By Liz Atkins-Pattenson and Ifoma Modibo Kambon, members of EBC

It isn’t every day that one pauses to think about the value of a day’s pay, especially in the context of a postage stamp. 

I first learned about The Ella Baker Center’s (EBC) Stamps Campaign in 2020 through my involvement with the Prison Mail Program, which began with incarcerated people sending stamps to EBC in appreciation for the support and solidarity they received – from legislative updates with information about statewide bills that impact their sentences, to legal resources and advocacy tools that people can use to get themselves free.

When I reflected on how a single stamp can amount to an entire day’s pay — or more — for our comrades inside, I was deeply moved by this powerful act of generosity. I also reflected on the important role that correspondence, connection, and solidarity plays in my friendship with my loved one and dear friend, Ifoma – and how it was through a single stamp that our friendship was born.

When Ifoma and I were offered the opportunity to create this blog post together, it meant the world to be able to collaborate on a project from both sides of the walls to support a campaign that is so significant to us both.

“The Ella Baker Center has and continues to support the liberation of my body from these walls, as well as countless other people living in these modern day dungeons. It is because of EBC’s powerful work and solidarity that I feel a moral and personal duty to support the organization in any way that I can by contributing to, advancing, and promoting their strategy in pursuit of our shared mission – freedom,” said Ifoma Modibo Kambon.

What is the value of a postage stamp and a day’s pay? For me, a day’s pay is a whole month’s worth of groceries. It is the cost for me to visit Ifoma, a four hour round-trip drive from my home plus the marked-up vending machine food in the visitation room which sadly is our only opportunity to share a meal together. And for so many incarcerated people and their families, a day’s pay is the cost of prison phone calls, mailing supplies, and the various fines and fees associated with incarceration – it is the cost of connection.

Ifoma said, “For those of us inside, a stamp represents our shared humanity and our connection to the outside world. So often our connection with our loved ones and allies outside is our source of inspiration to imagine life outside of a steel and concrete cage. So it is with this spirit that we can envision the stamp campaign as part of the movement to build bridges of connection, possibilities, rebirth, transformation, and community. Through the Stamps Campaign, we invite our community outside the walls to build with us as human beings as opposed to our keepers who see us as a source of currency.”

In March 2020, when California’s shelter-in-place order went into effect, I watched with fear as we witnessed COVID rip through our state’s prisons, jails, and detention centers like a wildfire. As lockdowns took hold from facility to facility, and as mail and phone calls slowed, inside-outside solidarity and correspondence — like the work of EBC’s Prison Mail Program — became even more of a lifeline for our communities on both sides of the walls.

“We can envision the stamp campaign as part of the movement to build bridges of connection, possibilities, rebirth, transformation, and community.” – Ifoma Modibo Kambon

“She led. So Can You. Ella Baker’s life and legacy as a freedom fighter speaks volumes to our human potential. EBC’s inside and outside connection share common values and beliefs and therefore, we have an obligation to each other,” said Ifoma. “EBC continues to be a beacon of light in our fight against darkness. For many of us, EBC’s Prison Mail Program is a source of hope, possibilities, strength, and community.”

In addition to mass mailings with up-to-date COVID information, EBC shared vital self-advocacy tools to support people inside and their families. Through the Prison Mail Program, EBC grew their inside mailing list from 2,000 to 8,000 people – building collective power, amplifying the demands of people inside, and championing legislation to get our people free.

For Ifoma and me, EBC’s Stamps Campaign is about community, generosity, and shared humanity in practice. This is why we are so honored to be a part of the campaign and to invite you to match the generosity of our incarcerated community members by donating a day’s worth of pay to match the cost of a stamp given from someone inside.

“We are in the belly of the beast and we all need each other in this fight.” – Ifoma Modibo Kambon

I am so proud to be a member of EBC, and to be a part of the Prison Mail Program, a powerful and caring community of individuals inside and outside of the walls who together are working to advance the fight for freedom and to shift the landscape for true criminal legal system transformation.

You can support Ella Baker Center programs like the prison mail program. Give today and have your gift doubled!