fighting spirit

Dominique Morgan went viral after speaking out against Ellen Degeneres

Photo credit: Joshua Foo

After spending almost a decade behind bars—including eighteen months in solitary confinement—Black trans activist Dominique Morgan dedicated her life to advocating for incarcerated LGBTQ people.

Morgan has been in the fight for a long time, but she made waves last April when she wrote an essay for the ACLU in response to a controversial joke on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

“One thing that I’ve learned from being in quarantine is that people — this is like being in jail, is what it is,” Ellen told viewers in a video recorded at her cushy Beverly Hills mansion. “It’s mostly because I’ve been wearing the same clothes for 10 days and everyone in here is gay.”

Morgan, who is currently the Executive Director of Omaha-based Black and Pink, an LGBTQ-focused prison abolitionist organization, responded with vehement indignation at the comparison, saying that Ellen’s joke minimized the horrors that too many LGBTQ people experience in prison, and the added horrors they are experiencing as a result of the pandemic.

“The protective measures inside jails and prisons that many incarcerated individuals are now experiencing bear a striking resemblance to solitary confinement,” Morgan wrote.

“When you are in solitary, your partner is not there with you. You are not calling or FaceTiming your mother as many times as you like.”

Morgan has repeatedly used her own traumatic experiences to speak out against incarceration. She told Into last month that she was put on this earth to be a storyteller, to use her own story to demand change for other LGBTQ people experiencing oppression at the hands of the carceral system.

LGBTQ people are not only overrepresented in the prison population, but they also face outsized challenges.

“The same systemic oppression folks experience in the community happens inside institutions,” Morgan told Into. “The shift is that in the community, you do have some autonomy. You do have some say so. Inside of these institutions, you don’t.”

Since taking the helm of Black and Pink in 2018, Morgan’s goal has been to design an entire ecosystem to support those impacted by incarceration, whether or not they are currently in prison. The organization offers anything from a pen pal program to housing to healthcare and employment assistance.

Right now, Morgan and the rest of the Black and Pink team are preparing to launch Opportunity Campus, a space devoted specifically to LGBTQ youth who have been impacted by oppressive systems like incarceration and foster care. Opportunity campus will provide housing, mental health services, food, community programming, and more.

And somehow, Morgan has also found the time for a successful R&B career. Morgan wrote her first song at age seven and returned to music as a way to cope with the trauma of incarceration. Her most recent album, Pisces in E Flat Major, is out now.

We are inspired by her drive to follow her twin passions of music and activism and, most of all, by her resolute work advocating for a community in dire need of support.

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