Okay, it's time to conglomerate my experiences with our brief hours on the inside. Leaving on the last day, I felt sad and angry that our classmates on the inside couldn't walk with us into the sunshine, too, and enjoy the spring air. That's, I suppose, the point, when it comes to learning about prisons. Incarceration is unacceptable...prison abolition, and restorative justice are key. Because this is bs. Absolute bs. Those of us from bmc are no more or less valuable than our classmates...and yet when we hop in our van to head back to campus, our classmates are counted to make sure every number is present. I'm happy and warm from the friendships forged within the Bryn Mawr Course. I think our time together was valuable and meaningful. But it's not enough.
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Reflections on Praxis
I think this is pretty cool and like what we're aiming to do with our Zine at RCF. Maybe we could print out stuff from this publication to show the women that this same type of work is being done at other women's prisons.
How do you draw a soul leaving a body?
I didn't have the vision, but I was asked to do it anyway.
No. More round at the top.
What about this?
No, darker around the edges. You ever play Pacman?
The dynamic was different at the prison this time round--more guys, two of which we hadn't seen last time. One of them had this need to constantly have that attention, the kid that always wanted to go last because they thought their ideas were the best, their drawing was the coolest, their story the most engaging. '
I felt more like a school teacher: writing on the white board, explaining games, pitching in on a drawing.
I spent a lot of the session at PICC this week talking with one of the guys. He had a lot of questions for me based on observations he'd made. We talked about my background, how my family's from China and I grew up in China, and how he wants to visit China some day. I felt a little hesitant to answer his questions about myself at first, but I felt myself opening up to him and responding honestly to all of his questions. He remembered that I had said something about my girlfriend last session, and asked me about how my family feels about my sexuality, as well as whether my family cares or not if the person I date is of another race or not. I was put off, not used to being asked questions like these so blatantly and upfront.
I enjoyed last class in which we discussed activism and how our personal experiences with other people shape us and the kind of work that we do in our lives. It was nice to be able to open up to another classmate and talk about difficult topic and how that has shaped me and influenced me in the kind of work that I want to do in the future. Their stories were heart warming and inspring, they were a very intelligent and nice group of ladies. As for my last praxis visit, Aubrey and I spent the entire time fixing the website again (which is still not done). I'm sure once we're done with it it's going to look amazing-- so happy that she's good with tech stuff.
This week I spent the majority of the session at the Praxis site making a spreadsheet and trying to create an organized chart of all the poets we want to feature in the poetry book. S sent me a list of people we have contact information for and a link for locating incarcerated people in Pennsylvania. After spending over an hour putting every person into the chart, I found myself frustrated as I tried to find information on where they are now or how to contact them. On the chart, I labelled anyone I couldn't find information on through the list S sent me with N/A, and I felt a frustrating desperation as I found myself repeating person after person with "N/A". The website S sent me for locating incarcerated people was a surprise to me.
The past Friday we started planning the activities that we would do with the inmates at the jail. These inmates were going to be pretty young so we wanted to make sure the activities that we had planned would be fun, engaging, and creative while still allowing them to express artistic freedoms. We planned a few story telling games to get them warmed up and then planned a "create a superhero" activity with them in which they had to create one and defeat a villian that they created as well. Unfortunately, I couldn't attend the meet :( but I was happy to be a part of the planning and am looking forward to the next visit.
It was my first time in a prison, as well as the others'. On the trip there, we talked about how nervous we were. We weren't sure what to expect, about the prison or the young men we were about to meet. We had come up with a themed workshop focusing around the idea of superheroes and weren't sure how successful it was going to be. I think I can speak for all of us when I say I'm really glad, as well as relieved, that it seemed to have gone really well.
This week I spent the majority of the visit sorting through poetry again. This time, I felt a sense of accomplishment because I finally sorted through all the poetry and sorted them into folders in alphabetical order by their first names. Unless they have more poems to add to the book, I think we're probably going to really start making electronic copies of all the poems soon and figuring out how we are going to publish the book.
This week I worked separately from the other two as they worked on updating the website while I went through poetry that had been submitted in the last year that needed to be sorted through. I told S and the others my idea for them to create a little contest for cover artwork for the poetry book. I explained that we could make a page or two in the book with honorary mentions of everyone who did submit but didn't get chosen for the cover, so that everyone gets their artwork shared whether they win or not.