Author Archives: adrienneskyeroberts

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How We Heal

How We Heal_promotional

How We Heal by Adrienne Skye Roberts and Sara Yassky with Dagmar Hesker, Sandra Johnson, Samantha Rogers, Mira Stern, and LaSonya Wells of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners

How We Heal is an unfolding collaboration among members of California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP) exploring somatic and/or embodied practices as a way to heal from the Prison Industrial Complex; specifically our experiences as survivors of the prison system and witnesses of our loved ones inside. How We Heal began as a one-day workshop for members of CCWP focusing on trauma endured by the PIC; how this trauma is registered in our bodies, and how we collectively heal in order to continue fighting against this inhumane system. The project includes documentation of this workshop, including audio, video and performative elements.

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Keep Your Heart Strong: An interview with Kati Teague about healing from the Prison Industrial Complex through art and organizing

kati3While teaching at UC Santa Cruz, I worked with three young artists whose work addresses policing, state violence, and creative forms of resistance to the Prison Industrial Complex.

In a three-part miniseries, I’ve interviewed each of these recent graduates about their work, how they became politicized, what they believe is the power of political artwork, and the various issues they address.

In the second part of this mini-series, I interview Kati Teague about her experience of her mother’s incarceration and the ways she has learned how to heal through making art and organizing against the Prison Industrial Complex. Kati’s body of work, “Have You Seen My Mother,” reckons with her mother’s abrupt and forced removal from her adolescence as she spent two years in prison at the Central California Women’s Facility. After attending a statewide protest at the site of this prison, 11 years later, Kati began to understand her individual experience in a much greater context of communities and families disrupted by incarceration and fighting for their loved ones inside and against this invisible punishing machine.

You can read the interview in full here.

No New Jails! A Teach-in for the YBCA’s Young Artists At Work

tumblr_inline_mv8lw4hil61rt6174This month I was back at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ Young Artist At Work (YAAW) program to lead a teach-in about the fight against the replacement county jail in San Francisco. The city’s sherriff, Ross Mirkarimi is proposing to replace the current seismically unfit county jails 3 and 4 with a brand new $465 million dollar new jail. He argues that the new jail design allows for more space for rehabilitative programs and will be safer.

However, San Francisco doesn’t need a new jail! The current facilities are only at 65% capacity and through bail reform up to 500 people can be released, therefore making the need for another facility obsolete. And besides, we know there is no such thing as a safe jail. I spoke with the YAAW’s about what ways for them to join our fight against the new jail and what are alternatives to jails; how would they spend $465 million dollars in their own communities?

Later, the YAAW participants wrote letters to their board of supervisors demanding that they vote against the upcoming jail proposal. I hope these letters reach those in power and that the supervisor’s pay attention to the youth of San Francisco and these young leaders! Below are some highlights:

“By supporting the construction of the new jail you are teaching us that building walls is better than breaking them, that segregation is justice. You are teaching me that fear trumps empathy.”

“Shutting down the jail can save us more money to spend on other social welfare programs that can support underserved and at-risk families especially in neighborhoods such as Hunter’s Point-Bayview, and other at-risk communities.”

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Exploring an Abolitionist Future with the YBCA’s Young Artists At Work

ybca_wkshp1I was thrilled to be invited to work with the Young Artists At Work (YAAW)  program at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) this year. The theme of the program is “Envisioning an Abolitionist Future,” and the high school participants are creating powerful responses to the prison system.

I led a workshop for the YAAW’s based on my organizing with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP) and my recent project and collaboration with CCWP members and prison survivors, “It Is Our Duty to Fight / It Is Our Duty to Win.”

We started the workshop by discussing the current California prison crisis and how it is affecting people locked up in the California state prisons for women. We watched two videos: CURB’s message to Governor Jerry Brown about overcrowding and the Freedom Archive’s documentation of the Chowchilla Freedom Rally. We discussed protest, the role of artists in protest, and the strategies CCWP uses to amplify the voices of people inside. I shared with them the process for my piece “It Is Our Duty to Fight / It Is Our Duty to Win” in which I interviewed prison survivors in order to create an audio piece and protest signs based on their words.

The youth then conducted their own interviews and original protest signs. They asked each other two questions: How does the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) affect your life? And what does a world without mass incarceration look like? They each then created a protest sign based on a quotation from their partner’s interview. I was so impressed by their sharp critical analysis of the PIC, their willingness to share their personal experience, and so moved by their honest and hopeful visions for the future. We ended the day making a lot of noise together as we all shouted the Assanta chant in the grand lobby of the YBCA.

Excerpts from the interviews are below (featuring Jay Eppler, Annie Yu, Malaya Sadler, Daisy Kuang, Jordan Brooks, and Dayra Banales), along with documentation of the day’s workshop.

Participate in government! Stop Gentrification! Demand Independence! UC Berkeley students send messages home

In August I was invited to be a guest artist at UC Berkeley in the undergraduate course, “Visual Thinking” taught by Erin Johnson. After sharing my recent work and discussing the forms I use in my art practice—archival research, interviews, audio recordings, text and protest—the students set out to do their own research about each other. In pairs they spoke about where they are from and answered some of the following questions:

What do you consider the most important issues facing your community or neighborhood?

What resources does your neighborhood need that it doesn’t have?

What does or does not make this place feel like home?

What message do you have for your your community or neighborhood?

Then each pair created protest signs based on the messages, demands, and hopes that their partner has for their towns, cities and countries they were raised.

Below are videos of the students explaining their signs and what they learned about each others relationship to place.

Where the Silence Is: An interview with Noah Miska about the Pelican Bay Hunger Strike

noah_longshot2While teaching at UC Santa Cruz, I worked with three young artists whose work addresses policing, state violence, and creative forms of resistance to the Prison Industrial Complex.

In a three-part miniseries, I’ve interviewed each of these recent graduates about their work, how they became politicized, what they believe is the power of political artwork, and the various issues they address. The first of these interviews is with Noah Miska, whose untitled multimedia installation educates viewers about the Pelican Bay Hunger Strike and invites them to get involved in supporting people in prison. It was created for the 2013 Irwin Scholars Award Show, a group show recognizing twelve emerging artists and graduating seniors at UC Santa Cruz’s Sesnon Gallery. This article is cross-posted on Organizing Upgrade and Open Space.

It is Our Duty to Fight, It is Our Duty to Win

IMG_5754The piece “It is our duty to fight, it is our duty to win / We must love each other and protect each other / We have nothing to loose but our chains,” is a collaboration with four prison survivors and members of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP).

For this piece, I interviewed Sam, Misty, Mary and Windy and asked them the following questions: How did you survive prison? What do you need to survive now that you are out? And what does a world without mass incarceration look like?

I created hand-painted protest signs based on the interviews, each offering only part of their stories. These signs were displayed in the gallery and accompanied by an audio track that contains excerpts from the interviews and audio from the Chowchilla Freedom Rally, a statewide rally organized by CCWP to protest the overcrowding at the Central California Women’s Facility. Also included in the installation were campaign postcards addressing the overcrowding and poor medical care in women’s prisons which many gallery visitors signed.

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