Blogmas Day 11 | In the Spirit of Giving

I’ve grown to love giving gifts more than receiving them during the holiday season and donating money to my favorite nonprofits has become the annual highlight of my month. There are so many wonderful organizations that cater to the needs of marginalized and oppressed people, so I tend to focus my donations on victims of police brutality, incarcerated people, people on death row, and persecuted immigrants. The organizations I would love to send money to are Brooklyn Defender Services, Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, National Bail Out, College Guild, Vera Institute of Justice, the Innocence Project, and Hudson Link for Higher Education. This year, one of my main concerns is the incarcerated people on Rikers who have no access to warmth during the coldest time of the year. Did you know that 79% of people on Rikers island haven’t even been convicted of a crime yet? Those people are simply locked in cages because they can’t afford bail and/or are awaiting trial. I won’t go into the fundamental insanity of incarcerating people before they’ve been charged, but instead recognize that none of the inmates on Rikers have warm clothes or blankets, even during winter time. The Brooklyn Defender Services currently have an Amazon wish list of undergarments, socks, and long sleeve shirts and pants to send to the Rikers inmates so they don’t freeze to death with their paper thin blankets and lack of heat. The Brooklyn Community Bail Fund and National Bail Out both focus on raising money to bail people out of jail- those who are in poverty or simply just don’t have enough money to pay astronomical bail fees. The majority of those people who end up caged are Black and Brown citizens, which reveals how the prison system is still used as a different form of slavery. These organizations are important because they help people to return home, get back to work, and reunite with their families. If they are stuck in jail for too long, many of them are at risk of losing their houses, custody of their children, and their jobs. The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty works to raise awareness of the atrocities of the death penalty, which is one of the issues closest to my heart. The nonprofit was started by families of murder victims, former law enforcement officers, activists, and organizers from both the right and left political parties. They work tirelessly with government offices and officials to repeal the death penalty in every state. RAICES has been one of the most important organizations advocating for and working with oppressed immigrants. Since the Trump administration issued the Zero Tolerance Policy, locked up thousands of immigrant children, deported parents, and most recently tear gassed babies and families at the border, RAICES has provided legal and social work assistance to every immigrant who needs the help. I’ve volunteered with College Guild for three years now and it’s still one of the most rewarding aspects of my life. The organization provides different types of courses for currently incarcerated people so they can learn and correspond with readers in many subjects. Most of the prisoners need dictionaries or are still on the waiting list to be accepted into College Guild, so all donations go toward accepting new people into the educational classes. The Vera Institute of Justice is a public policy, research, and journalism organization that focuses on ending mass incarceration, working on equal justice, and building bridges between communities. Their research is nationally cited and has been implemented in progressive government policies. The Innocence Project is one of my favorite organizations as its lawyers free innocent people from prisons every year. Their work is unmatched and crucial in securing freedom for people who have lost years of their lives to wrongful convictions. I was lucky enough to work with the Hawaiʻi Innocence Project this past summer and see firsthand how important their work is. Hudson Link for Higher Education connects prisoners with colleges so they can earn their degrees and assists recently released people with life skills and re-entry help in order to have an easier transition back into society. I hope you will join me in donating whatever you have to any of these organizations or ones you are passionate about and I guarantee your donations will make you happier than any gift you could receive!