Reverend Joy Powell is a political prisoner incarcerated at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women in Westchester, New York. Throughout her life, Powell organized protests against police brutality, demanding accountability for its victims which led her to be targeted by the Rochester Police Department.
In 2006, Powell was tried and convicted by an all-white jury and sentenced to 16 years for first degree burglary and assault. No evidence or eyewitnesses linked her to the crime.
Then in 2007, while serving this sentence, Powell was falsely charged with a murder that was a cold case from 1992. She was convicted and received a 25-year sentence, to begin upon the completion of her 16-year sentence.
It is important to specifically identify those such as Powell as political prisoners—doing so emphasizes how the system incarcerates individuals who speak out against the state to silence political dissent.
In her time incarcerated, Powell advocates for herself through writing letters to government officials and nonprofits, and encourages other women at Bedford to do the same. She also advocates for others by writing statements of solidarity—in the summer of 2020, she wrote about the killing of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin.
Recently, Powell sent activists a tribute to the victims of the Atlanta spa shootings, to commemorate the one-year anniversary in which eight people, including six Asian women, were killed by Robert Aaron Long when he went on a shooting spree across three massage parlors.
In honor of this anniversary and the end of Women’s History Month, we are sharing Powell’s tribute to the victims in full here:
Tribute to the eight shooting victims, in which six of whom were Asian women, who died on March 16, 2021 when a white man named Robert Aaron Long racially profiled a few massage parlors in Atlanta
Robert Aaron Long went to two massage parlors in Cherokee County killing seven people, five of whom were of Asian descent. The victims’ names were Paul Michels, 54; Xiaojie “Emily” Tan, 49; Daoyou Feng, 44; Delaina Yaun, 33; Suncha Kim, 69; Soon Chung Park, 74; and Hyun Jung Grant, 51.
Then out of pure hatred, Long went to another massage parlor across the street, to Aromatherapy Spa, and killed another woman. Her name was Yong Ae Yue, 63.
The Atlanta authorities tried to downplay that he racially profiled these Asian victims. According to them, Long, 22, asserted that the crime wasn’t discriminatory, based upon race and gender. But, instead, the heinous crimes were committed against the victims because of Long’s admitted “sex addiction.”
The terrorist’s actions and claims of a “sex addiction” appalled and baffled me, and it sparked outrage and skepticism among the Asian community.
Long pleaded guilty last July and received life with no chance of getting parole, but still faces charges in Fulton County. The District Attorney Fani Willis said she believes race and gender played a role in the killings, and she wishes to enhance the charges under the state’s new hate crime law.
May all of these innocent women rest in power. And may all racists heal from the hatred that they have been taught, because it is a sickness.
You can write to Reverend Joy Powell at:
Reverend Joy Powell 07G0632
Bedford Hills Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 1000
Bedford Hills, NY 10507-2499
In 2020, the Party for Socialism and Liberation held a virtual letter-writing session for Powell, in which organizers spoke at length about her case. You can view it here.