If you are a fan of Prison TV shows like Prison Break, Homeland then you must have come across one of the most popular Netflix original series called Orange is the new black.
The series had a huge impact on its viewers and one of the main characters of the show called Poussey Washington played by actress Samira Wiley played a huge part in part in it.
In order to continue the legacy of one of the most memorable characters of the show the creator of Orange is the new black Jenji Kohan announced a fund called Poussey Washington Fund based on real-life events of a New York city citizen eric garner who was killed by the police officer the same way as Poussey Washington.
In fact, Poussey Washington’s death in 2016 was a direct response to the killing of Eric garner in 2014 and other similar incidents contributing towards the black lives matter movement.
Poussey Washington’s real-life fund was introduced to enable ex-prisoners to lead their life in better circumstances.
Orange Is The New Black’s popularity
Orange is the new black gained immense popularity when it was first released in 2013 on Netflix. It was nominated in 12 categories for an Emmy award which gained Netflix a huge number of awards.
The reason for the increased popularity of orange is the new black was its fresh concept. Despite a large number of prison-related series orange is the new black made its own identity by bringing criminal justice reforms to the upfront of the national conversation.
Orange is the new black let their audience to identify with their wide range of characters despite their religion, political, racial, and class differences.
The show tried to connect the audience with characters like Poussey Washington by showing different situations that how the characters ended up in prison.
Who was Poussey Washington?
Poussey Washington was a fictional character portrayed by Samira Wiley on the Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black. She appeared recurrently in the initial seasons and then became a permanent cast member.
Poussey Washington’s death was not well received by the audience and earned the series creators a great deal of outrage. One of the television critics Emily Nusbaum highlighted this outrage in her review and stated that Poussey’s death sent a message about the Black lives matter movement as Poussey Washington’s character was an educated middle class but was killed due to ugly racism.
Fellow cast members were reportedly outraged over series creator Jenji Kohan’s decision to kill off Poussey in the fourth season. Kohan spoke about the difficulty of killing her off and the reaction of the cast but stated that she felt it was a story that needed to be told.
The person on which Poussey’s character was based
Poussey Washington’s death was a direct indication of those high-profile racist attacks by law enforcement authorities. The character’s death served a bigger purpose than just a plot point.
Her character was killed in quite a similar way to Eric Garner who lost his life in 2014 at the hands of law enforcement authorities while selling cigarettes on the streets of New York City. Eric’s words before his death “ I can’t breathe” became a chant for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Poussey Washington was killed in a similar way when the prison guard was trying to handle another inmate and unintentionally killed Poussey by pinning her down by the neck and blocking her breathing.
Then it was shown that Poussey Washington’s body was left in the cafeteria overnight as the prison’s management decided how to deal with the whole situation. Again, this was a nod to the similar incident which happened in 2014 called the killing of Michael Brown.
Michael Brown was shot dead by a New York police officer in Ferguson and he was left lying in the street.
Poussey Washington Real-life fund:
Poussey Washington’s real-life fund was introduced in remembrance of Poussey Washington and to honor all the victims of racial biases. The fund aimed to provide help to those who are struggling in real life and raised money for non-profits in the US.
This initiative was inspired by the final season events of orange is the new black and mainly focused on charities based on women’s rights, criminal justice, immigrant rights and it supported ex women, prisoners, to get back on their feet.
When the Poussey Washington fund was announced, Netflix promoted this initiative and released a video where the cast members were shown meeting ex-prisoners and explaining their ideas about leading the series legacy.
While talking about the Poussey Washington fund The show creator Jenji Kohan said that this initiative is a way for the show’s characters to continue to make an impression on the audience even after the show has come to an end.
In the series, it was shown that one of the characters called Taystee offered microloans to the women who were getting out of prison. To this, the show creator Jenji Kohan said that if a show’s one of the own character “Taystee” can go and try to make a difference for her inmates then the real world deserves this opportunity too
Samira Wiley who played the character of Poussey Washington said about the initiative that Orange Is the New Black has influenced people all over the world and now the whole team wants to continue this impact by introducing The Poussey Washington fund. This way the legacy can live on even after the show is over.
Samira further said that while working on this series they have realized that justice is not being served whether it’s outside or inside the prison walls so the poussey Washington real-life fund aims to help the victims of this judicial system.
The Poussey Washington real-life fund benefited these eight non-profit organizations i.e.
- Anti Recidivism Coalition
- A New Way of Life: Reentry Project
- Immigrant Defenders Law Center
- Freedom for Immigrants
- College & Community Fellowship
- unPrison Project
- Women’s Prison Association
- The National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Woman and Girls
The Poussey Washington Fund was supported by GoFundMe.org and donations were equally distributed among the organizations.
Poussey Washington real-life fund and Black lives matter movement:
Kohan confronted many sensitive issues on Orange Is the New Black. Most of her key characters were shown to be the victims of a broken and disputed prison system.
Though Jenji Kohan tackled the issues of mental health, sexual assault, racial injustice, drug abuse, very creatively but Poussey Washington was the first-ever character to become a target.
This courageous move from Kohan’s side was a result of the racial injustice served by the judicial system of New York City. This move promoted the black lives matter movement which is a regionalized socio-political movement that advocates non-violent civil disobedience against racial injustice and police brutality.
So, all in all, the Poussey Washington real-life fund helped to continue the legacy of the show and helped many people who were wronged by their very own judicial systems.