Orange Is the New Black is coming to an end, but its legacy will live on.
At Thursday’s New York City premiere of the Netflix series’ seventh and final season, creator and writer Jenji Kohan and executive producer Tara Herrmann announced the launch of the Poussey Washington Fund, an initiative to support eight preexisting non-profit advocacy groups who focus on criminal justice reform, protecting immigrants’ rights, ending mass incarceration and supporting women who have been affected by it.
“Through the Poussey Washington Fund, our characters can live on and continue to make an impact after the show has come to an end,” Kohan says. “Taystee recognized an opportunity to make a difference for her fellow inmates, and we saw no reason why we couldn’t launch our own initiative to have an effect in the real world.”
The fund is named after the character played by Emmy-winning actress Samira Wiley, who also appears in the video announcement.
“We’ve been honored to tell these stories of these characters, and we’ve learned first hand that the system is failing women both inside and outside of prison walls,” she says. “The Poussey Washington Fund will help all of us keep the Orange legacy living on far after the show is over.”
“Some of the struggles I went through growing up were not having any characters on TV that were like me,” says one fan. “The show was impactful because it really gave queer visibility.”
Others applauded the show for accurately portraying life behind bars.
“I have a brother who spent nearly a year awaiting trial on Rikers Island,” explains another fan. “At first I was like, ‘I wonder if this show is going to really accurately portray what people go through when they are incarcerated. Seeing my brother and what he went through was incredibly painful. For this show to do that and convey it honestly has been profound.”
And all the fans strongly connect to the show’s characters. Of Daya (played by Polanco) and her mother Aleida (played by Elizabeth Rodriguez), one fan says, “I had nobody there. People asked where my parents were and it was awkward. So, like, how do you tell somebody, like, your mom’s in jail? I would actually have to stop watching it and process it and cry because I realized I wasn’t alone.”
And the stars are equally grateful: “You guys have fed our souls and have given us seven seasons,” Levya says.
The Poussey Washington Fund will support A New Way of Life: Reentry Project, Anti Recidivism Coalition, College & Community Fellowship, Freedom For Immigrants, Immigrant Defenders Law Center, The National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Woman and Girls, unPrison Project and Women’s Prison Association. Donations to the fund will be evenly distributed between the organizations.
The final season of Orange Is the New Black hits Netflix on Friday.