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Fighting for Environmental and Social Justice in the Prison System


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Some members of the Black & Pink National staff, including Executive Director Dominique Morgan, front and center.

“Racial justice is inherently a climate justice issue and there’s no way to parcel out the two of those.”

That quote comes from Dusty Ginner, Director of Communications and Grants at Black & Pink National, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, dedicated to abolishing the criminal punishment system and liberating LGBTQIA2S+ people and people living with HIV/AIDS who are affected by that system, through advocacy, support, and organizing. Black & Pink National also is among the first of Energy Foundation’s (EF) grantees not explicitly working in the climate and clean energy field.

Taking a public stance against racism and violence, EF’s Mission, Vision, and Values, updated in 2020, make a statement that the 30-year-old organization is committed to building and investing in a more equitable future for all. Through the recently launched Racial Equity and Democracy (RED) Fund, the foundation works to structure its programmatic and funding strategies to support and increase resources to organizations led by Black, Indigenous, Brown, and other communities of color on the frontlines of climate change. 

Partnering with Black & Pink National was an easy choice for Victoria (Vic) Swaney, EF’s Program Coordinator for the Midwest region. “Their work is devoted to keeping folks safe and making sure their basic needs are met as well as working to break down unjust, historical barriers within our country. This grant reflects the RED Fund’s commitment to supporting communities and uplifting equity. Having the opportunity to fund Black & Pink National for their incredible work is a true testament to upholding our values at EF,” Swaney said.

Their work is devoted to keeping folks safe and making sure their basic needs are met, as well as working to break down unjust, historical barriers within our country.

Victoria Swaney, Program Coordinator, Midwest region, Energy Foundation

Designed through the lens and leadership of trans and queer people throughout the U.S., Black & Pink National does not police their imagination when it comes to showing up for the national and global Movement for Black Lives. Founded in 2005, Black & Pink National has a strong grassroots network of volunteer-led chapters nationwide and is now serving more than 20,000 current and formerly incarcerated members through inside member programs, advocacy support systems, and equitable service-delivery. Their day-to-day work toward prison abolition always has been centering the immediate and basic needs of system-impacted LGBTQIA2S+ people, who are disproportionately overrepresented in jails and prisons.

Black & Pink National’s 2015 report, “Coming Out Of Concrete Closets,” found that discriminatory incarceration practices that target poor Black and Brown communities extend to the hyper-incarceration of LGBTQIA2S+ people today. The research, surveyed 1,200 queer incarcerated individuals and found that one in six transgender people—and almost half of Black trans peopleexperienced incarceration at some point in their life. Moreover, LGBTQIA2S+ respondents were six times more likely to experience sexual violence than the general prison population. Many of them, especially LGBTQIA2S+ young people of color, also reported experiencing homelessness, which opens them up to more surveillance and keeps them constantly cycling between jails, the streets, and homeless shelters.

Dusty Ginner

This report and the work of Black & Pink National offers a tool for community partners and funders to forge connections in ending the daily suffering of incarcerated LGBTQIA2S+ people and eliminate the injustice that plagues marginalized communities. Through Black & Pink’s efforts to invest in safer, healthier communities and, ultimately, queer liberation, we can nurture approaches of safety, healing and sustainability through abolitionist service-delivery, such as securing safe, affirming housing and specific health care pathways, that, for Dusty Ginner, “support people in such a loving and authentic way.” 

“We’re proud of the work Black & Pink is doing to advocate for individuals disproportionately targeted and harmed by climate change, systemic racism, and attacks on our democracy,” said Adrianna Quintero, Senior Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Energy Foundation. “We established the RED Fund recognizing that achieving effective policy change requires centering and addressing these complex challenges simultaneously. It is our mission to build a clean energy future for all, and that’s what we intend to do.”



Story author Cristy Menor was an Energy Foundation intern in the summer of 2021.