By Alice Kim, Erica Meiners, Audrey Petty, Jill Petty, Beth Richie, and Sarah Ross This is an excerpt from The Long Term: Resisting Life Sentences, Working Toward Freedom, Haymarket Books, 2018. Reprinted with permission. In 2011, when the Prison + Neighborhood Arts Project (P+NAP)—a group of artists, scholars, organizers, and writers—started teaching arts and humanities classes at Stateville prison in Illinois, our work was organized by the prison administration under a program called “Long-Term Offenders.” The abbreviation LTO, casually written on institutional paperwork and used by prison guards, is the prison administration’s shorthand for people who are serving long-term sentences, meaning life without parole or virtual life sentences of fifty years or more. For the people we met in our classes at Stateville prison, the term “LTO” signals something profound: it represents the nation’s ideological and political commitments to the long-term removal of people from their communities into prisons, a…
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQo-yYhExw0 In his October cover story, Ta-Nehisi Coates explores how mass incarceration has affected African American families. “There’s a long history in this country of dealing with problems in the African American community through the criminal justice system,” he says in this animated interview. “The enduring view of African Americans in this country is as a race of people who are prone to criminality.”
By Alice Kim Prison + Neighborhood Arts Project, Stateville Prison This course explores the freedom dreams of political thinkers, artists, writers, activists and ordinary people in the US and beyond. We will engage with multiple genres (personal narrative, graphic memoir, poetry, speeches) to explore the meaning of freedom. Using an intersectional lens, we will consider the ways in which race, class, gender, and historical/social/cultural context impact our understanding and dreams of freedom. We will also explore the power of imagination to transform individuals, communities, and society.
As the clock struck midnight on January 26, Marissa Alexander was finally able to pull off her ankle monitor. The Florida mother of three was officially done with her two-year sentence of home confinement and electronic monitoring.
Despite the late hour, she drove to her sister’s house where she, her mother and her sister had a toast to her freedom. The next morning, she took her youngest daughter to breakfast before dropping her off at school; something that she’d never before been able to do with her six-year-old. That night, she took her 16-year-old twins to dinner. That weekend, family and friends threw a party in her honor. And finally, on Sunday, Alexander put a baseball cap on and headed to a local bar to watch the football game in anonymity. It was the first time the Jacksonville mother had been able to do so since her legal ordeal began in 2010.
By Shayna Plaut, Human Rights Contributing Editor
Six summers ago, I made a new friend. She was 7 years old. I was a guest at what I assumed would be a stodgy and staid academic picnic, when the unmistakable sound of a child’s glee made me stop in my tracks. I looked over to see who was laughing with such genuine abandon. A little girl was literally in the air, being swung around by her arms. I knew I needed to meet this little person, as well as the big person who had raised such a live and open spirit.
“Little by little the raindrops swell the river.” (African Proverb)
All over this country, and the world, women (and some male allies) marched on Saturday, January 21st, 2017. Each woman who marched was a rain drop in a river of resistance to an increasing turn by demagogic leaning world leaders toward policies that trample on human rights. For us in the United States those world leaders are Donald Trump and Mike Pence and their allies in the Republican led Congress: Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and others.
In this moment, when the future is so uncertain, Praxis Center turns to poetic offerings by adrienne maree brown. As she wrote on her blog, “i still believe it is the core work of our species – to reason, to feel, to reconcile power and brilliance and compassion, to expand into our miraculous potential. i am relinquishing whatever illusions make me think i know the future, and making more room to co-create something worth living into. i am learning to create futures/poems/stories about what i don’t know, what i can’t explain, where i am not sure.”
As we continue to do the work of building a more humane and just world, our words can help move, shape, and inspire us. We are “learning as we go.”
By Alice Kim
“Greetings, these words travel to you over a great distance of time and space for I write to you all live from planet Stateville, a dark place physically made to mentally break men by oppressing their bodies and shackling their minds to a sinking depth of hopelessness.” This is how one of my students aptly described where he is currently incarcerated.
This course is for students interested in learning how to create social change through collective action. The dual aims of the course are to enrich our understanding of the mechanics of social change and to critically examine the relationship between law, lawyers, and social movements. Together, we will develop a nuanced understanding of law as a complex tool that has the potential to both coopt social movements and support liberation. We will take a historical and theoretical case-study approach, with emphasis on the civil rights and Black Power movements in the United States. We will also draw lessons from contemporary movement-building efforts. Throughout the semester, guest speakers on the front lines of racial and economic justice movements here in Michigan will join us to share their insights and ground our discussion. Visit the PDF version of Law, Process, and Social Movements to access the full syllabus. Dr. Amanda Alexander University…
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNUsEx4TRV8 Activists, educators and organizers reflect on the opportunities and challenges when using digital media in struggles for social justice. This project was funded by the Black Youth Project and the MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics. Videographers Tracye Matthews Paris “Twiggy” Brown Tim McBride Donell McNairy Kelsey Phillips Editor Nuala Cabral Assistant Editor Mari Morales-Williams, PhD