i just finished reading andrew solomon's astonishingly big book, far from the tree, and was particularly interested in a chapter about juvenile criminals that focuses a lot on Hennepin County Home School in Minnesota. one inmate complained, "they want you to think all day. I'd rather be breaking up rocks or shit." there were two other passages in that chapter that i want to share (meaning, of course, that i'd be interested in discussing them!) with you all:
"The relationship between kids in the justice system and their parents usually follows one of four tracks. The parents may abandon the child when he goes to prison, which may lead the child to feel lonely, lost, isolated, an desperate. The parents may abandon the child, which may prompt the child to take responsibility for himself or herself. The parents may remain or become deeply involved with the child, making the child feel that a bright future is possible. The parents may remain or become deeply involved with the child, reinforcing antisocil behavior by creating a permissive atmosphere of denial."
When Danielle and I first started envisioning our final project, we were both very drawn to the idea of looking at privilege. Danielle had been thinking about doing a zine on the topic of privilege, but when we discovered our mutual interest in video-making, we thought that might be another way of sharing the thoughts that have come out of our class in an accessible and fun way. We really wanted to look at how Bryn Mawr impacts and is impacted by differences in privilege and one of the places we started our search was the classroom.
In order to avoid stigmatizing a specific professor or set of students, Danielle wrote a script that we used as the basis for our fictional classroom scene. One of the things I’ve really noticed as a result of practicing silence and thinking about how much space my words take up in the classroom – as well as comparing our Bryn Mawr speaking experience with being in the Cannery – was how people’s notice of vocal space (or lack of notice) really impacts the classroom environment.
Developing and carrying out a final project that revolved around a subject which interested us felt like a perfect way to culminate our experience and learning together this semester. As one who has depended on books for various reasons for most of my life and never had to question my own literacy, the idea of Books Behind Bars in its effort to both raise consciousness about issues surrounding literacy, privilege and social distance as well as money to buy books for incarcerated women felt particularly close to home. While it was a topic that was personal to me, I saw much potential in BBB in that it had the ability to reach across and off campus, affecting both Bryn Mawr students and the larger population of incarcerated women that we had grown close to. Additionally, our consciousness-raising efforts were particularly far reaching in that our fliers were distributed across campus and thus hopefully engaged even those who were not in attendance of our final presentation. Although it may be impossible to determine how individuals reacted to our thought-provoking marketing techniques, I see the monetary success of our collection (we raised over $165!) as an indication that people not only noticed the flyers but thought about what they meant and why the issues they raised are important.
Below you'll find our workshop and attached my reflections on how it related to our work in our 360.
Final 360 Workshop
I Can’t Believe I’m Still Workshopping this Shit: Race and Privilege at Bryn Mawr (1 hour)
Goals: discuss importance to the whole community;discuss issues of race and privilege (color paper)
Voice: Educating people, privilege, school to prison pipeline - criminalization, voice/discussion, Bryn Mawr College History
Vision: The New Jim Crow, walled space, niches - as related to Perry House, where you feel at home on campus
Silence: Voices are silent on campus, silent activity/discussion, silence as a place of reflection, Delpit,
Materials: flipchart, markers, candy,index cards/pens for each team, tape the floor for step forward statements
To see our videos, go to www.perryhousecouch.tumblr.com ! Feel free to ask us more questions, comment on our videos, etc.
When I first heard that we were going to be doing final activism projects for this 360 instead of just a term paper or something straightly academic, I was thrilled. I feel as though I left our classroom spaces often unsure of myself or of what to make of what had just been said, and at the same time, feeling as though it had been made abundantly clear just how much work we need to do in the world to make it fairer and more just. In trying to keep myself in touch with the larger picture and the bigger world around me, I often remind myself that I’m just a tiny little piece of an enormous universe full of people, stories, history, happiness, injustices, triumphs and mistakes. But sometimes, this keeps me from feeling as though what I do has much impact at all. I worry that my efforts will not reach far enough, won’t attract enough attention, or won’t be effective. As much as I love being involved as an activist on and off campus, and try to do so as much as possible, I do sometimes feel as though it’s not enough. Throughout this class experience, though, it’s been reinforced for me that it really isn’t about me, or my comfort, or my self-esteem. I can’t use my lack of confidence or fear that my actions will lack efficacy as an excuse to shy away from doing my best, or feeling like the work that I’ve already done or plan to do has purpose and a positive impact.
Use this space to post thoughts, questions or reactions from the workshop.
(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?