“This 1936 photograph—featuring eight of the nine Scottsboro Boys with NAACP representatives Juanita Jackson Mitchell, Laura Kellum, and Dr. Ernest W. Taggart—was taken inside the prison where the Scottsboro Boys were being held. Falsely accused of raping two white women aboard a freight train in 1931, the nine African American teenagers were tried in Scottsboro, Alabama, in what became a sensational case attracting national attention. Eight of the defendants were found guilty and sentenced to death; the trial of the ninth ended in a mistrial. These verdicts were widely condemned at the time. Before the young men eventually won their freedom, they would endure many years in prison and face numerous retrials and hearings. The ninth member of the group, Roy Wright, refused to pose for this portrait on account of his frustration with the slow pace of their legal battle. (Source: Smithsonian)”
“A version of this photograph was printed in the national edition of the Afro American on May 19, 1934 with the caption, “Four of the Alabama mothers who were greeted by Mrs. Julia West Hamilton (center) chairman of the board of directors of the Phyllis Wheatley Y.W.C.A., as they arrived at the D.C. Y where they stayed until arrangements were made to see Marvin H. McIntyre, secretary to President Roosevelt. Left to right, Ruby Bates, white, Mrs. Mayme Williams, Mrs. Viola Montgomery, Mrs. Julia W. Hamilton, Mrs. Janie Patterson and Mrs. Ida Norris. The mothers are seeking the aid of President Roosevelt in an effort to save their sons lives.” The image was taken May 13, 1934 at the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA, 901 Rhode Island Ave. N.W/, Washington. Bates was an accuser of the “Scottsboro Boys” who recanted, Williams, Montgomery, Patterson and Norris were mothers to five of the accused.”
Far away from the Washington Beltway, where politicians are playing games with heath insurance coverage for millions of Americans & the media are focused on brinksmanship, a group of young activists in Chicago have been fighting for three years to establish a level 1 trauma center on the Southside. It’s been an uphill battle from the start but the young people have been persistent, patient, and pro-active. They belong to groups like Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY), Students for Health Equity (SHE), and Reclaiming Inner-City Streets and Elevating Chicago (RISE Chicago).
And they’ve been fighting for their lives and those of their peers…
Wednesday was a major turning point in the trauma center campaign. A hearing was called by Rep. Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) “to look into whether people are dying on the South Side from gunshot wounds because the specialized care they need is all at hospitals on the North or West sides of the city or in the south suburbs.” Veronica Morris-Moore, a key leader of Fearless Leading By the Youth (FLY), summed up her feelings after the hearing in a Facebook post [thanks to Veronica for giving me permission to share her words]:
“Hearing meeting downtown at the State building was a step in the right direction for the Trauma Center Campaign. It felt good to be heard in that type of setting & also hear Senators, State Representatives, doctors, & other community members say a lot of things the youth have been saying, for years, about the lack of Trauma Care on the south side of Chicago & what needs to be done about it.”
the protest at the University of Chicago Hospital was HELLA deee oooo peee eeee. A lot of committed youth leaders & allies used collective effort & selfless committment & to show that no matter what our communities endure nothing can diminish the fight in us. & seeing all those people holding signs demanding trauma care showed me that we are building that fight in the right direction. & the more they try to ignore us the louder we will be.
Today felt like progress & at the very very end of the day thats ALL we want.
I have nothing left to say except to express my profound gratitude and admiration for the young people and their comrades who continue this life and death struggle. Below are some photographs taken by the terrific Sarah Jane Rhee of the coffin protest.
The photo below was one taken by famous photographer Lewis Hine. It was part of a series commissioned by the government to underscore the problem of child labor. It’s interesting to note how the idea of delinquency is also raised.
The caption reads:
Richard Pierce, Western Union Telegraph Co. Messenger No. 2. 14 years of age. 9 months in service, works from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Smokes and visits houses of prostitution. Wilmington, Del., 05/1910
Today, I want to share some of the art that will be featured in Picturing A World Without Prisons specifically the photographs. The show marries photographs submitted by people on the outside with art created by jailed youth. This is why we call it an inside/outside exhibition. We’ve temporarily uploaded the photo submissions that we received along with the artist statements on a Tumblr. Eventually, we plan to create an online exhibit that will bring together the art created on the outside with that which was created by the incarcerated youth. This is in addition to the physical exhibition that will run from November 11 to December 6 at HumanThread.
I am still accepting photo submissions for the Picturing a World without Prisons project until October 22nd. So please consider submitting your vision.
Below is a collaborative vision created by me, Sarah Jane Rhee and her 9 year old daughter Cadence.
It was Victor Hugo who said: “He who opens a school door closes a prison.” It is therefore surreal to live in Chicago in 2013 where we just experienced the single largest mass closure of schools in American history. Rahm Emanuel & his hand-picked school board shuttered 49 schools displacing over 30,000 mostly black children. If we believe Hugo, this means that Chicago has opened the door to 50 new prisons.
So when we envision a world without prisons, we think of children reading piles of books for pleasure. We think of them getting lost in imaginary lands dreaming of all of the adventures they’ll have. A world without prisons is one where there is no ceiling placed on children’s imaginations… It’s a world where we close the doors of prisons and open ones to new schools. Preferably schools near water & sand…
Join the discussion and submit your vision by October 22.
The haunting photograph above by Jessica Rodrigue captures and embodies disinvestment and institutional violence. Emmet Elementary school is located on the Westside of Chicago. Today, as students return to school across the city, Emmet stands padlocked and empty. It is one of the 49 schools that were closed by CPS.
I am anxious and unsettled. I’m worried about this school year. Already, I am hearing from teacher friends that they have class rosters with 35 and 38 students. The mother of Asean Johnson, a 9 year old who came to national attention this Spring during protests against school closings, appeared on television this weekend to say that while her son’s school was saved from closing, he’ll have over 35 peers in his 4th grade classroom. This is in no way conducive to a quality education. Anyone who has spent ten minutes in a classroom can tell you this. Frankly, anyone who has been around two children for any length of time can attest to the difficulty of keeping them engaged and on task for an hour, let alone seven…
I fear that CPS is consigning a significant number of our young people to the trash bin; treating them as disposable.
So I am anxious and unsettled.