

….Again thank you for the pictures. I shared them with the other women here, they were just as dumbfounded as I was about Charmaine, but they were inspired!Thank you from my whole heart!!  Marissa

Violence Against (Trans)Women Today by CeCe McDonald

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Ce Ce McDonald

A major problem in the entire world is violence against all women, which also includes trans women. Throughout time, women have been subjected to the cruel “iron fist” of the male species’ ever-inflicting egos. The violence that has been upheld for centuries have affected us all, whether it be a tyrannical leader’s harsh rule over a nation or domestic rule inside the household. Women have a higher rate of experiencing violence in all its forms–physical, verbal, and/or sexual. In most cases we are the victims of murder, and in the act of defending ourselves we are subjected to time, even life in prison. How can society say that it detest and challenge violence against women, when there is very little, if any, real help for us, and the help we give ourselves result in punishment?

Street violence and trans women go hand in hand, and I’m sure that if asked any trans woman can agree that most of her conflicts occurred outside of her dwelling. For me, all of the incidents that I’ve experienced were outside of the home. I, and most trans women, have to deal with violence more often and at a higher rate than any cissexual person, so every day is a harder struggle, and the everyday things that a cissexual person can do with ease are a constant risk, even something as simple as taking public transportation. Street violence has affected me drastically, and I think–no, I know–that if I never learned to assert myself that I would’ve never gained the courage to defend myself against those who have no respect or gratitude towards others in the world, I would have met my demise years ago.

Currently, I am in a men’s state prison for the death of someone I accidentally stabbed in the act of defending myself. It all started around 12 am on June 4th, 2011 whne a group of racist drunks began to verbally bash my friends and I on our way to a local 24-hour grocery store. After being called everything from faggots to niggers, tempers escalated and I was caught in between the madness. A woman from the other group decided to throw her alcoholic cocktail in my face, and to add insult to injury, she smashed her glass cup in my face which lacerated my cheek and was deep enough to cut a saliva gland which caused painful complications later on after getting 12 stitches. When the police arrived it wasn’t hard to for them to assume who the aggressors were–surely, for them, it had to have been the group of black kids who started all this drama. At least that was the feeling I was receiving by the way they were treating me and my friends. And instead of taking me directly to the ambulance, they made me sit in the back of a squad car in handcuffs while bleeding badly and in very bad pain.

When I was finally transported to the ambulance, I was immediately bombarded with questions, even before I could get the medical attention I needed. And when I got to the hospital it didn’t go any better. I was told to take off all my clothes, after that I was shackled to a hospital bed, and poorly examined hence the large deformity that was on my left cheek from a saliva gland being cut. From there I say in an interrogation room for over 5+ hours. And it all went downhill from there. I can say that I’m so blessed to have such wonderful, caring, loving friends, family, and supporters that helped me through this injustice.

But it does go to show that there is nothing really in place for women to protect themselves–ourselves. We need to unite to make a voice for all those who have become a victim of violence. I want to shout-out all the organizations and programs that are doing just that. To all those who showed up to the 1 Billion Rising event in Pittsburgh on Valentines Day I LOVE YOU ALL! I also want to shout out all the victims of violence that were honored at the event: Patreese Johnson, Charmaine Pfender, Marissa Alexander, and Tanika Dickson. I LOVE YOU ALL!  We are all victims of violence and the injustices and oppression of a faulty legal system and the PIC. And in memoriam of all our fallen sisters, this is for you! Our flames of resilience and tenacity burn bright in the efforts of a revolution for women. We will not give up until there are the necessary changes in this world for better protection and equality. And it is up to us to show that we are concerned and that none of our struggles will go in vain.

I cannot reiterate enough to people how they should get involved. GET INVOLVED! Organizations like 1 Billion Rising need our help, or get involved in local organizations and program. I pray that no other woman should have to deal with violence on any level, and I know that we can make a change.

Thank you all for taking time to hear (or should I say read) my concerns for our women in the world. I LOVE YOU ALL! Please stay strong, live well, and fight hard!  xoxo CeCe

Write Ce Ce at: CeCe Chrishaun McDonald #238072 Minnesota Correctional Facility- St. Cloud 2305 Minnesota Boulevard S.E. St. Cloud, MN 56304

Charmaine Pfender

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Charmaine at SCI-Cambridge Springs

Charmaine Pfender has been incarcerated since she was 19 for defending her self from a man who tried to rape her.  Donna Hill (pictured on right), Charmaine’s mom spoke at our rally in February. Inspired by One Billion Rising, The Women in Prison Defense Committee was born. Our purpose is to shine a light on the specific issues of women in prison as well as the underlying causes of gender-based violence and oppression which contribute to their imprisonment.

Our current campaign seeks to free two women serving life without parole in Pennsylvania, Avis Lee and Charmaine Pfender. These women pose no threat to society and have already unjustly served over 29 years each.

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Donna Hill, Charmaine’s mom, speaking at One Billion Rising.

Join the Women in Prison Defense Committee In our first public event hosted by New Voices Pittsburgh!
Tuesday June 11th  7 – 9pm New Voice Pittsburgh OfficeThe Beatty Building | 5907 Penn Avenue, Suite 340
Ring buzzer and you will be buzzed up to 3rd floor. Light refreshments will be provided.

On June 11th, we will write letters to the Parole Board in Harrisburg and the Governor asking that Avis Lee be granted a public hearing which is the next step in the Commutation Process. For more information about Avis Lee please check out her info page.

This will also be a chance for you to learn about our new group and what we have been working on!

One thought on “Women in Prison Honored at One Billion Rising Pittsburgh Respond

  1. I was just released from SCI Cambridge Springs on 3/23/14 and I have had the pleasure of meeting and knowing Charmaine Pfender. She is a wonderful and caring individual, She helped me alot in the prison law library and without her help, I never would have found any information relating to my case. Ms. Hill, I hope and pray that all your efforts to help Charmaine will finally be heard. They say that prison is to rehabilitate the individuals, yet I found that it’s up to us as inmates to do it ourselves…she has gone far beyond that. From your mouth to God’s ears, I pray right along with you for her and all you do and have done. You are an inspiration to every mother/daughter relationship everywhere. Thanks for speaking out. God Bless You..
    Cindy J.

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