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Sunday Post 9.20

han yu's picture

       I started to have this contradicting feeling after hearing people talked about their comments on the mural arts trip and that organization: On the one hand, the tour guides were davaluing the graffiti by emphasizing the illegal "nature" of them and by defining them as an act of vandalism. On the other hand, I was fascinated by the qualities of those mural arts and moved by the powerful meanings expressed in them. The organization knows which materials can avoid mural arts fading out, such as parachute cloth (maybe I spell it wrong) and some special paints. Each of the project has theme in it or story behind it. And the organization can gather a substantial amout of incarcerated people once upon a time for a new project. 

       One of the most impressive projects to me is the middle part of a large project, waiting room. A family of the incarcerated people say "When i hug him sometimes I feel like there are BARS still between us". An incarcerated parent says "My son grew up in the visiting room". It makes me think of our experience to the literacy groups. An hour and a half in a week is a so small proportion of their sentence to make them feel relieved. The only place we can make contact with them is the community service classroom which is far isolated from their confinement places. Even facing us, a group of unknown, unfamiliar people, they can show impressive enthusiasm in talking and sharing their ideas. It is hard to imagine how much they would want to share with their loved ones and families. And probably their families would only be able to meet them seperated in another cold, barred room. 

       It is contradicting in a sense that the mural arts organization, with its philanthropic intention, is doing something like monopolizing this field and dehumanizing the graffiti artists. However, I am also glad to see that most of the projects are expressing positive meanings such as their hope, their love toward other people and nature, their solidarity and their willingness to progress. It once again reminds me of the Trigger Warning reading in which Angela says "People who have experienced trauma are culturally expected to turn their pain into a narrative of inspiration for others." And also the Suspending Damage reading in which Eve Tuck says "This kind of research [Damage-centered research] operates with a flawed theory of change: it is often used to leverage reparations or resources for marginalized communities yet simultaneously reinforces and reinscribes a one-dimensional notion of these people as depleted, ruined, and hopeless." If we are not systematically providing opportunities for incarcerated people to express their hope and humanity to the public, would they get a chance to be visible other than narrating how pathetic their lives are, being forced to cater to what the majorities of power want to see?