Author Archives: lhernandez2016

About lhernandez2016

E. Liane Hernandez is the Community Life Director of the YWCA Southern Arizona in Tucson, AZ. She is a convener and works to create space for individuals and organizations to do the work of community building. Trained as an art historian, chef and anthropologist she is a student of the questions of what is community, who gets to participate and how. She is a member of the Tucson Voices OpEd Project 2016, staff @ Tucson Meet Yourself, and sits on the Tucson/Pima County Women's Commission and Commission on Food Security, Heritage, and Economy (CFSHE). She lives in her beloved city of Tucson, Arizona with her partner, Peter, their two dogs and a cat.

We Stand Together

Sara and Valerie respond to the recent upswing in Hate Crimes and bias crimes in the US and Tucson.  Part of building and maintaining our Beloved Community is supporting and protecting one another from the indignity of bigotry.  In the weeks and months to come, be on the lookout for places that will require your time, energy and resources.  We, of the YW, are here to help and we look forward to organizing with you. Training, learning and sharing will be a big part of our advocacy efforts in 2017.  
“In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood.”    (MLK)
Liane

 

standtogetherlogoOver recent weeks, there has been an increase in hate crimes against women, minorities, LGBTQ folks, and people with disabilities. This has inspired the YWCA of Southern Arizona to create pathways for action to promote a safer community for everyone. Our CEO, Kelly Fryer and chair of Advocacy Committee Annette Everlove published an OP-Ed in the Arizona Daily Star on Sunday November 27th in response to the agency’s influx in anonymous hate crimes that were reported on our Facebook account. We spent much time reflecting on this article and how this issue of Hate Crimes affects our community. We talked about how this has affected the lives of our loved ones as they navigate in our community with so much uncertainty.

 

As interns who balance school, work, and our internship at the YWCA in addition to our personal lives we wanted to come up with simple ways to create safer spaces in our communities. We understand that not everybody has the time or the money to protest, travel to rallies, and donate to organizations that they admire. Because of this we created a  list of ways to minimize the harm of hate crimes in our community by empowering our friends, families, and neighbors to stop hate crimes in their everyday lives by . . .

 

  • Put pressure on local law enforcement to collect data on hate crimes and make them accessible to the public by calling and sending letters. This will bring more awareness and transparency to hate crimes.
  • Send letters to the President Elect to encourage him to condemn hate crimes acted upon in his name. If the President Elect knows that the majority of Americans are displeased by his silence, he will act. Get your kids in on it as well #KidsletterstoTrump
  • Take action if you see a hate crime happening around you. Vocalize that what is happening is not okay and provide support for the victim.
  • Research your favorite businesses and shop at businesses whose values align with your values. We recently realized that some of our favorite businesses were funneling money into policies that we did not agree with. We have committed to avoiding this businesses and instead giving our money to businesses whose values we can stand behind.
  • Support We Stand Together to promote safe spaces in our community. Supporting positive events and organizations can lead to a better world.

 

The only way to stop hate is to take a stand against it. Taking a stand does not have to mean a large time or monetary commitment. Little things can make a big difference. No contribution, time or money, is too small. As Margaret Mead said, “Never Doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has”.

We Stand Together Tucson is an inter-agency collaborative which expands upon the Tucson  Police Department’s Safe Spaces Initiative. The launch event will be on November 30 at the Frances McClelland Community Center and will offer resources on how to advocate for our loved ones and neighbors against hate crimes of any kind.


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saragSara Cota Galaz is a Master’s of Social Work Candidate at Arizona State University’s School of Social Work-Tucson Component working with the YWCA of Southern Arizona’s advocacy programs. She is a proud Wildcat Alum with earning her BA in Political Science from the School of Government and Public Policy. She is an advocate for issues relating to economic justice and its intersectionality between workforce development for women in poverty, mass incarceration, and reentry. She is a member of the Oracle Board-Greek Advisory Board at the University of Arizona, Pima County Re-Entry Coalition, and the Coalition for Fair and Just Policing. 

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Do Alternatives to Incarceration build Community Cages or increase public safety?

In August, the United States Justice department made a statement to end its use of private prisons. A statement like this suggests the end of private corporations like Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group who represent a large market share for prison contracts. However, the emerging trend known as the Treatment Industrial Complex strengthens alternatives to incarceration such as electronic monitoring like ankle monitors for mobile surveillance, residential re-entry centers with day reporting, and immediate sanctions facilities. The question that emerges is if and to what extent does the treatment industrial complex creating alternatives to end Mass Incarceration or does it create Community Prisons?

Incarceration is the state of being confined in a prison. What we have seen happening over the last 30 years is prison populations increasing through the enforcement of tough on crime ideologies as an attempt to make communities safer. How do alternatives to incarceration make communities more or less safe? The publication Community Cages by the American Friends Service Committee describes how electronic surveillance through GPS ankle monitors often comes at the expense of the person requiring supervision. It serves as a cost reduction strategy for the state and local governments however the supervised must now pay for the equipment, monthly a landline to monitor the equipment, and fees to the supervision company. Community Cages describes this practice as penalizing for low income clients who must purchase the services while the company profits, under a low wage job market. Electronic GPS monitors is only one aspect to alternatives to incarceration. Alternatives also include day reporting center and re-entry centers which allow clients to check in at the facility as varying frequency or engage in the facility’s programming for an allotted time. It is a way that clients receive wrap around services during the day and return back to their homes in the evenings. Immediate sanctions facilities create an alternative to impose sanctions for probation and parole violations without returning to prison. This is a way to alleviate the cost of revoking probation or parole.

Alternatives to incarceration promotes community corrections however the trend promotes cost saving measures and awarding these contracts based on the lowest price. The vision was to implement wrap around services for the individual being supervised from the monitoring programs and the meetings with a parole or probation officer. It can also categorize individuals with higher or lower needs into the same treatment programs which increases the failure rates for individuals with lower needs. Community Cages recommends the acceptance of Evidence Based Interventions to reduce to size of the criminal justice system to promote quality programming for community corrections and if contracting is necessary to offer contracts based on quality of programs with evidence based practices and not just to the lowest bidder. The function of this would be prevent predatory practices in supervision technology that generate a profit on low income individuals under the guise of promoting alternatives to incarceration. In the end, the questions we community members must ask is: if, and to what extent, do alternatives to incarceration promote safer communities, reduced recidivism, and more successful re-entry?


saragSara Cota Galaz is a Master’s of Social Work Candidate at Arizona State University’s School of Social Work-Tucson Component working with the YWCA of Southern Arizona’s advocacy programs. She is a proud Wildcat Alum with earning her BA in Political Science from the School of Government and Public Policy. She is an advocate for issues relating to economic justice and its intersectionality between workforce development for women in poverty, mass incarceration, and reentry. She is a member of the Oracle Board-Greek Advisory Board at the University of Arizona, Pima County Re-Entry Coalition, and the Coalition for Fair and Just Policing.

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Our First Artist Talk

The Galleria at the YWCA is pleased to host our first Artist’s Talk on Thursday, November 10th from 6:00-7:30 pm. Featuring  Karen Hymer and Alejandra Platt-Torres.

The Galleria at the YWCA is a space of celebration: a gathering place to celebrate art, ideas and community. The Galleria also defines our mission statement: eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice and freedom for all. Exhibiting artwork and hearing women’s voices as they explain their thoughts and ideas about the world viewed through their artistic interpretations is a way to empower women.  Their interpretations and voices are on display, and invite discussion. That’s the focus of these talks: hearing opinions, ideas and artistic expression.

As the curator for the Galleria, I search for artists whose work balances elements of our mission statement and a strong visual presence. Sometimes these artists are well known to the community, nationally and internationally. Other times they are just beginning their art careers, and exhibiting their work is a valuable experience in many ways-selling work, gaining exposure and gaining confidence in their own artistic abilities. This is so important to me. As an artist myself, I have found that so often there is a sense of competition between artists. My view is that there is enough room for everyone and we must help one another. We are all in this together, and I am proud that the Galleria can have a positive impact on so many artists lives here in Tucson.

This is a wonderful opportunity to meet the artists and talk to them about their process, inspiration and ideas about art, and to discuss their interpretations of the world.

Karen Hymer , a native Tucsonan, is the Photography Program Specialist at Pima Community College.  Though trained as a traditional photographer, Hymer is skilled in various techniques, including Photo Polymer Gravure, Lumen Prints, and Digital printing.  Her body of work on display, “Botanicals”, grows out of her concern for the environment and exploring native desert plants, creating luminous Etching and Lumen prints on this subject.  Hymer will discuss her process and technique on this body of work.

Hymer is widely exhibited. Recent venues include The Phoenix Art Museum (Phoenix, AZ), The Los Angeles Center of Photography (Los Angeles, CA), Soho Photo Gallery, Site Brooklyn, Alex Ferrone Gallery, The Washington Print Foundation (Washington, DC), The Center for Photographic Arts (Carmel, CA), The Center for Fine Art Photography (Fort Collins, CO), and Athens Institute for Contemporary Art (Athens, GA).  Her work is in several public collections, including the Center for Creative Photography and the Polaroid International Collection.

Alejandra Platt-Torres was born in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico and currently lives in Tucson. She works as a free-lance photographer.

Platt-Torres will discuss her work exhibited at the Galleria, “In the Name of God”, large gelatin silver prints featuring portraits of Indigenous People of Mexico. Platt-Torre’s desire to discover her roots led her to photograph her people, which turned into a seven year project. She travelled through Mexico from 1993 until 1999, photographing people of every indigenous group in Mexico.  These soulful portraits document and honor her ancestors, and helped her discover her own indigenous roots and family history.

Platt-Torres is the recipient of numerous grants in Mexico and the United States, and has exhibited her work extensively and internationally, including  Arizona State Museum, Confluencenter, University of Arizona, Exhibit, Conferences, Digital Projection and Installation, A World Separated by Borders, Tucson, Arizona, USA, 2013,  Fiestas del Pitic, Installation, Digital Projection, A World Separated by Borders, Hermosillo, Sonora, México, 2012,  Instituto Cervantes Sidney, Embassy of México in Australia, In the name of God, Sidney, Australia, 2011. Mexican Institute, Embassy of México in Denmark, In the name of God, Copenhagen, Denmark. 2009

 


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Valerie Galloway

Valerie Galloway was born in France in 1963, to an American father and French mother, and has lived in many places, including France, Germany , Hawaii, California, Maryland, New York City, and currently in Tucson.  While in New York City she worked in advertising for the photographer, Peter Arnell and in fashion photography as a studio manager for Enrique Badulescu.
She received her BFA in photography from the University of Arizona in 1987 and has been a working artist ever since.  Some of her works include hand made mirrors using her photographs of cityscapes, the desert and nudes as well as photographic and upcycled jewelry.  In addition, she is a painter and all around creative personality.
Galloway has been commissioned by many prestigious organizations to create awards and gifts, including the Yellowstone Park Foundation, Sundance and Pima Community College.  Her handmade photo mirrors and photo jewelry have been carried at Etherton Gallery, Verve Gallery of Photography Santa Fe, International Center of Photography, Center of Photography, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Barney’s NY, and the Tucson Museum of Art.
Galloway works at the YWCA of Southern Arizona as the Galleria Curator and Shop Manager.

 

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Project Period Paint Night! 

ppywThis past summer, I was enjoying lunch at Renee’s Organic Oven when I noticed a bright orange sign on the bathroom door. Curious, I went over to study the sign, and that was when I first read the words: Project Period. I researched the project, and I knew that I needed to get involved.

I have always been a feminist, but my passion for women’s equality and advocacy flourished when I began taking college courses that opened my eyes to the complexities of gender and women’s studies. When I discovered the YWCA and its mission to eliminate racism and empower women, I recognized a way that I could put my passion into action and really help people in my community.

In August I began interning at the YW, and was given the opportunity to spearhead a revival of Project Period. For those of you who don’t know, Project Period is an on-going drive to collect period-related products for people in our community who cannot afford them. This project is not only about donations, but it is about advocacy, ending stigma, and, ultimately, changing biased legislation.

Since I began working on it, I have been searching for ways to make Project Period more of a community effort; to start a community conversation about why this project is so important, and how we can work together to end the inequality and stigma surrounding periods. So, to get everyone thinking and talking about menstruation-related issues, we will be having a Project Period Paint Night! The event will take place on Friday, December 2nd at 6:30pm at Creative Juice Art Bar.

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Butterfly, Dec 2 @ 6:30PM

Creative Juice is an art bar/painting studio that offers its customers the unique experience
of taking a painting class while enjoying a drink (or two) with friends. The tickets cost $35 (with a percentage going straight to YWCA of Southern AZ Project Period), and include all the paint supplies you will need, as well as your first drink. We will be painting a lovely monarch butterfly.

At the end of the night, you will leave with your beautiful new painting, a sense of accomplishment, and a smile on your face. But this night will be a little different than a normal painting session at Creative Juice, because you will also leave with new knowledge, and hopefully, renewed determination to spread Project Period’s message throughout the community.

A Project Period donation box will be at the paint party, and we encourage you to bring unopened boxes of pads and tampons to donate. Please go to https://www.facebook.com/ywprojectperiod/ for more information about Project Period and the link to buy your Paint Night tickets (space is limited).



14570299_10154201647984143_8401127524908380572_nAllyson Israel is an undergrad student at the University of Arizona majoring in General Studies: Social Behavior and Human Understanding. She particularly enjoys, and is passionate about, gender and women’s studies. She plans to go on to graduate school, but is still exploring future career paths. In her spare time, she enjoys cuddling with her fur-babies, playing basketball, and spending time with friends and family.

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my house

I have been asking the interns to flex their creativity and practice writing exercises on things that come up for them as we discuss and work on various issues here at the YW.  Sara offers this as a creative exercise but I think that it points to many of the ideas that circulate as we discuss the issues of poverty, incarceration and racial justice.
-Liane

 

What are houses built from?

I grew up in a small red block house in the Southside off of Valencia Rd and Nogales highway on Corona Rd. The house was built in 1959 with three bedrooms and 1 bathroom. The yard had two large palm trees and a large mesquite tree which my brothers and I loved to climb. There were large rose bushes that my mother and I would pick flowers from to brighten up the house and a sidewalk leading to a chain link fence that I would draw and practice my writing with chalk. The backyard had a large block grill that my father and uncles built as a gift to my mother. The inside was small and modest for the five people who lived there, but there was always something to do. The TV always played Aladdin and Pocahontas on a never ending loop, and there was always fresh hot food. There was life in that house.

So much life that this small block house became a place for others. The neighborhood kids who always visited because they knew it was safe, happy, and there was always something to eat. This small house was built from something more than the block and cement than created its structure. It was built out of wisdom, strength, and compassion. It was made from extreme coupons, food stamps, and WIC checks kept it going. It was built on dinner at 5:00pm with ice cream for dessert, and the best birthday cakes a child could ask for. It was made so that children that entered this house were never cold, hungry, or unsafe. It was made so that the children who entered this house could be creative, be smart, and be happy.

It was a house built from never wondering or worrying where the parent was, the parent was always there. It was not worrying when the next meal would come or if children would be adequately clothed. This house was built on something indescribable. It was a house built on the same limited resources as everyone else in the street, the neighborhood. This house was predetermined to build career criminals, teen parents, and drug addicts based on the kind of people who live there. Yet it built a business and business owners. It built community. It built creative writing and thought. It built public servants dedicated to advocacy. This small house on Corona Rd. situated in a high stress community was built from much more than block and cement.

 

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GOTV2016

The YWCA of Southern Arizona is part of a Get Out the Vote campaign. Get Out the Vote is a non-partisan campaign intended to increase voter engagement in Southern Arizona. The campaign peaked on September 27th, National Voter Registration Day but will continue with a social media campaign until Election Day on the 8th of November.
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GOTV Southern Arizona 2016

Get Out the Vote is a coalition of community partners who came together to create a voter engagement campaign. As the intern working on the Get Out the Vote campaign I was able to learn a lot from our community partners. There are over 25 partners so there is wealth of knowledge to pull from. However, working with the community partners was sometimes a challenge because of schedules and different goals. At times, there were a lot of different opinions and acknowledging all opinions while coming to a common goal was challenging.

I found myself managing the social media portion of the campaign. The social media campaign is important because most young people, a target of the Get Out the Vote campaign, get election news from social media. Additionally, I tried to encourage getting registered to vote online and getting the mail-in ballot. Young people typically do things online because it is more convenient. Going to a polling place on election day is not always the most convenient so encouraging people to get mail-in ballots could increase voter turnout.

The Get the Vote Kick Off event was held on voter registration day at the YWCA. The Kick Off was an awesome event. Community partners showed up and we were able to capture great images for our social media campaign as well as get some folks registered to vote. Unfortunately, local media did not show up, despite numerous calls and emails to them. We are left with the dilemma of how to market ourselves to the media in order to get them to show up to future events.

Overall, I was able to learn a lot from the coalition members and from working on the Get Out the Vote campaign. I was invited to become a member of the League of Women Voters and created many connections with different agencies. Additionally, I have gained vital experience working within a coalition. In total, the Get Out the Vote campaign registered 640 voters collectively. This Friday, October 28th, is the last day to request an early ballot. Election day is November 8th. Get Out the Vote!

Like our page on Facebook for updates https://www.facebook.com/GOTVSoAZ2016/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

voiceisyourvote

valden


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Pusha T & Ava DuVernay Discuss the Importance of ’13th’ Documentary | Complex –view interview
Eva DuVernay’s new documentary film, 13th,  speaks to so many of the issues that have emerged in our ongoing public Mass Incarceration series, here at the YWCA Southern Arizona.The Next Session will take place on Wednesday, November 16th from 6-8pm at our Frances McClelland Community Center, 525 N. Bonita Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85745.Our last speaker of the 2016 cycle, will be Caroline Isaacs of the American Friends Service Committee.  She will be speaking about Sentencing Reform.
We hope that you will join us for this conversation if you are able.
-Liane

A Brief History of the Convict Lease System:
A Precursor to our Modern Prison Slavery System

Much of the discourse going on at the YWCA of Southern Arizona is about the current prison system and the exploitation of prisoners for free labor. This current issue mirrors the often hidden history of the convict lease system that occurred after the Civil War in the period from 1865 to 1928.

The 13th amendment abolished slavery however; this would be undermined in a variety of ways. One of the ways it was undermined was by the prison system because of a clause in the 13th amendment. The 13th amendment states, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been dully convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction”[1]. The 13th amendment made it perfectly legal to use convict labor, another form of slave labor.

Prisons had been virtually destroyed by the Civil War. Thus, southern governments came up with the convict lease system, a system where they leased out convicts to corporations to use for free labor. This could be a brick factory, a coalmine, a railroad system, or even a farm. Once leased business owner controlled the convict’s life and they could do anything they wanted to the convict. The injustices suffered within the convict lease system were equal to those suffered by slaves before the war[2].  And make no mistake these convicts were primarily African American.

But it’s okay because they were criminals, right? Most of the convicts were not in fact, criminals. The “Black Codes”, were a series of laws passed after the Civil War. These laws restricted the activity of African Americans and they could and would be imprisoned for frivolous offenses. Bernard Kinsey, a descendent, describes the convict lease system saying, “And when I say convict I don’t even mean convict, I mean people who did no more than walk down the street and were picked up when the magistrate was coming tomorrow”[3]. In other words, normal behavior was criminalized for African Americans. Hundreds of thousands of African Americans were exploited with the convict lease system.

It is important to be aware of this because many people think slavery died with the 13th amendment and the Civil War. That is not the case; it has existed in our country for decades and continues to exist in our current prison system to this day. We need to examine history to be able to examine where we stand today.

 

[1] http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/13thamendment.html

[2] http://www.pbs.org/tpt/slavery-by-another-name/themes/convict-leasing/

[3] http://www.pbs.org/tpt/slavery-by-another-name/themes/convict-leasing/


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Valerie Denogean

Valerie Denogean is MSW PAC student at ASU. She was born and raised in Tucson. She is interested in prison-reform, immigration, education-reform, politics, inequalities because of race and gender. However, currently she is interested in Eco-Feminism and how the treatment of women connects with the state of the environment, the treatment of animals, and our food. Valerie likes to run, hike and swim. She swam competitively for the Guilford College Quaker Swim team. She likes to travel and hopes to use her Social Work Degree in Northern Virginia after graduation.

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Making the Connection

onamission

Tomorrow, we have a conversation that has been almost 10 months in the making.

Late last year, Madeline joined our Advocacy Committee.  She spoke about stitching together stories and creating space.  That conversation led to many about the placemaking that is happening here at the YW.  Conversations that helped us to expand our ideas about social and racial justice to include the economy and people who are system involved, environmental work around water and imagining a more just and peaceful world community.  We spoke and thought about food, jobs, art, immigrants, leadership, and how we can imagine working outside of the multiple silos that exist; silos that that do not reflect the complex lives that we, or the communities that we work in solidarity with, lead on a daily basis.

Tim took up the banner of wanting to have dialogue between folx that are working in Social Justice and those that work in Environmental Justice.  What would it look, sound and feel like to have them speaking together, in public.  What sparks might occur?  What collaborations might emerge?  This is a continuation of the work that the Southern Arizona Green For All Coalition began years ago. We hope that it is one of many such conversations to continue into the future.

At a recent retreat, our Board and Staff wondered what might be said about our work in 100 years.  A long time board member, said something that made everyone take a moment and rethink everything.  (I paraphrase) They cared and worked to make change to protect the environment and the planet.  We realized that without a fierce eye on the challenge at hand, namely, to confront and transform the economic and political systems that violate our most basic human rights and threaten the survival of our planet–our vision of a thriving community is incomplete.  So, we are working and thinking differently.  It is clear that these connections are not new but it is critical that we all begin to think a lot bigger and much more expansively in order to address the many issues that our communities face. Together, we have a lot of work to do, and the YW Southern Arizona has a vision of how we are going to chart a course for a second century of change.

We hope to see you tomorrow and as always we hope to hear your thoughts.

What:  Environmental Justice & Social Justice: Making the Connection Supporting One Another – Enhancing Our Effectiveness  (A Program of the YWCA Advocacy Committee)
When:  Wednesday, October 19, 2016 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Where:   YWCA of Southern Arizona 525 N. Bonita Avenue Tucson, AZ
Who:  Social Justice Organizations:  Blue Corn Project/UA, Mt. Calvary Baptist Church Social Justice Ministries, Tierra Y Libertad Organization/Changemaker HS, Community Food Bank 
Environmental Organizations:  Center for Biological Diversity  National Parks Conservation Asso. Saguaro National Park Sierra Club  Sky Island Alliance
How Much:  Free/Open to the Public
For Additional Information: Tim Wernette (520) 615-3405; timwernette@msn.com

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YWCA Voter Guide

YW Voter Guide

Election Day – Get Our 2016 Voter Guide

We’ve teamed up with YWCA Metropolitan Phoenix to create this 2016 Voter Guide for Arizona women – and everyone who cares about issues that matter to women.

Early Ballots should begin to trickle in tomorrow.

We hope that this guide helps you get informed.

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Reflections on Reframing Justice– Entre Sueños: Voices from the Inside/Out

I am sitting here listening to Dra. Grace Gamez’ words.   Her words, like always, are ringing in my ears, hitting my heart, impacting my thoughts.  They are flowing from students’ mouths, under the theatrical direction of Marissa Garcia.
My dear friend, Marissa, is directing the students as they prepare their roles as a Greek chorus.  They are preparing to tell stories.  Telling the stories of other children.  Children who lost their childhoods.  Reframing Justice is a courageous set of stories that center the experiences of people who were imprisoned as children, tried as adults.  It is an honor for us to present this work here at the YWCA.
The following is an excerpt of an OpEd that Grace and I worked on earlier this Summer.  We never finished it for publication in this form, but with Grace’s permission I have submitted it here for your consideration. 
-Liane 

entre-suenos

Formerly incarcerated/convicted people are systematically denied agency around the stories told about their lives—their identities are reduced to stigmatized labels such as, “inmate,” “prisoner,” “ex-con,” “offender,” “felon,” and finally “bad.”  It is only by allowing ourselves to see, hear, and feel life at the margins, that we can retrieve the fullness of people’s histories and experiences.  What we might name “fugitive histories” are those lost stories and silences of entire parts of our communities with the effect of dulling the collective knowledge of our national identity.  Historical erasure has led to laws, practices and beliefs that constantly constrict the possibilities for the same communities. Personal stories about the human punishment system bring to life the reality of how people experience incarceration, criminalization, and penal policy/legislation in their daily lives.  Truth-telling as James Kilgore asserts, is a central component in moving towards a vision of transformative justice.  Human stories about topics that are silenced or stigmatized have the power to impact policy and drive practice.    Everyone can radicalize the spaces they inhabit- in the way they think, the ways they choose to engage in conversation and with whom. Where you are, is where you begin.

In Ghostly Matters (2008), Avery Gordon writes, “to study life one must confront the ghostly aspect of it” (p.7). In other words, to understand life, to shift directions, perceptions, and ultimately-discourse- we must engage hauntings; we must actively listen to the silenced.  The stories, experiences, and the knowledge of people who have been system-involved must be central in efforts to alter the course of our carceral system.

Shifting away from a punishment-as-justice paradigm requires diverse approaches that include

  • changing the social/political discourse
  • systematically attacking persistent racial disparities and penal and social policy reforms that do not expand the reach and power of the punishment system
  • Statutory and paradigmatic changes will be impossible without a sustained people’s movement

Transformative shifts require an informed and empowered community that is motivated by justice.  Thus, to modify the structure, power, and flow of resources we need to work toward cultivating caring communities by fostering connectedness, and (re) humanizing both the harmed AND the person who harmed- because both are our neighbors.  Morally and politically we must include and address the needs of everyone impacted by the system, particularly those who face acute marginalization- including gender non-conforming people, LGBTQ, families of formerly incarcerated and convicted people, and perhaps most difficult–people with violent or sexually-based offenses.

When Frederick Douglass said, “No man can put a chain about the ankle of his fellow man without finding the other end fastened about his own neck” he was speaking about the interconnectedness of our communities. In other words, your oppression is my oppression, your captivity is my captivity, your brokenness is my brokenness, and your fate is my fate. Conversely, your joy is my joy, your healing is my healing, and your freedom is my freedom- your redemption, my own.  No one escapes the injustices of our current system.  The continued discourse of punishment-as-justice imprisons us all and reduces us all to “bad” people.

What does it mean to be human? How does the law work to make distinctions between whom is/not human?  How does the law subvert humanity to intensify suffering?  Is humanity borne equally by all?  What is the relationship between injury and personhood?  These questions are imperative to understanding the intent and impact of the criminal punishment system.

Confronting the behemoth that is our carceral system is overwhelming.  However, the answer to “what can I do?” could be as simple as sharing a meal and talking about issues around incarceration with people that you care about, if you own a business–or have friends that do– you can make a commitment to hire individuals with a conviction history. These engagements are some of the ways that we create community because it is closeness that breeds compassion and change. The immediate goal is not merely accomplishing a set of reforms; it is creating a more just world that embraces complexity, redemption, compassion, love, and hope.

We hope that this compassion and hope is what Reframing Justice: Entre Sueños will generate in the hearts of audiences here in Tucson on October 15th and in Phoenix on the 19th.  We hope that you will join us.

Entre Suenos – Oct 15

Reframing Justice

Entre Sueños: Voices from the Inside/Out

Oct 15, 2016 • 6:30 p.m.
Reframing Justice Theater@YWCA
YWCA’s Frances McClelland Community Center
525 N. Bonita Ave • Tucson 85745
Suggested Ticket: $5

 

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