The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday August 12th

Trans woman of color talks race, prison and survival

<p>Activist CeCe McDonald answers a question posed by a member of student group the UNControllables. McDonald spoke to an audience at UNC about her work in prison abolition activism as well as her own experiences as a black transgender woman in prison.</p>
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Activist CeCe McDonald answers a question posed by a member of student group the UNControllables. McDonald spoke to an audience at UNC about her work in prison abolition activism as well as her own experiences as a black transgender woman in prison.

Wednesday night, she spoke to a crowd of nearly 200 in Chapman Hall about the intersections of race, gender and the prison industrial complex. The event was sponsored by UNControllables, an anarchist student group committed to dismantling systems of oppression.

Senior Madeleine Scanlon, a member of UNControllables, said the group thought McDonald would be able to provide a valuable perspective on issues of white supremacy, gender liberation and prisons in particular.

“We thought that this would be a really great way to talk about things that are happening here and now,” Scanlon said.

The group drew attention to the possible construction of a new jail in Orange County.

McDonald said she became an activist during her time in prison. Since then, she has been outspoken about her experiences and the way the current penal system affects marginalized trans people of color.

“She’s kind of a folk hero of our time on the level of someone like Cesar Chavez or Gloria Anzaldua or Huey Newton,” Scanlon said.

McDonald realized early on that no part of her identity would work in her favor. As a homeless trans woman of color and a victim of rape and abuse, the cards were already stacked against her.

“I was really scared at that moment because I thought if these people don’t kill me, these cops are going to kill me,” she said.

The more she read about the prison system in the United States, the more she was convinced it was devised to suppress already marginalized individuals like herself.

“These systems are made for us to fail,” she said.

As a transgender woman, McDonald was forced to comply with a binary prison system in which she was imprisoned with men.

“I got there, and it’s like misogyny hell. It’s like misogyny and bigotry times a million,” she said.

In prison, McDonald began to speak out about her experience, writing blogs to try to educate people.

But her actions were not well-received.

“Radical work is considered very bad in those types of spaces,” she said.

Now that she’s out, she spends as much of her time as she can educating people on the flaws of the prison system and the experience of trans people of color. She has aligned with Laverne Cox, who stars in the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black.

Still, she has hope that education and increased awareness are hope for change.

Senior Ashley Creese was one of the students and community members who came to hear McDonald speak.

“I thought it was really, really enlightening,” she said. “She brought up issues that I didn’t know existed.”

@ecperry17

arts@dailytarheel.com



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