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Are Prisons Obsolete?: Notes Towards Day 32 (Wed, Apr. 5)

Anne Dalke's picture

I. (2:00-2:10) course-keeping

tomorrow, we'll be joined by Rashida Ingram,
Social Work Supervisor @ RCF and board member of YASP
finish reading Are Prisons Obsolete? --use that to
gather some thoughts/questions you'd like to share
with Rashida.

start today w/ several celebrations:
anak shared an article about Bill DiBlasio's commitment to reduce the overall jail population in NYC
over the next 10 years, and then to close the Rikers Island jail complex; 

jane.doe invited us to celebrate Mumia Abu-Jamal's major victory in his lawsuit against the
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections: a federal court ruled that he can begin receiving treatments
for hepatitis C while in prison.

m r r linked to articles on bail changes in California and the #SchoolsNotPrisons education campaign

all hopeful!

more locally:

S... wrote, I'm grateful to the community we've built. I feel connected to y'all in a way I haven't in other classes. Thanks for that.

droomes10 also wrote, last week left me feeling grateful for having had the opportunity to share a class with my classmates from Bryn Mawr. I feel like I can count on them to carry me.

further reflections on class dynamics

arc of today: break into groups to discuss praxis work,
then dig into Angela Davis's book, then, with her help,
do some work reflecting on our own activism.

know y'day's writing workshop raised questions for some of you
about the paper due this sunday night; will make sure we have
time for addressing them @ the end of class--and want to do this
other work fi
rst, which will also address these questions

II. (2:10-2:35) small group work discussing your praxis postings

Jody w/ the YASP and BTB groups

postings to draw on:
A.rsr: I felt more like a school teacher: writing on the white board, explaining games, pitching in on a drawing. Normally, I would feel more at ease in this position, but I didn't like it at all, then....Is self-empowerment activism? Did she feel any empowerment playing cards?
Ang: I was put off, not used to being asked questions like these so blatantly and upfront....These workshops, if anything, provide simple human connection and support. It switches up their monotonous days while locked up with something they can't usually do, and gives them something positive to do. Especially as youths, they must all feel so alone in there.
janedoe: Much of the session was like this, starting, stopping, bending, never breaking. I lived on the unpredictable nature of it. I wanted to keep trying, keep moving.

Why are almost all of the COs Black?....
She looked like my cousin.

Nell w/ the RCF group, starting w/ amanda.simone's questions:
I'm using this post to document (and share) some details about a project we are doing for the class at the correctional facility. We are thinking about making a zine to compile what we have been writing, reading, talking, and thinking about this semester during the class. This zine would serve to celebrate the writing everyone has done in the course, to be a keepsake or documentation of participation in the course, to be a way of sharing resources, and to maybe be shared more widely inside (and outside? discuss).

Element ideas:

  • Writing done in the course
    • from students inside and outside
    • getting permission is going to be necessary obviously. we should work to see if we can get in contact with people who are out or are at other facilities. we are also going to need to start asking as soon as next class I think.
    • anonymous or (first) names included? discuss. i think this should be up to each person who consents to having their writing/art included.
  • Drawings/doodles
    • things that can be colored in?
  • The writing prompts we have done
    • with space below so that anyone who has a copy can write their own response
  • Phenomenal woman by maya angelou & choices by nikki giovani (poems we read on the first day of class)
  • an audre lorde piece
  • resources!!!
    • interspersed throughout
    • discuss more about this
    • housing, education, child care, jobs, health and mental health
  • other poems/works that are important to the people inside
  • themes:
    • self care & reflection, "how to get through what you are going through"

Everyone please feel free to weigh in with comments, concerns, questions, ideas! I really want to create something that will be meaningful (and helpful) for the people inside, so there is much to discuss. I also have never made a zine before, so if you have experience or knowledge I would appreciate hearing it. In order to do a good job, we will need to put a significant amount of work in so that is something we need to discuss as well.

III.  (2:35-3:00) Are Prisons Obsolete?? Chapters 1-3
Had asked you to read for the question Davis was asking,
about how to get under the hegemonic question
of prisons as inevitable. How does she guide us to read our world
beneath our assumptions of what is real, necessary, unquestionable?

Where does she really make you question beliefs that
you (and/or others that you know) take for granted?
This book is 13 years old--is it speaking to you in this way?
Were there moments in there where you found something
you could say to other people in the world, where Davis
really exposes "our" thinking, in ways that seem
cogent for you and/or others?

If this has been happening, take a few minutes alone with the book
to find some places where it occurs. If not, identify some
passages where her argument did not land for you.

When you are done reading, go to the board: let's create
together a visual of our believing and doubting. Put up
p. #s/sources for your statements.

Break: 3:00-3:10

(3:10-3:20) Discussion: what is Davis's vision, at this point (through Ch. 3)?

II. (3:20-3:40) Focusing now on our own visions of prison work.
Angela Davis advocates for the abolition of prisons,
in light of the history of abolitionist movements
to end slavery, lynching and segregation. She
contrasts abolition to efforts to reform
prisons, to make them less oppressive.

We've talked alot in here recently about
what it means to be an activist.
One of your postings this weekend asked,
"Is self-empowerment activism?"
--and we've all been thinking about
activism in relation to prisons.

How would you describe yourself--
maybe using one of these words--
self-empowerment, engagement, activism, reform, abolitionism?
Write for 5 minutes in answer to this question.

Share in pairs; then large group.

III. (3:40-4:00) Your upcoming paper on activism
* form:

workshop was intended to get you thinking about the paper,
by focusing first on your own positionality;
if you found it energizing/engaging/want to
keeping exploring in this direction/incorporate some of
Olivia's techniques into your final paper, colorcoding it,
whatever--go for it!

if you didn't, don't!

* content:
heard from one of you (speaking for others too?)
that the assignment seems inappropriate, because
we really haven't learned enough about activism,
historically or theoretically, to write about it; if
it feels that way to you, please re-direct your
project--for ex, you could choose to do a research report
instead, on the issues of incarceration and the strategies
of activists responding to those issues.

today's conversation really opened up the
definition of what activism is; don't be
bound by conventional understandings of this,
but ask yourself/write about what you think
it is, and where you are in relation to that

* transparency:
we chose this topic because we didn't want to

burden you with all the complexities of the
prison industrial complex without offering
you an opportunity to reflect on how
you might act in response to this knowledge;
another way to visualize this paper would just
be as a report on where y
ou are now in relationship
to what you
have learned