(Sorry it took me a while to figure out how to get this in here as I made it in Word). This is an idea of a chart that I have as a way of thinking about the layerd and overlapping areas of knowledge that exist within our Cannery experience. My memo talks about a lot of what we discussed in class today, and I modified this diagram per Sarah's suggestion, adding another circle for the knowledge that comes with being in prison. The way I've placed the circles suggests that the knowledge we have from outside the Cannery classroom and the knowledge the incarcerated women have do not touch, something that we talked about today and were unsettled about. It makes me think about the quote from Sweeny about the rickety bridge between self and other. As you can see the two are almost overlapping but not quite. Is this accurate to our experience and does it allign with the rickety bridge idea?
I totally forgot to post my image and caption with my second Memo so here it is now:
I had been thinking a lot about the disconnect between how our incarcerated classmates see themselves as responsible for their positions vs. what we know about the injustices of the Prison Industrial System. In my memo I went back to the Graphic Novel (or whatever you call it), "Prisoners of a Hard Life" and in particular Ramona's story. She feels like she is to blame, like everything is her fault when in reality she is a victim of the system. I want the women we know to understand that, and at the same time I don't want to take away their agency. This is what I was grappling with in my memo.
On Saturday, the Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) organized a Day of Action made up of 16 different actions at PNC Banks across 6 sates in the region, part of their campaign agains PNC's investments in companies that practice mountaintop removal coal mining. Bryn Mawr College had a very large role in this event, as the Bryn Mawr Earth Justice League's action was one of the largest with over 25 people attending. In our own little group (EJL) it sometimes feels like we're the only ones on campus doing this kind of activism, that Bryn Mawr as an institution, in its propoganda about fostering desire to make a meaningful contribution to the world, does not inspire in us while we are in college. We get the sense that, for the majority of the campus, academia far outweighs activism in importance, and we can put time into making the world a better place once we've graduated.
Reading Gayl Jones’ Eva’s Man, it was clear to me that Eva was oppressed, silenced. I saw her as a victim, and felt really bad for her and sad to think how many other women have had similar experiences. Through our class discussion, however, I began to consider that maybe it wasn’t as simple as that. It was couldntthinkofanoriginalname who first brought this to our collective attention in her post, Reflections on Eva’s Man: “all characters… are apart of a cycle of abuse…there is a larger conversation to be had about this book. One that touches upon male's oppression… and internalized sexism…” It was so easy for me at first to write off the men in Eva’s Man as oppressors, representations of the patriarchy at work. I then realized that everyone in this book, just like everyone in the world, is a victim of the patriarchy, and as such is silenced. Throughout the book, Eva chooses silence, as do some many other characters, and I began to wonder how much agency they actually had, if those silences were only chosen due to the way in which society represses and restricts. Thinking about Adrienne Rich’s analysis of silence as lying what role did Eva’s silences play in her abuse and mistreatment and is this something that she or anyone else ever has control over?
I really like Doing Life and find it to be an incredibly moving book. In particular, as I was browsing through it, I was struck by the story of Harry Twiggs, one of the longer sections and very insightful. I was really inspired by Twiggs' story, and how real he was about what he did and how he's dealt with the guilt and consequences. I was also struck by the way his picture parrallels my impression of him as in touch with and at peace with the world. I was also interested by his admitance that part of the reason he was able to turn his life around was because of the system, or at least because of the programs the prison offers. He then went on to say that the root cause of all his struggles was poverty, showing that in fact it is the system that is at fault, but also showing a positive case of reform-type work in prisons.
On an unrelated note, I found it interesting that two different people in the book compared being in prison (for life) to being sucked under by water, having oxygen cut off: Marilyn Dobrolenski (p 89) and Commer Glass (p 103).
I made a video for my third web event: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bN0L1_vP85Q
My trip to see mountaintop removal coal mining in southern West Virginia gave me a new perspective of the connection between schools and prisons that parallels discussions we've had in class about the war on drugs and over-surveillance, and the ways in which public schools set certain students up for failure and oppression by the system. I hadn't expected to see such a connection, as I, like many, have a tendency to forget that all issues of oppression are inherently connected and stem from upper-class white male control as it dominates society; to see that the schools are about as confining and the war on drugs about as harsh in these poor, white, rural Appalachian communities as they are in the poverty-ridden, predominately black inner cities. In looking at the various images we all posted last week, HSBurke’s pictures particularly hit me, one of a man standing against the bars of his prison cell, the other of a little boy standing similarly against the bars of the school yard fence. Both people were white, which really made me think of how the over-surveillance in “third world USA” (WV) is less an issue of race than class.
"We can do much more to combat the prison-industrial complex which is ravishing our communities if we recognize its historical connection with slavery and look at the nineteenth-century abolitionist movement as an inspiration for a late twentieth-century abolitionist movement that will work to reduce and ultimately abolish the use of imprisonment as the main means of addressing (or rather not addressing) social problems that are rooted in racism and poverty." Angela Davis, from her essay "Prison Abolition" in Black Genius: African American Solutions to African American Problems (p.203)
I watched this movie almost 3 years ago when I first visited Guatemala, and it shook me to my core. I know our classes are already really intense and heavy, but I just requested this from Magill at Haverford and if folks want to watch it with me I'd love to have a movie night (maybe this weekend?). As I remember it gives a really good background of the Guatemalan Civil War and why it happened, which I think would be helpful for us to be aware of in our discussions of Rigoberta Menchú.