Tag Archives: Young Artists At Work

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.