Tag Archives: Prison Industrial Complex

Nancy Kurshan and Out of Control in San Francisco

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We are excited to announce an evening with author and activist Nancy Kurshan on

Thursday May 9th at 7pm at
518 Valencia St – San Francisco
* Also Updates on California Prisons *

Nancy and the Freedom Archives have recently released Out of Control: A Fifteen Year Battle Against Control Unit Prisons. The book tells the inspiring story of the Committee to End the Marion Lockdown (CEML). Founded in 1985 to organize against control unit prisons and related inhumane practices at the notorious federal prison in Marion, Illinois, the committee’s work and influence spread nationwide, even as the practices at Marion became widespread in many other prisons in the U.S. and internationally. Written in a very accessible and eloquent style by Nancy Kurshan, a CEML co-founder and leading activist throughout its history, the book recounts how the committee led and organized hundreds of educational programs and demonstrations in many parts of the country and sought to build a national movement to expose and abolish “end-of-the-line” prisons. You can read an briefer online version of the book here which includes audio, video and links to documents. You can also check out our new search engine which features 300+ digitized documents, audio, and video from CEML’s history of prison advocacy. See praise for Out of Control below and please join us for this exciting event.


Praise for Out of Control:

Out of Control concentrates on the political analysis and commitment of the women and men of the Committee to End the Marion Lockdown – and a protracted and determined struggle to stop the physical and psychological abuse in control units in US prisons. I urge everyone to read and distribute this book.
— Lucy Rodriguez

Our Experience at the 11th Annual Ethnic Studies Conference

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Last Friday the Freedom Archives led two sessions at San Francisco State University for the 11th Annual Ethnic Studies Conference geared to high school students. We brought two films – A Tribute to George Jackson and Attica is All of Us. The first session was packed while the second session was not as well attended however both workshops generated important conversations and the students were very engaged with the subjects of the films. Prior to our workshops, few students had heard of George Jackson and even fewer had heard of the Attica Rebellion.

It was quickly apparent during the opening conversations in both sessions that few students had much basic background information or had given thought to imprisonment on a regular basis, so it became important to talk about prison and mass incarceration in general to contextualize the Attica and George Jackson films. In one session, it was even necessary to teach a bit of US History to provide explanation concerning the beginning of the war on drugs. It soon became clear that the students wanted having their questions about prisons addressed rather than focusing solely on the videos. Topics included the parallels between the Oakland gang injunctions, which the students were definitely aware of, and the process of gang validations behind prison walls. They understood the centrality of racial solidarity as a strategy of resistance in prison as well as in their own lives and in their own neighborhoods.

Feedback from the students was very positive, and they were very engaged in the issues. Students willingly participated, brought interesting personal experiences into the conversations and were adamant that they were never taught about these topics in school, but should be, as mass incarceration and violent policing affects their communities and their everyday lives.


Engaging Youth at the 11th Annual Ethnic Studies Conference

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Sparked by the release of a new book on the creation of ethnic studies by Martha Biondi entitled The Black Revolution on Campus, narratives of struggle for ethnic studies have once again found their way into the mainstream and academic press. Ethnic Studies is an intellectual challenge to traditional disciplines such as Anthropology, History, English amongst others that are constructed and inherently promote Eurocentric perspectives, intellectual traditions and frameworks, often ignoring and marginalizing peoples of color. Ethnic Studies teaches the stories, histories, struggles and accomplishments of peoples of color in their own voices. Struggles for ethnic studies were fueled by Black Power, international anti-imperialist solidarity and militant calls for culturally relevant education in the late 1960s.

In 1968, a student led coalition of ethnic organizations united as the Third World Liberation Front (TWLF) and initiated a student strike at San Francisco State University (SFSU). A couple of months later, students at the University of Berkeley, united under their own Third World Liberation Front, organized a student strike at Berkeley. Despite violent police repression and administrative resistance to engaging student demands, prolonged student strikes, dedicated organizing and large protests forced the administrations at both SFSU and Berkeley to meet student demands and by March 1969, both universities had Schools of Ethnic Studies.

This Friday, October 19, 2012, SFSU will hold their 11th Annual Ethnic Studies Conference whose major goal is to promote and introduce high school students to ethnic studies and provide the space for consciousness raising and alliance building amongst students. The Freedom Archives will be presenting a workshop at the conference on entitled The Struggle Against Mass Incarceration: Prison Resistance from Attica to Pelican Bay.  We will show our documentaries on George Jackson and the Attica Prison Rebellion and then discuss why George Jackson and Attica matter in our lives, current strategies of prison resistance being utilized around the country and the importance and potential of ethnic studies to sustaining prison resistance. We look forward to engaging youth about these issues and participating in a space commemorating the struggle to decolonize the nations’ universities.



Connecting Youth To Their Families In Prison

This week, the archives would like to highlight the work of one of our high school interns, Ja’Lenn Polar. Ja’Lenn attends MetWest High School located in Oakland which strives to prepare young adults to further their personal well-being and the well-being of their communities by merging academics and local internship opportunities. Ja’Lenn began his internship with the archives last year and after becoming acquainted with some of the archives’ materials, started working on his own project that spoke to his experiences. His project culminated with a presentation to his peers in which he distributed a one-page leaflet that he designed containing step by step directions on how to locate and properly address a letter to a friend or loved-one in a California prison. We are very excited about Ja’Lenn’s project as not only did it require a large amount of hard work, but also is extremely relevant to Black and Brown communities decimated by mass imprisonment and immigration sweeps. Check out an interview with Ja’Lenn about his project!


My Internship by Doraius Lacy

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My name is Doraius Lacy and I am a senior at Metwest high school. I am also an intern at The Freedom Archives. I wanted to intern at The Freedom Archives because for the past two years I have been educating myself about the Prison Industrial Complex and how it affects our communities.

While here, I have been cataloging some new audio materials about prison justice issues. I have listened to audio and cataloged it and made new entries in the database. Interning at The Freedom Archives has given me the opportunity to learn about the history of the world beyond what is in a text book. I have also learned a lot about what it means to fight for the things you want and need. I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of this work. Few youth know how they are impacted by the prison system.

While interning at The Freedom Archives I have also been working on my senior thesis project. My project is to create a blog that will hopefully inform others about what the Prison Industrial Complex is and how to counteract some of its affects. I am also surveying middle school and high school youth. The purpose of my survey is to gain a better understanding of how youth and their communities are impacted by the prison system. The resources here at The Freedom Archives have been very helpful in the development of my project.

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