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Casper Cendre’s small apartment has stacks of letters, envelopes, and artwork in every corner. On their monitor is a spreadsheet with hundreds of names, a chronological record of every letter received and the order in which to respond. A decorated frame holds a brightly colored depiction of David Bowie, who looks on with twinkling eyes. This is the home of ABO Comix, a prisoner solidarity collective and small press based in Oakland working to amplify the voices of LGBTQ prisoners throughout the US and to assist them with financial, legal, mental, emotional help and solidarity.
This is the home of ABO Comix, a prisoner solidarity collective and small press based in Oakland working to amplify the voices of LGBTQ prisoners throughout the US and to assist them with financial, legal, mental, emotional help and solidarity.
The project started in 2017 when a group of friends got together in a community garden to look through some comics, and the conversation moved toward prisoner solidarity work.
“I’ve been working with prisoners for about a decade, and Io and Woof had been working on comic projects for about as long,” said Casper. “And we thought it would be cool to kinda just bridge the two things.”
They took out ads in papers that were distributed in prison across the nation inviting submissions of comics and stories, not knowing if they would hear back from anyone. They received hundreds of letters in response from people who were really excited about it.
“We went from thinking ‘maybe someone will submit a comic to us’ to having just like, so much mail and so much art and like, tons of new friends.”
Over the next year they worked with a few dozen artists to refine their work and eventually raised enough funds to publish their first LGBTQ+ comic anthology. Once the book was published they paid out all of the artists who had been part of the collection, sending money into the commissary accounts of more than twenty comic artists. All the funds from book sales go to assisting queer people in prison.
“Because our mail load is so overwhelming and the need is so overwhelming, we receive hundreds and hundreds of letters, and generally it’s just me writing back to people,” says Casper. “I’ve thought about like, yeah I need to create some boundaries. But I haven’t, because you get really emotionally invested in people, and they generally don’t have anyone else on the outside. So when you get letters from people saying you’re the only contact person they’ve had their whole length of incarceration, it’s really hard to just say no.”
The need is very clear, as queer incarcerated folks have so little support, and often face serious bigotry while in prison. Casper tells me that his friend Joseph Oguntodu, a queer man of color who has been writing to him since 2017, was recently killed by his cellmate in Texas. ABO Comix will be hosting a service for him on April 7th at the Oakland LGBTQ Community Center from 6-8pm.
If you want to get involved just send an email to ABOcomix@gmail.com They need volunteers to help with letter writing, curating submissions, inDesign work, etc, and there is a ton of work to do! Also a huge way people can help is to donate, because basically all the funding coming in goes right back out into commissary accounts, or buying books for people, or other resources. They need all the help they can get to sustain this critical work and support LGBTQ+ folks in prison.
The best way to make an impact is to make a recurring donation to ABO through Patreon, which allows them to focus on their prisoner support work rather than fundraising to cover the costs of printing, stamps, and resources for their friends inside. Scan your phone here to donate through Patreon, or visit them online to make a donation through GoFundMe, PayPal, or Venmo.