Doin’ Time: Families and Incarceration
A public lecture and performance
by Ashley Lucas
Thursday, June 27, 2013 at 7 PM
Hanks High School Theater
El Paso, Texas
Tickets: Adults $20, Students & Children $7
Doin’ Time: Families and Incarceration
A public lecture and performance
by Ashley Lucas
Thursday, June 27, 2013 at 7 PM
Hanks High School Theater
El Paso, Texas
Tickets: Adults $20, Students & Children $7
Shakespeare at Notre Dame is pleased to announce the Shakespeare in Prisons Conference hosted by the University of Notre Dame on Friday, November 15, and Saturday, November 16, 2013.
Featuring keynote addresses and film screenings by Curt Tofteland (founding director of Shakespeare Behind Bars) and Tom Magill (founder of the Educational Shakespeare Center and director of the Irish film Mickey B ), the conference aims to bring together artists and educators engaged in transformational arts programs using Shakespeare in prisons across the USA (and the world) for an exploration and study of the effects such programming has on prison populations. The goal is to promote a collaborative learning forum where participants will be exposed to a diverse array of programs that all strive for a common result: the habilitation of the inmate’s mind, heart, body, and spirit.
Departing from the traditional academic conference structure, the Shakespeare in Prisons conference will focus on the craft and experiences of the practitioner—while allowing ample time for one-on-one networking and collaboration.
In addition to the keynotes and film screenings (and Q&A’s), attendees are invited to participate in workshops that explore innovative methodologies, as well as panel discussions that are designed to stimulate discussion about practitioner experiences and best practices within the industrial prison complex.
Registration is $25 and includes a dinner/reception on Friday night, lunch and dinner on Saturday, and admission to all workshops and film screenings. Online registration begins on Monday, June 10 via www.conferences.nd.edu . More information regarding the conference schedule, lodging information, and the availability of a limited number of bursaries to help with attendee expenses will be made available on June 10. In the meantime, please contact Scott Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
We hope that you will join us for this unique gathering of like-minded individuals.
All the very best–
Scott Jackson, Peter Holland, and Curt Tofteland
About the speakers and host:
Curt L. Tofteland is the founder of the internationally acclaimed Shakespeare Behind Bars (SBB) program. SBB has twelve programs in Kentucky and Michigan. He currently facilitates the adult Shakespeare Behind Bars/Michigan program at the Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility in Muskegon Heights and SBB’s first co-gender, court-ordered, juvenile Shakespeare Behind/Beyond Bars programs at the Ottawa County Juvenile Detention Center and the Juvenile Justice Institute. From 1995-2008, he facilitated the SBB/KY program at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex, producing and directing fourteen Shakespeare productions. His 2003 SBB/KY production of The Tempest was chronicled by Philomath Films, producing the documentary Shakespeare Behind Bars , which premiered at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival and went on to be screened at 40+ film festivals worldwide, winning eleven awards. He is a national and international speaker, having lectured at over forty colleges and universities across the United States and at TEDx Berkeley, TEDxEast (NYC), and TEDx Macatowa. For his work as a Prison Arts Practitioner he was awarded fellowships from the Fulbright and Petra Foundations, as well as a Doctorate of Humane Letters from Bellarmine University. He is a founding member and past president of the Shakespeare Theatre Association, an international service organization for theatres that produce the works of William Shakespeare. He is a published essayist and poet, currently authoring the book, Behind the Bard-Wire: Reflection, Responsibility, Redemption, & Forgiveness…The Transformative Power of Art, Theatre, and Shakespeare. From 1989-2008, he served as producing artistic director of the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, producing fifty Shakespeare productions, directing twenty-five, and acting in eight. A trailer for Shakespeare Behind Bars can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2kr5wV_AiQ More information on Curt’s work can be found at http://www.shakespearebehindbars.org/
Tom Magill is an ex-prisoner who transformed his life through arts education while in prison for violence. While incarcerated he met his enemy—and his enemy became his teacher. On release he earned a B.A. (Hons) in Drama and Theatre Studies at the University of Birmingham and an M.A. in Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds. He is an award-winning filmmaker, drama facilitator, actor, writer, director, and producer. He specializes in utilizing Augusto Boal’s “Theatre of the Oppressed” methodology and the works of William Shakespeare in transforming community and prison settings. After training with Michael Bogdanov, he became his and Augusto Boal’s personal representative in Northern Ireland. In 1999 he founded the Educational Shakespeare Company (ESC) to develop drama and film with prisoners and ex-prisoners. ESC is an award-winning arts education charity, empowering marginalized people to find their voice and tell their stories through film. In 2007 he directed Mickey B , an award-winning feature film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth cast with prisoners from Maghaberry maximum-security prison. For his film direction he has received the 2011 Justice in the Community Award (from the Northern Ireland Department of Justice), the 2008 Roger Graef Award for Outstanding Achievement in Film at the Koestler Awards (for Mickey B ), the Arthur Koestler Award for Prison Drama in 2004 and 2006 (for Inside Job and The Big Question , respectively), and the Impetus Human Rights Award in 2005, 2006, and 2007 (for Bridging the Divide ). He has presented his film work in Britain, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Israel, Nigeria, South Korea, and the United States. More information on Tom’s work can be found at http://esc-film.com/ A trailer of Mickey B can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFKMIswx5VY Peter Holland holds the McMeel Family Chair in Shakespeare Studies and is the Associate Dean for the Arts at the University of Notre Dame. He is one of the central figures in performance-oriented Shakespeare criticism, served as Director of the Shakespeare Institute at Stratford-upon-Avon before coming to Notre Dame in 2002. He is editor of Shakespeare Survey as well as a number of other series. Among his books are English Shakespeares: Shakespeare on the English Stage in the 1990s and a major study of Restoration drama The Ornament of Action . He has also edited many Shakespeare plays, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Oxford Shakespeare series. In 2007, he completed publication of a five volume series of collections of essays entitled Rethinking British Theatre History . In 2007-08, he served as President of the Shakespeare Association of America. He was elected an honorary fellow at Trinity Hall, his alma mater and one of the 31 colleges that comprise the University of Cambridge. His Arden edition of Coriolanus was released in early 2013.
Shakespeare at Notre Dame is a program that recognizes the centrality of the study of Shakespeare in humanistic pedagogy at the University of Notre Dame. The creation of the “Shakespeare Initiative” in 2001 sought to broaden the Shakespeare offerings on campus and establish the permanence of this new tradition for an audience of students, faculty, the South Bend community at-large, and a national and international audience. To that end, the current programs and future prospects that comprise Shakespeare at Notre Dame have created a regional center for Shakespearean scholarship, production, educational outreach, and academic research by enmeshing programs as far-reaching and diverse as Actors From The London Stage, the Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival, visiting guest artists and lecturers, touring productions, and new media library collections; ensuring Notre Dame’s status as a nationally visible—and the Midwest’s pre-eminent—venue for Shakespeare Studies. Find out more at http://shakespeare.nd.edu/
I sincerely apologize for not yet finding a moment to write about the incredible experiences I had performing Doin’ Time last month at Illinois State University and at Lincoln Correctional Center, but I promise to provide an update soon. In the mean time, here is a link to a radio interview I did with the local NPR station in Bloomington just prior to my performances there.
Please note that at the end of the radio interview I stated the wrong name of the activist organization I was describing. The organization I’m actually describing at this moment in the interview is Our Children’s Place, which is an amazing group of folks in North Carolina who provide support for the children of prisoners. The organization I named instead is another great activist organization called All of Us or None, which serves prisoners and reentrants nationwide. Both groups are doing vital and difficult work, and I am proud to support their efforts.
More soon. . .
About a year ago, a woman named Sherrin Fitzer contacted me out of the blue, asking if she could get a copy of the script of my play Doin’ Time to share with a group of women in an Illinois prison. Sherrin works at Lincoln Correctional Center for Women and leads a theatre troupe comprised of incarcerated women; they call their ensemble Acting Out. Sherrin and I exchanged many emails and conjured up a plan to collaborate. Janet Wilson, director of the School of Theatre and Dance at Illinois State University in Bloomington, has collaborated with Sherrin and the women of Acting Out for many years, and Janet extended an invitation to me to perform Doin’ Time on her campus. With support from many corners of the university, including the School of Theatre and Dance, Latino Studies, Crossroad’s Project, Honor’s Program, School of Social Work and the Department of Criminal Justice Sciences, Janet and Sherrin arranged a week-long residency for me:
My time at Illinois State will be very exciting, but what will happen at Lincoln Correctional later that week is the most amazing opportunity I’ve had in eight years of touring with this play. The women in the Acting Out troupe have read my script and written their own monologues about visitation and families. Sherrin has been emailing me drafts of their monologues, and in this manner the women and I have been able to respond to one another’s work. They have written some very powerful pieces, which they’ve been rehearsing with Sherrin. Doin’ Time‘s director, the incomparable Joseph Megel, will travel to Illinois with me, and we’ll spend all day on Thursday, September 20th in rehearsals inside the prison with the women of Acting Out. We’ll weave their eleven monologues into my play, and we’ll all perform together on the afternoon of Friday, September 21st for an audience of 150 to 200 incarcerated women. Two more incarcerated women will run the tech cues for the show.
I have performed in a handful of prisons now in the U.S., Ireland, and Canada, and I’ve seen prisoners perform plays of their own in Michigan, North Carolina, and Louisiana. I’ve also conducted and participated in improvisational theatre workshops in quite a few prisons, but this will be the first time that I’ve actually performed in a play with incarcerated theatre makers and the first time that anyone ever wrote or performed new material in response to my play Doin’ Time. I have never performed Doin’ Time with other actors, and though I haven’t yet met any of the women of Acting Out, I am already deeply moved by their words and their willingness to enter into this adventure with me.
If you are going to be near Bloomington this week, please come to the show! I’ll be posting more about my time in Illinois after my trip there.
The Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) is an amazing program at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, that takes undergrads into prisons, juvenile facilities, and urban high schools throughout Michigan to conduct collaborative arts workshops. One of their other programs, the PCAP Linkage Project supports formerly incarcerated artists, writers, actors, dancers, and musicians who worked with PCAP during their imprisonment. Working with returning citizens is far more difficult than working with folks in prison. Though life in prison is terribly unpleasant, the incarcerated don’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, how they’ll find work and make an income, or where they will sleep that night. Returning citizens often find the free world very changed from what they knew before they entered prison, and those of them who became artists while in prison struggle to continue working creatively after their release because other concerns take precedence over the desire to make art.
On April 5, 2012, the PCAP Linkage Project held an amazing conference, organized by staff member Heather Wilson, for formerly incarcerated artists. I had the privilege of getting to attend the day’s events in Detroit, meet the artists, and see some of their work. Many of the artists brought drawings and paintings to the conference, and all the works of art collected that day are now on display at the Ridge Point Community Church at 340 104th Avenue in Holland, MI. (That’s in the western part of the state, not far from Grand Rapids.) Click here for more information about the exhibition which runs from now until May 5, 2012. If you’re out in that neck of the woods, don’t pass up the opportunity to see these wonderful works of art.
My former student Jamila Reddy just sent me this link to a website about a proposed mural project with incarcerated mothers at Riker’s Island and their children. The incarcerated mothers will create an image which their children will paint in East Harlem, and the children will create an image which their mothers will paint inside the prison. The video on the website shows artist Katie Yamasaki’s incredible previous mural work, which is very socially engaged. She has collaborated with communities of women all over the world, and this project promises to produce amazing results as well. Yamasaki is trying to raise the funds necessary to make these murals a reality. This is the kind of place where I wish my tax dollars were going. Very few activists or artists have such excellent ideas for connecting communities separated by prison walls. Yamasaki’s efforts are inspiring and inspired. Do not miss the chance to support this incredible work!
During the week that ended September and began October 2011, I had the privilege of taking my play to Canada for the first time. One of Razor Wire Women‘s contributors Simone Davis took on the arduous task of scheduling three performances at two universities and a prison in the nation where she teaches and makes her home. Simone does some incredible work. In addition to teaching at the University of Toronto, she has brought the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program to Canada for the first time, setting up a course which a professor named Shoshana Pollack now teaches for students from Wilfrid Laurier University and incarcerated women at Grand Valley Women’s Institution. By all reports, the new Inside-Out class is going very well, and at least one outside and a few inside students in the course attended my performance at the prison. During my time in Canada, Simone told me about an extraordinary annual event called Prisoners’ Justice Day which is commemorated all over Canada with fasts, speeches, and protests. Simone gave me a beautiful tee shirt designed for Prisoners’ Justice Day, and I will wear it with pride. Thank you, Simone!
My first performance in Canada took place in the lovely Gill Theatre at the University of Toronto, where an incredible group of faculty and graduate students hosted me and ran the tech for the show. Though the audience appeared to have about ninety people in it, they were so quiet that I could not read their reactions to the play until the house lights came on at the end of the show. (Canadian audiences outside of prisons are in my experience a much quieter bunch than folks in the U.S. or Ireland.) We had a very engaging and productive conversation at the end of the performance. Several days later I encountered an equally supportive audience at Trent University in the small town of Peterborough, where I was hosted by a wonderful scholar named Gillian Balfour whose co-edited collection Criminalizing Women has a good deal in common with Razor Wire Women.
In between the two university performances, I visited Grand Valley Women’s Institution and performed for a group of about thirty incarcerated women. The staff at Grand Valley explained to us that the prison has both minimum and medium security housing units but that the differences between the two were not enough to be much of an incentive for women to want to move down to medium security. The whole prison operates on a higher security level, and with stricter rules, than most minimum security facilities in Canada. True minimum security facilities in Canada do not have fences around them, but Grand Valley does. Even at that, I was surprised to learn that the women there had some privileges that incarcerated people in the U.S. almost never have, like communal kitchens where they can cook meals for themselves. (I also heard about such kitchens at the women’s prison in Dublin when I was there in 2005.) Grand Valley also has some form of segregation cells for holding prisoners in isolation, though I did not see them or hear about how many such cells exist or why women are placed there.
My access to Grand Valley was facilitated by Simone Davis and Grand Valley’s educational counselor Peter Stuart, who not only took care of all arrangements made in preparation of my arrival but also ran the sound cues during the play. Peter approaches his job with good humor, intelligence, and a genuine concern for the well-being and education of the women incarcerated at Grand Valley. He represents the very best sort of work that can be accomplished by prison employees; he works to help prepare women to have successful lives after they leave prison.
As with all audiences I’ve encountered inside prisons, the women at Grand Valley watched my performance so intently and with such obvious emotion that I felt wrapped up in the energy that they offered me. Several women left the performance early, most of them during the Healer monologue–the one published in RWW about a little girl whose father is in prison. They were not in any way disruptive as they left, but it seemed clear that those who were going felt it would be too painful to stay–or at least that it what it looked and felt like to me. The same thing happened with at least one of the women in the prison in Limerick, Ireland, when I performed there. That monologue in particular appears to be the one that elicits the most forceful emotions from women whom I presume are incarcerated mothers.
In the discussion after the performance, the women told me about what visiting with their families is like at Grand Valley. Drug sniffing dogs inspect each visitor and often terrify the children coming to see their mothers and grandmothers. One of the women was very upset about a new schedule for a form of special visitation where families can stay the better part of a day at the prison. Though I did not quite grasp all the details of how such visits are scheduled, I learned that such visits must be scheduled in advance and that the new form of scheduling makes it harder for families on the outside to choose the dates that would be workable for them, resulting in fewer of these special visits. Several of the women in the audience wept as the cuts in visiting were discussed, and then a surprising thing happened. One of the women who had spoken quite a bit during the discussion stood up and hugged me. She thanked me for my performance, then sat me down in the front row of the audience and said, “Now I have something I want to give to you.” She then performed a country song she had written about being an incarcerated mother. The song had several verses and a chorus complete with hand gestures that suggested holding a baby, dancing with a man, and dying. Never before has someone in an audience offered me a performance after my play, and I was delighted and remain deeply grateful.
People in all three of the audiences I met in Canada were deeply troubled by the new omnibus crime bill which looks certain to pass through Parliament soon. The bill introduces mandatory sentencing and longer prison terms than Canadians have faced in the past. The prison I visited was already expanding in anticipation of the many new prisoners expected in the next five years. Peter Stuart at Grand Valley has begun investigating longer term educational programming to benefit the women who will serve longer sentences. Why is it that other countries emulate the very worst of U.S. policies on crime and incarceration?
My memories of the women I met at Grand Valley will remain with me always, and my sincerest thanks go to Simone, Gillian, Peter, and the folks at the University of Toronto for making my first Canadian tour such a success. If any of the folks I met in Canada are reading this and would like to share reactions to the performances on the blog, we would be happy to post them.
A recent comment on this blog led me to discover an excellent website I’d never seen before. The Prison Arts in the News Website provides links to arts work happening in prisons all over the world. The blogger running the site does not provide commentary on these news stories but casts an impressive net in finding instances of prison arts work in many genres and countries. This sort of data compilation is really helpful for those of us who write scholarly articles about prison arts work and for artists who want to find models of how others are doing such work in carceral contexts.
Kudos to the administrator of the Prison Arts in the News Website! I admire your work.
When Jodie forwarded me the link to a news story about the use of drama therapy in a women’s prison in Lebanon, I was reminded yet again of the power of the arts in difficult times and places. Theatre has been used for thousands of years to document, describe, and reflect the most violent, arduous, and incomprehensible of human actions and emotions. In the past few decades, many trained therapists have learned to use theatre as an effective tool to help patients tap into their traumatic life experiences and productively think about, discuss, and reenact events which shape their current emotional states and behaviors.
The Geese Theatre Company is perhaps the best known group which uses drama therapy in correctional settings, and they have worked with youth and adults in prisons as well as prison staff members in countries around the globe. Though I have not seen their work personally, a certified drama therapist friend of mine who has studied their techniques uses them to great success with the court-involved youth with whom she works in North Carolina.
It should be noted that all theatre happening in and around prisons is not necessarily drama therapy. Though many people casually attribute therapeutic qualities to all artistic activity, especially when its conducted by or with disadvantaged populations, real arts therapy requires a licensed therapist who is trained to guide people through the emotional and psychological issues raised by particular artistic exercises.
My admiration extends to those practicing drama therapists who take on the many challenges faced by the incarcerated and those who work with them. May this work bring about greater healing and peace in our troubled world.
Greetings, razor wire women of the world!
This week the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) held its annual conference in downtown Chicago at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel, and the buzz about Razor Wire Women rippled through the conference. I am overwhelmed by the amount of enthusiasm and support for this book and blog which were expressed to me over the course of the four days I spent at the conference. Though our publisher, SUNY Press, does not attend this conference, I heard reports that ATHE attendees were asking publishers at the book exhibit where they could buy our book. SUNY provided us with a stack of flyers providing a discounted purchase price on our book for ATHE participants, and demand for the flyers was so high that I ran out of them days before the conference ended. The Women and Theater Program (WTP), which is a focus group within ATHE, helped to promote the book by sponsoring both a roundtable discussion of Razor Wire Women and a panel on documentary theatre, which discussed several plays, including Doin’ Time: Through the Visiting Glass. (One monologue from the play appears in Razor Wire Women.)
Theatre scholar Sara Warner of Cornell University joined me on the roundtable discussion about Razor Wire Women and spoke about her research on the Medea Project: Theater for Incarcerated Women. Sara’s chapter of RWW is one of several articles she has written about the extraordinary performance work done by director Rhodessa Jones and a mixed company of professional theatre makers and women detained at the San Francisco County Jail. Sara has published several articles about the Medea Project’s work, and her most recent one appears in the final section of Razor Wire Women. As it turns out, at least one woman in the audience of our panel that day, Lisa Biggs, has worked with the Medea Project in years past. A heartfelt discussion ensued as the women who had gathered to engaged with the roundtable asked questions and shared their experiences of witnessing or participating in theatre in carceral settings.
Domnica Radulescu, a professor at Washington and Lee University, had heard about my theatre work in prisons at the 2007 WTP conference and since that time had tried unsuccessfully to gain access to a Virginia prison so that she could start a theatre workshop with prisoners. She asked for advice about how to convince prison administrators to let her into a prison to do theatre. Those of us in the room who had done this type of work before came up with a few tips that I thought might be useful to those of you reading this blog who have similar goals:
Immediately following the panel on Razor Wire Women, I had the good fortune to be on a panel about documentary theatre, which was organized by Jules Odendahl-James, who does really amazing scholarship on forensic media. Jules, Magda Romanska and Joan Lipkin each gave really remarkable presentations about various documentary plays, and I performed a couple of monologues from my one-woman show , Doin’ Time: Through the Visiting Glass. After which, Nina Billone Prieur presented a paper about how her students at Duke University responded to my play after seeing me perform it on their campus. Nina was particularly fascinated by the fact that my play, which depicts a variety of characters who have loved ones in prison, unsettled quite a few of their students. Though the play makes no ostensible arguments about the guilt or innocence of people in prison, some of the Duke students felt that to have sympathy with prisoners’ families meant that they had to somehow relinquish their beliefs that people in prison deserve their incarceration. Nina provided a very cogent analysis of the ways in which the students’ overall affinity for me as a performer or a narrator of these experiences and as a prisoner’s child myself seemed to some to disrupt their abilities to perceive prisoners as purely “bad,” despite the fact that I at no time play the role of a prisoner during the show. This was the first time that I’ve ever heard a scholar speak about my work as a playwright and a performer, and I am humbled to have created the site for Nina’s very perceptive analysis.
Many thanks to the scholars and theatre makers at ATHE and the good women of the WTP! Jodie and I are very grateful of your support for Razor Wire Women and for your own efforts to engage with incarcerated people. This week the two of us are headed to Las Vegas for two conferences: the Society for the Study of Social Problems and the American Sociological Association. We hope to see some of you there!
*The Bogota Project*
The Civilians seeks a Project Coordinator for its upcoming project, working title the Bogota Project. The Civilians is developing an original musical inspired by the real life annual beauty pageant in El Buen Pastor Women’s Prison, the national women’s prison in Bogota, Colombia. The Civilians will go inside the prison in Bogota for four weeks in September, 2011 to conduct research and interviews with the participating and non-participating inmates, guards, prison staff, judges, and pageant coaches. The research and interviews will be used to shape a new musical with a book by Academy Award-nominated playwright Jose Rivera and songs by the Colombian rock band Aterciopelados.
Based on a process developed by The Civilians over ten years, the Investigative Phase will involve Colombian artists conducting interviews in Bogota. At the end of this first Phase, the creative team will synthesize all of the material, creating a work to be developed in partnership with the Goodman Theatre in Chicago and the Iberoamericano Festival de Teatro en Bogota.
The position of Project Coordinator will have two main purposes: The first is to support the organization and coordination of the Investigation Phase in partnership with Ella Fuksbrauner, the Colombian-based Project
Secondly, the US Project Coordinator is responsible for the organization, documentation, and tracking of all of the interviews and related transcripts. The Coordinator will be a point person in communicating between Jose Rivera and Aterciopelados about what interview transcripts they need as the play’s development takes place and for ensuring that all transcripts, interview releases, and audio is accounted for.
The position will begin in mid-August and will be a part-time four-month position through mid-December. Salary is competitive and will be based on number of hours available. Applicants must be bilingual in Spanish and English, should have experience with both administrative positions as well as research-based and dramaturgy work. Applicants of color are strongly
Please send a cover letter and resume, including three references to Marion Young at email@example.com.
Valencia C., a RWW contributor incarcerated in California, is the only male prisoner featured in our book. From the moment he read our initial call for contributions to the special issue of the National Women’s Studies Association Journal on “Women, the Criminal Justice System, and Incarceration: Processes of Power, Silence, and Resistance” (Summer 2008), Valencia (also known as Ciri) expressed genuine concern for and solidarity with women in prison. The book Razor Wire Women eventually grew out of the abundance of high quality contributions we received for that journal issue. Valencia was the first artist to get in touch with us and is the only artist featured both in that special journal issue and RWW.
After reading RWW for the first time, Valencia sent me an extraordinary letter accompanied by three new drawings. Here are the images and the words he wrote to accompany them. This first image is split in two here because my scanner wasn’t big enough to get it all into one image, but the daughter and mother figures here should be side by side (daughter on the left and mother on the right):
Drawing #1 is called “Epiphany.” (charcoal, pastels, and colored pencils on paper)
For this, I wrote:
freedom, rights, and hope
are taken away
dignity, sanity, and justice
Young loved ones are left
to face danger and become
Morals, humanity, and identity
are swept up
and in a single epiphany,
all is gone. . . forever lost.
Drawing #2 is called “Thrown Away.” (charcoal and pastels on paper)
It goes as follows:
Legally thrown away
by the hand of those
that are supposed to help
into a senseless place.
A ruthless labyrinth
with the exits weld
were many denied
you are illegally held
your identity captive
as a rare bird in a cage.
#3 is titled “Ashley.” (watercolor in paper)
The first two pieces are a recapitulation of all I read in the book. After I brainstormed, this came out.
The last one is a way of me showing gratefulness/gratitude for your work (and all “free” people who take a serious look at the problem and actually take the initiative to find a helpful solution). This is for accepting my work and including it in your book, and I am willing to participate in any future projects if you would like me to, and if there is any in sight.
Might the Lord God bless you all.
Respectfully and thankfully,
Valencia, we will gladly post your artwork and thoughts on this blog any time you would like to share them with us.
If those of you reading this blog would like to invite Valencia to contribute artwork to any of your future endeavors, please send a message to us using the “Contact Us” portion of our website, and we’ll be sure to send your words along to Valencia. We would do the same for any of our incarcerated contributors, so please use this site to reach out to them and let them know how much their work means to you. We sustain one another through communication.
A valuable piece by Victoria Law, who is the outside publisher of Tenacious and the author of Resistance Behind Bars. (More about both of those here or just look at the sidebar.) She narrates an entire secret history of fighting back in women’s prisons, beginning with the August 1974 rebellion at Bedford Hills:
IN 1974, WOMEN IMPRISONED at New York’s maximum-security prison at Bedford Hills staged what is known as the August Rebellion. Prisoner organizer Carol Crooks had filed a lawsuit challenging the prison’s practice of placing women in segregation without a hearing or 24-hour notice of charges. In July, a court had ruled in her favor. In August, guards retaliated by brutally beating Crooks and placing her in segregation without a hearing. The women protested, fighting off guards, taking over several sections of the prison, and holding seven staff members hostage for two and a half hours.
(Note: My linking to this piece is not meant to valorize rioting or hostage-taking. I wouldn’t want to be one of those seven guards. Nor for that matter would I want to be Carol Crooks after the guards finished beating her. Which is kind of the point.)