The Prison Industrial Complex and Prisoner Awareness Days, SF (March 11) and Berlin (March 15)

prisoner awareness day

Today in San Francisco is Prison Awareness Day.

As a collaborative effort with Intersection for the Arts programming 2008 The Prison Project, PLAIN HUMAN invites Bay Area families, friends and advocates of human rights, to wear orange on March 11, 2008.

“By collectively wearing this color in a public space,we are subverting the silence. PLAIN HUMAN will facilitate this day of awareness as an exercise to experience, embrace, share, empower, and to simply reveal who we are, persons with a member of our family who have been incarcerated. [And] We will draw attention to how the deplorable conditions suffered by people who are incarcerated also affect everyone in the outside.”

An article in the SF Bay Guardian, reports on one of the primary artists involved, Mabel Negrete, who has a deeply personal connection to the issues, with a currenty incarcerated brother and a family with experience of the Pinochet era. A Chilean artist who is a longtime resident of the Mission District, she’s been highly active in the arts and education realms for over 10 years with such projects as HyperSea, The Counter Narrative Society, , The Borderlands Film and Arts Festival … and with Balazo Gallery.

There’s also a list of registered collaborating events on the Plain Human site, and this image above is part of the Deappropriation Project, a former police station wall that has now for some years been a free public space for (street) art permitted by its current home-owner. This piece for “Wear Orange Day” itself raised some recent ire within the street art scenes having issues with the wall being “appropriated” by a single project ( and perhaps due to its less autonomous gallery-sponsored nature?? ). And last we heard it was to some extent already reappropriated prior to March 11th. Sitcky issue?! Was there a lack of communication here? Hard to say, but well mostly it demonstrates a very low level of solidarity for obviously well-intended socio-political and tactical art. And according to a friend and contributor to Stencil Archive:

“No one owns that wall and Bruce Tomb [ apparently the entity of sorts 'maintaining' its public purpose] himself says the only rule is no tape and no staples (or something like that)… no rules on that wall so one person’s beef is another’s whatever… it’ll get gone over again as well. ”

Here’s a view of this constantly in flux wall from 2004? below, and there an extensive archive on Bruce Tomb’s site.


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On March 18th, Berlin has a demo and a number of scheduled events for the international – ” 18.3 Tag Der Politischen Gefangenen” – to demand freedom for political prisoners worldwide. News at Stress Faktor and De.Indymedia… and more reports on various prison resources, statistics, etc… coming soon.

It is extremely interesting to compare the language between these 2 events, whereas in California activism the wording has become quite soft (”awareness”), in european struggles there’s a clear denouncement of states which illegally hold political prisoners, and organizations which Demand their release. But then there is also in the former a positive aspect to struggle for the humane treatment of ALL prisoners and a somewhat new angle to bring light to the suffering of the families involved, which from a practical standpoint might be one of the more immediate realms one could try and have positive impact. And of course we should add that there is also a widespread movement that prisons don’t work, and numerous Orgs working from that angle, i.e. ARAP – Against Repression Against Prisons.


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