Dominique Morgan is the national director of Black and Pink — a nationwide organization that supports formerly incarcerated LGBTQ+ people. The organization’s main offices moved to Omaha a few years ago when Morgan took over.
“This is my city. I'm invested in Omaha creating the culture that we all say we want to have,” Morgan said.
February 16 will mark one year since the organization opened up its first Lydon House in Nebraska. The home offers a safe, healing space for its residents to get their life back on track.
“Lydon House doesn't make money, we don't charge for rent,” Morgan said. “We buy the groceries, we support them in setting up savings accounts and things but this is not a moneymaker for our agency. This is a people maker, this is a success maker — an opportunity maker.”
Morgan knows what it's like to start over. She spent almost 10 years in Nebraska’s prison systems. During that time, Morgan was separated from the general population, having been told it was the only way the prison could keep her safe.
That's why, when the holidays came around a few weeks ago, she wanted her organization to do something to let those behind bars know — they are not forgotten.
“I think — if not all the time, at least at the holidays — it's important to challenge ourselves to lean into the humanity of people,” Morgan said.
That meant making gift bags for every single person incarcerated in Nebraska in one week — a total of 5,400.
“My staff from California, all the way to New Jersey spent a week ordering things,” she said. “We had books made for them, pens — we made sure that everybody got a sim card. Now, every person who is in corrections can Facetime and video-chat their loved ones and children.”
Morgan said the response from inmates was overwhelming.
“Slowly, but surely, I started receiving Facebook messages from people's aunts and mothers and cousins saying, ‘My son called me, or my daughter called me or my grandchild called me and they didn't even know it was you but I told them it was you and thank you.’”
For Morgan, the gesture went full circle when she received thanks from an unexpected person — John Lotter, a man currently on death row for murdering a transgender man named Brandon Teena and two others in Humboldt, Nebraska in 1993.
When Morgan was on death row, her cell was next to Lotter's. She didn’t know what he did at the time but is glad to have had the opportunity to show kindness to Lotter and receive thanks.
“Everyone moves forward but we move forward at different paces,” she said. “The more that we can affirm that, the more we can talk about it — the more we can celebrate it.”
Morgan hopes Black and Pink, an Omaha-based organization, continues to help move her the city forward.
“Representation matters,” she said. “If you look at the history of Nebraska, can anyone name a Black transwoman that has been in senior leadership — or an executive director or CEO of a company in our state’s history? Can you name someone who's been in a position to lead this work nationally? So I think my presence is important. Not because it's me, because of the identities that I carry and the communities I am in service to.”
Black and Pink is gearing up to open Lydon two, which will allow the nonprofit to support about 10 young people with housing support, a community space and potentially — a school space as well.