JANUARY 13: Durham, North Carolina
St Philip’s Episcopal Church
FALL 2020-2021: Silverwood Park, Minneapolis
This Fall through Fall 2021: Silverwood Park Poetry Trail
Each year, a poet chosen by the Minnesota Three Rivers Park District curates six poems to be featured on a poetry trail at the Silverwood Park in St. Anthony. This year, Chavonn Williams Shen is collaborating with WAAC and the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop to feature MPWW students for the Silverwood Poetry Trail. Through her thoughtfulness and diligence, Chavonn narrowed down a large pool of possibilities to six individuals.
Visitors walking the park trails will be prompted by a QR code to listen to each poem, and see a portrait of the author. We’re working on collecting the audio now; the auditory adventure will be available soon.
For more info on upcoming events, email [email protected]
Invite us to your college, city, or organization
DECEMBER 3: MinnCLE
With Emily, Nadine from the WAAC Board and The Waiting Room and poet Louise Waakaa’igan.
NOVEMBER 12: Paladin Student Presentation
NOVEMBER 2: Paladin Staff Training
OCTOBER 29: The Cedar, Minneapolis
SEEN at The Cedar: Collaborations by B, Sarith, and Jeff, curated by Ritika Ganguly
Thursday, October 29th, 2020 / Online Premiere at 7:30pm
For this episode of The Cedar Public Access Channel, Cedar Artist Collective member Ritika Ganguly has partnered with WAAC and the Weisman Art Museum to curate and present an evening of three new artistic works-in-progress created by incarcerated artists who are part of We Are All Criminals’ SEEN project. SEEN is a poetry and portrait project that challenges and disrupts mass incarceration by clearing the pathways for people behind bars to have their voices heard, faces seen, and humanity recognized.
Dismantling the barriers that separate incarcerated thinkers and art makers from the Twin Cities arts community, each of the three featured artists at the Stillwater Correctional Facility has been collaborating with an artist on the outside to develop personal, new works that include multiple disciplines, from poetry to podcast. The evening will feature premieres by B and Danny, who will use poetry and visual art to explore and express the chaos of the cell; Sarith and Carl, who will use dance to move in time through Sarith’s journey before and within the prison; and Jeff and Korina, who will dive into storytelling through interviews in the style of podcast journalism.
OCTOBER 28: MacRostie Art Center in Grand Rapids, MN
If you can’t be there in person to check out the display, join Emily Baxter and Louise Waakaa’igan via Zoom on October 28th for a WAAC talk and reading from Louise’s brilliant new book of poetry, This is Where.
OCTOBER 24: Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop
Beyond Bars: Voices of Incarceration
Please join Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop for their annual student reading on Zoom.
Alumni, teachers, mentors, and family members will read powerful poetry, fiction, and essays written by their students. In addition, they will be featuring SEEN videos!
The event will take place on Zoom on Saturday, October 24th at 7:30 PM CT.
Watch the video here.
OCTOBER 12: Western Colorado College
WAAC Bday Bash 2020 via Zoom on October 7th, from 7–8pmCT.
Every fall, we celebrate community, look at how far we’ve come, and raise a glass to and funds for the year ahead. This year, we did it over the ones and zeros.
We shared new SEEN videos and heard from a few folks who have made this all possible.
Indeed Brewing Company once again generously donated their bash-day profits to WAAC!
Saint Paul: February 28
Hamline University Center for Justice and Law & Mitchell Hamline School of Law Reentry Clinic present the Barriers to Reentry Conference.
This full-day conference will discuss the barriers of reentry formerly incarcerated individuals experienced & explore possible solutions. 5.0 hours of continuing education credits are available (see below for more details).
Our keynote speaker, Reginald Dwayne Betts, transformed himself from a sixteen-year-old kid sentenced to nine years in prison to a critically acclaimed writer and graduate of Yale Law School. He has written three acclaimed collections of poetry, the recently published Felon, Bastards of the Reagan Era and Shahid Reads His Own Palm.
8:30 – 9:00 am: Registration
9:00 – 10:00 am: Introduction & Overview of the problem
Keith Ellison, Minnesota Attorney General
Dr. Jillian Peterson, Professor at Hamline University
Jon Geffen, Mitchell Hamline School of Law
10:00 – 11:00 am: Impacted Individual Panel with
Moderator Kevin Reese, Voices for Racial Justice
Naomi Gaines-Young, Author
11:15 – 12:15 pm: Government Panel
John Choi, Ramsey County Attorney
Rep. Raymond Dehn, Minnesota House of Representatives
Paul Schnell, Minnesota Commissioner of Corrections
12:30 – 1:30 pm: Lunch Keynote with Reginald Dwayne Betts
1:45 – 3:15 pm: Solutions panel
Moderator Emily Baxter, Executive Director of We Are All Criminals
Emily Turner, Founder of All Square
Otis Zanders, Ujamaa Place
5.0 hours of continuing education is available from the following boards:
- MN Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST)
- MN Board of Social Work
- MN Board of Continuing Legal Education (CLE)
- MN Educator Licensing and Board of Teaching
If you need a different board approved for continuing education, please send us an email at [email protected]
Individuals who are seeking credit for continuing education must purchase the CLE/CEU ticket in order to receive a certificate of attendance. Continuing Education certificates will be provided within two weeks of the event to individuals who purchase the “continuing education ticket” and check-in at the event!
Saint Paul: February 27
Thanks to Ramsey County Corrections and Project Remand for hosting WAAC!
Durham: January & February
We Are All Criminals photos are on display at the Arcana Bar in Durham, North Carolina. Read about it here.
Saint Paul: November through February
The SEEN exhibit will be on display at the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council.
Raleigh: February 23
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh
Chapel Hill: January 31
Thanks to Keith for inviting WAAC to be a part of the Orange County Reentry Council!
Saint Paul: January 26
On view in the Metro Regional Arts Council Conference Room are photographs of individuals who are writers with the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop. Images are shared along with the poetry of the individual. There are 12 large scale images and poetry on display. Visitors can write notes and responses to the exhibition and the creative writers and the messages will be delivered to the individuals.
This exhibition is a joint project of We Are All Criminals and the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop. A full article about this exhibition and these organizations was published in MinnPost and is available here. From the article, a quote by Jennifer Bowen Hicks, founder of the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop: “This is the first time since we’ve worked with the writers in state facilities that they’ve had their words and images paired together in the world [with] their legal names. They’re incredible writers. Many of them have published their work and won awards, and they can publish their work quietly but it’s not as often seen. Pairing it with We Are All Criminals and Emily Baxter’s photos has a humanizing effect, showing the artistry and showing the complexity of the work they’re doing alongside their faces in a setting that is less connected to prison, and I think it helps people see them as the full humans that they are, and escape the label of [felon or incarcerated] or whatever words people choose to use.”
The exhibition, Seen, is on view through February 2020 and is generally available for viewing 9:00 am – 5:00 pm Monday – Friday. Please contact MRAC before you come to make sure there are no meetings or events taking place in the room.
Join us for an exhibition reception on Monday, January 27 from 5:00-7:00 pm. This reception is a free open house; all are welcome.
Waseca, Federal Correctional Institution: January 26
Mankato: November 21
Virginia, MN: November 13
Thanks to the Iron Range Committee on Equal Justice for hosting WAAC.
Minneapolis: November 12
From Mixed Blood:
We’re using this particular Cast Takeover to premiere a brand-new, thought-provoking satirical revue you won’t want to miss!
Based upon the book and non-profit organization of the same name, “We Are All Criminals” challenges society’s perceptions of what it means to be “criminal.”
Through intertwined song, sketch, imagined conversations, candid images and shared stories, this staged read-thru brings to life the history, hardships and hopes of those who committed (or were accused of) committing crimes, those who got away with them, and those who have been directly affected by the criminal justice system.
Discussion/Q&A with the cast and crew immediately follows the production.
CAST: Dennis Curley, Jim Robinson, Taj Ruler & Duck Washington
ORIGINAL SONGS BY: Joshua Will & Dennis Curley
WRITTEN BY: Emily Baxter & Joshua Will
BASED UPON THE BOOK BY: Emily Baxter
DIRECTED BY: Joshua Will
POST-SHOW TALKBACK with Emily Baxter, Nadine Graves, Richard McLemore II.
TICKETS: $12 online, $15 at the door
PURCHASE ONLINE HERE: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/t2p2-cast-takeover-we-are-all-criminals-tickets-73875919865?aff=erelexpmlt
Doors at 6:30pm, Show at 7:30pm
Mixed Blood Theater
1501 South 4th Street
Saint Paul: November 12
AmeriCorps Fall Institute at the Wilder Foundation with Lyle May
Saint Paul: November 11
Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Alexandria, Minnesota: October 23
Thanks for inviting us to your annual conference, Minnesota Legal Services Coalition
Brainerd, Minnesota: October 23
Thrilled to be back at Central Lakes College
Saint Cloud, Minnesota: October 22
Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and Saint Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce
BENEFITS OF BEING A FAIR CHANCE EMPLOYER
Tuesday, October 22, 2019
8 a.m. Registration and light breakfast
8:30-11 a.m. Program
Capital One Café
30 7th Avenue South
St. Cloud, MN 56301
$25 per person
Saint Paul: October 19
Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop’s annual reading at Hamline University. MPWW instructors, mentors, friends and family members are proud to read work on behalf of writers incarcerated in Minnesota’s state correctional facilities. MPWW alumni will be reading their own work, as well.
Klas Center, Kay Fredericks Room
1537 W Taylor Ave
Saint Paul, MN 55104
This is a free reading, open to the public.
NOTE: we will be exhibiting portraits, poems, and prose from SEEN at the reading!
Stillwater: October 18
Stillwater Collective reading with the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop.
NOTE: we will exhibit work from SEEN at the facility.
Morganton, NC: October 7
Western Piedmont Community College: Incarceration in America
Brooklyn Center, MN: October 3
Minnesota Social Service Association
Minneapolis: October 2
Our sixth annual WAAC BDAY BASH is coming up! Join us at Indeed Brewing Company in NE Minneapolis and raise a pint (beer or soda) to the community that’s made it all possible.
Our goal is to raise $6k for our sixth year. If you can’t make it in person, you can still show your support by making a gift. Thank you!
Larry McDonough’s jazz trio will once again be providing entertainment — and celebratory cupcakes (are there any other kind?) generously provided by Birchwood Cafe. Thanks to Indeed for helping us ring in a new year.
When: Wednesday, October 2nd, 3:30 pm until close
Where: Indeed Brewery, 711 15th Ave NE, Mpls MN 55413
NOTE: we will be exhibiting work from the SEEN project at the Bash!
Marshall, Minnesota: October 1
Collaboration with Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development
Durham: September 26
Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham
Saint Paul: September 20
Saint Paul: September 19
Saint Paul and Minnesota Foundations’ Facing Race awards at the InterContinental Saint Paul Riverfront Hotel .
5:30-6:30pm: Reception, appetizers, and the SEEN exhibit
6:30pm-7:30pm – Award Ceremony & program featuring keynote address from Representative Ruth Buffalo and performance by ShapeShift
The event is free. RSVP by September 9, 2019 and we’ll see you there!
Mystic Lake: September 5
State Guardian ad Litem Board’s Annual Training Institute
Durham: July 3
Center for Death Penalty Litigation, ACLU Capital Punishment Project, and Capital Defender’s Office
Minneapolis: June 7-9
Solo Art Exhibition paired with Criminal Justice Reform Fundraiser (plus grilled cheese sandwiches)
Another Fine Mess
Solo art exhibition of drawings and installations by Russ White
June 7-9, 2019
OPENING RECEPTION: June 7, 5-10pm
• Grilled Cheese from All Square • Beer from Surly Brewing • DJ Set by Preston Drum •
All Square is a civil rights social enterprise centered on a craft grilled cheese restaurant and professional development institute, aiming to ensure that people impacted by the criminal justice system have the financial support and social capital necessary for a bright and productive future.
Come thirsty, come hungry, come curious.
Gallery Hours: June 8, 12-5pm • Artist/WAAC Talk: June 9, 1-4pm
Squirrel Haus Arts, 3450 Snelling Ave, Minneapolis MN, www.squirrelhausarts.com
On view will be a series of large-scale colored pencil drawings and sculptural installations using tangled masses of bodies and objects to reflect on the tensions and anxieties around issues ranging from police brutality and plastic pollution to mental health and body politics. White’s obsessively detailed drawings are an exploration of contemporary life in all its complexity: they are at once funny and somber, personal and political, comically bright and darkly serious.
Check out the Facebook Event page here.
Minneapolis: June 8
Mile in My Shoes (MiMS) brings together Twin Cities folks with diverse backgrounds through the power of running. Based in shelters and reentry centers that serve people experiencing homelessness after incarceration, MiMS uses running as the catalyst to build community, challenge misperceptions and biases, break down barriers, and spur personal and political action. For the project, we asked MiMS members and mentors what running together means to them. “When I run with Mile in My Shoes….”
Thanks to MiMS for the great work you’re doing, and thanks to the runners for pausing long enough for us to take a few photos. 🙂
St Francis, Rosebud–Sicangu Lakota Nation, South Dakota: May 20
Thanks to Dr Edward Valandra for inviting WAAC and the incomparable Alicia Smith to the Sicangu Lakota Nation’s St Francis Indian School this week!
Saint Paul: May 17
Minnesota Alliance with Youth
Greensboro, North Carolina: April 25
Minneapolis: April 16
University of St Thomas Forum on Workplace Inclusion
Durham, North Carolina: April 11
Chapel Hill, North Carolina: April 10
University of North Carolina School of Law
Saint Paul: March 22
Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development
Minneapolis: March 21
Hennepin County Bar Association
Rasmussen College: March 5
Chapel Hill, North Carolina: February 28
Thanks to Erica Bluford, University of North Carolina School of Law’s Black Law Student Association, and the National Lawyers Guild Chapter for hosting WAAC on campus.
Saint Paul, Minnesota: February 7
St Catherine University
Saint Paul, Minnesota: February 7
Second Chance Day on the Hill was as energizing and inspiring as ever–despite the winter weather raging outside.
From restoring the right to vote to ending the debt-to-jail trap of excessive fines and fees–the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition is leading the way and gaining ground!
Get involved at mnsecondchance.org
Princeton, New Jersey: November 20
It was truly an honor to be a part of the New Jersey Judiciary Court Executives’ annual Staff College. Shout out to Melaney and Gurpreet for inviting WAAC–it was wonderful seeing you again!–to Steve, Linda, Gina, Bill and Larry for all of your help with the presentation, and to Waleska for your generous heart and full tank of gas.
Saint Paul, Minnesota: November 16
Thanks to Alicia Smith and the Minnesota Department of Human Services for hosting WAAC earlier this month. I was happy to have the opportunity to speak to so many evaluators and decisionmakers about concepts of crime, criminality, privilege, punishment, and mercy.
And Alicia–anytime you want to go on the road with WAAC, the mic’s yours.
Minneapolis, Minnesota: November 16
Thanks to everyone who attended the WAAC conversation at Mayflower UCC earlier this month–to Beth Kittleson from Race Matters for making it all happen and to Pastor Campbell for your humility, humor, and generosity in sharing your own story.
To our board chair, Nadine Graves, thanks for speaking truth to power and leaving us all with a sense of hope and commitment to strengthening community.
Minneapolis, Minnesota: November 15
It was an honor to join Commissioner Kevin Lindsey, Ujamaa Place/WAAC’s Richard McLemore II, and the Volunteer Lawyers Network’s Yaima Couso Hagstrom at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. (Richard and the Commissioner left before the camera came out 🤓)
Economic opportunities must be available to all people — including those of us who have been justice-involved.
Thanks to LuAnne, Heather, Niel, and Luis for inviting us to discuss justice at the Fed!
Minneapolis, Minnesota: November 15
Thanks to the Birchwood Cafe–and all who stopped by, bought a book, and donated during yesterday’s Give to the Max. We appreciate the love, y’all. WAAC is a community effort–and we’ve got the best community.
Special shout out to Jennifer Labovitz and Delaine for wrangling the books, and to Jordan for bringing extra supplies on by.
Mankato, Minnesota: November 14
You (employers) can be the vessel that helps carry people over the river of despair to the shores of acceptance and a recognized humanity.
–Reggie Worlds, paraphrased.
Thanks to Jessica Miller and Reggie from the Department of Employment and Economic Development, and Labor Analyst Mark Schultz for organizing a Fair Hiring conversation in Mankato last week–and to Scott Beutel from the Department of Human Rights for joining us.
Minneapolis, Minnesota: November 14
Thanks again to Danny McCarthy Clifford, Boris Oicherman, Ray Barney, Betsy Friesen, and Matt Olson for creating the space to talk about mass incarceration, prison labor, and privilege on campus. Looking forward to continuing the conversation in the new year.
Reminder to those on/near the campus: stop by the museum to see Danny’s Section of Disapproved Books exhibit. Danny has gathered all of the books from the U’s library that are banned from various state prisons. Check out the absurdity in the collection.
Marshall, Minnesota: November 13
Thanks to Professor Sieling and Southwest Minnesota State University for hosting WAAC last week. The conversations with students after the talk were humbling, heart-crushing, and encouraging. Thank you for sharing your time, your stories, and your hearts. Can’t wait to see what y’all do next!
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: November 8-9
Pennsylvania Conference on Juvenile Justice, hosted by the Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission
Penn State Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: November 7
Shout out to the students, faculty, and community members at Penn State Harrisburg for hosting a month-long WAAC exhibit and an evening discussion; your commitment to justice is inspiring.
Elon University, North Carolina: October 31
Minneapolis: October 26
Weisman Art Museum “office hours” in Minneapolis. Stop by the museum between 10am and noon to share your story!
St Paul, Minnesota: October 25
Minnesota Second Chance Day! Collateral Consequences: Life After Conviction.
“What makes collateral consequences all the more damaging is that they’re not experienced in a vacuum, or one at a time–they’re all at once, a relentless piling on that crushes the individual and their family.”
The Minnesota Second Chance Coalition is zeroing in on four main categories of collateral consequences: Employment and Education; Housing; Parenting; and Voting.
Duluth, Minnesota: October 24
Annual Minnesota Corrections Association Conference
Thief River Falls, Minnesota: October 23
Bemidji State University: October 23
Red Lake Nation College: October 22
New Hope, Minnesota: October 14
6-8PM A Night of Stories: How Mass Incarceration Affects Everyone
Brainerd, Minnesota: October 13-14
Annual Public Defender Conference
Edina, Minnesota: October 12
St Paul, Minnesota: October 4
Ramsey County Workforce Investment Board
Minneapolis, Minnesota: October 1st
Mankato, Minnesota: September 30
Minneapolis: September 28
Weisman Art Museum “office hours” in Minneapolis. Stop by the museum between 10am and noon to share your story!
Minneapolis: September 27
Minneapolis: September 27
Closing exhibit talk at the Minneapolis Central Library with Kevin Reese and the Bridge Family Network. Thursday, September 27, 7-9pm. Free and open to the public!
Plattsburgh, New York: September 24
SUNY Plattsburgh with Sarah Davis
Together the Departments of Anthropology, Sociology, Criminal Justice, Political Science, and the Honors Program, CDPI & Temple Beth Israel Congregation are sponsoring the following presentation:
*WE ARE ALL CRIMINALS*
Monday, Sept. 24th at 7:00 p.m.
Giltz Auditorium – Hawkins Hall
Minneapolis: August 1st through September 30
We Are All Criminals exhibit with Kevin Reese at the Minneapolis Central Library; the exhibit is accompanied by author talks, film screenings, and community conversations.
Galloway, New Jersey: September 17-18
Thanks to Director Rashad Shabaka-Burns for inviting WAAC to New Jersey’s first annual Office of Probation Services Education Conference. Director Shabaka-Burns and his team are creating paradigm shifts across the state: seeing the possibilities, the promise, and the humanity in every person with whom they work. We at WAAC are humbled to be a part of the inaugural conference and look forward to working with New Jersey for years to come.
Minneapolis: September 12
WAAC BDAY BASH
Five years. Five years in and we’re not just a strong, collaborative, supportive, vibrant community–WAAC’s a family. Honored to share another year with y’all and so very excited for the year to come.
Thank you, Patrick, for nominating WAAC once again!
The Birchwood’s donuts and Larry McDonough and Richard Terrill’s jazz duo made the celebration all the better. Thank you!
Minneapolis: September 11
University of Minnesota Law School’s Bearmon Lecture
The annual Lee and Barbara D. Bearmon Lecture on Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility is made possible by the generosity of Lee and Barbara Bearmon. Lee Bearmon graduated from the Law School in 1956. In 1979, after service in the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Department and a decade of private practice, Mr. Bearmon joined the Carlson Companies and worked closely with founder Curtis Carlson for forty years as the company’s Senior Vice-President, Secretary, and General Counsel. Mr. Bearmon is highly respected in the legal and business communities for providing superb leadership with respect to ethical issues as well as for his keen abilities in guiding the legal operations of a large and complex corporation. In 1999, Mr. Bearmon received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Law School.
The Bearmon lecture is designed to foster awareness, interest, thought, research, and commitment regarding this subject matter at the University of Minnesota Law School and throughout the professional lives of its graduates.
Minneapolis: September 9
Poetry Asylum (a Mpls-based partnership between poet-activists Sun Yung Shin and Su Hwang) and PEN Across America present BREAKOUT: Voices from the Inside. Emily joined Jeremiah Ellison, Leiloni Ivey, Dr Rebecca Shlafer, and Emily Hunt Turner for a discussion on Futurism and Abolition. Kevin Reese, Jennifer Bowen Hicks, Deborah Jiang-Stein, Vina Kay, Daniel McCarthy-Clifford, Marcie Rendon, and Michael Kleber Diggs talked about Art as Healing, Justice, and Peace. Poets Queen Frye, David Lawrence Grant, Leiloni Ivey, Hawona Sullivan Janzen, Ed Bok Lee, Matt Rasmussen, and Dallas Wright read a mix of their own words and poems from artists who are currently incarcerated, including Queen’s cousins, Fresh and Jeff.
Saint Paul: August 10
2018 International Conference on Restorative Practices with Raj Sethuraju
Minneapolis: August 9
Duluth: August 8
Minnesota Workforce Council Association with Richard McLemore II
Sacramento: July 7-12
This summer, WAAC is joining forces with UC Davis’ Zach Psick (sociology PhD student) to launch We Are All Students: a conversation about education, inequality, and democracy. Inspired by his own personal, professional, and academic experiences and the experiences of formerly incarcerated and other system-impacted students and scholars, Zach created We Are All Students to focus on college and graduate students whose lives, families, and neighborhoods have been shaped by the wars on drugs and crime. The project will include stories and photographs portraying everyday experiences of those who pursue higher education in the shadow of incarceration. Keep an eye out for us on campuses in Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, and more!
Mystic Lake: June 28
2018 Minnesota State Bar Association Convention with Emily and Richard
Durham: June 20
Thanks to the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, Capital Defenders, and the ACLU
Minneapolis: June 15
Join WAAC at the 2018 Northern Spark Festival: Commonality. Perfect, right?
Artist Daniel McCarthy Clifford combed through Minneapolis Central Library’s catalogs to find books banned in US prisons and jails. Now he’s opened a brand new library section: The Section of Disapproved Books.
Come to the Northern Spark festival to read the books that people in prison can’t and participate in two very special events:
On Friday June 15th: a panel discussion on causes and consequences of knowledge censorship in correctional facilities, with Leiloni Ivey, poet and ironworker; Rebecca Shlafer of the Minnesota Prison Doula Project; Ingrid Nuttall of We Are All Criminals, and Daniel himself.
On Saturday June 16th: poetry reading by Shanquita Pruitt, Leiloni Ivey, Randi Ojibwe Ikwe Jenkins, Sade Robinson and Pamela Scharmer–all graduates of the Women’s Writing Program at Ramsey County Correctional Facility led by Marcie Rendon and Diego Vazquez Jr.
More info here: https://2018.northernspark.org/projects/section-disapproved-books/
Minneapolis: June 14
Minneapolis: May 18
Association of Minnesota Counties’ Senior Leadership gathering
“What’s in conversation in this room today–it’s my life. And the lives of so many others.” –Richard.
Thanks to the Association of Minnesota Counties for hosting Richard and Emily for a challenging and fruitful dialogue on race, class, privilege, and punishment. We look forward to continuing to work with you!
Minneapolis: April 23
Please join us on Monday, April 23 to learn more about mass incarceration and its effects on Saint Paul Public Schools students, families and communities. From 5:30-8:30 there will be an opening reception of the exhibit We Are All Criminals, and a viewing/discussion of the film The House I Live In, facilitated by WAAC and members of The Bridge Family Network.
Minneapolis: April 20
Community Mediation & Restorative Services — Impact on Housing, with Richard McLemore II
Minneapolis: April 20
University of Minnesota Law School, with Robert Stewart
Minneapolis: April 19
The Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare spring conference
Minneapolis: April 18
The University of Minnesota, Regis Center for the Arts — with Emily Christensen, design genius behind the WAAC book
Minneapolis: April 18
American Constitution Society book reading and happy hour with Judge Pamela Alexander @ Jones Day
Minneapolis: April 17
Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice with Professor Perry Moriearty, Richard McLemore II, and Ebony Ruhland
Minneapolis: April 12
Workforce Diversity & Inclusion conference with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights
“How many people would elect to talk about the worst day of their life at a job interview?” asked Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey at a forum on workplace inclusion earlier this week. “Look at the race disparities that exist within our legal system. How can we–as a city, as a state, as a country–continue to deny individuals who have made mistakes and hope to move forward?”
Thanks to everyone who joined our Beyond Ban the Box talk and WAAC book signing!
Cambridge, Massachusetts: March 20
Thanks to Joe Breen and the Civil Rights — Civil Liberties Law Review at Harvard for hosting WAAC! Looking forward to watching this room take on the criminal justice system.
Toronto, Ontario: March 3
Indigo Books Eaton Centre book signing
Toronto, Ontario: March 1
Minneapolis: February 28
Minneapolis: February 27
With the University of Minnesota Retirees Association
Saint Paul: February 27
Minneapolis: February 26
Minneapolis: February 25
Join Elissa @ Yoga Garden Mpls for Stand in Your Story: an all-levels welcome WAAC benefit. Suggested donation of $15; pay @ door. 8:45am until 10am. (And seriously: all levels. Some of us are still working on touching our toes.)
Minneapolis: January 24
WAAC is a proud co-sponsor of this year’s American Constitution Society’s Public Interest Happy Hour at Greene Espel
Pittsboro, North Carolina: January 24
Storyteller Sam Pearsall is hosting a night of WAAC-inspired stories at the Pittsboro Roadhouse
Minneapolis, MN: October through December
The new WAAC photo exhibit at the Birchwood Cafe in Minneapolis
Minneapolis: December 14
Thrilled to join Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Twin Cities series
Saint Paul: December 13
Minnesota Department of Human Rights’ annual Human Rights Symposium
Denver: November 20 + 21
With Dr Robley Welliver at the Aurora Community College
Minneapolis: November 15
With Voices for Racial Justice and BRIDGE at the Birchwood Cafe
Madison WI: November 4
Minneapolis, MN: October
The WAAC banners and storycards were on display at the University of Minnesota’s Burton Hall for the month of October.
Middletown, PA: October 26
Penn State Harrisburg with Dr Siyu Liu, Professor Jennifer Smith, Dr Hannah Spector, Leo Lutz, and students
Albuquerque, NM: October 20
National Defender Juvenile Center’s Juvenile Defender Leadership Summit
Minneapolis: October 13
University of Minnesota’s Common Read speaker series
Minneapolis: October 11
WAAC BDAY BASH @ Indeed!
Saint Paul MN: October 10
MetroState with Richard McLemore II, Josh Esmay, and Raj Sethuraju
From Grand Rapids to Hibbing to Duluth, WAAC went on the road last week, bringing messages of mercy, reason, and equity to eight diverse audiences at community colleges, police departments, a library, an art gallery, and a music hall. We couldn’t have done it without the incredible support of Katie Marshall at the MacRostie Art Center, Dori Streit at the Legal Aid Services of Northeastern MN, and their respective teams. It was an honor to hit the road with Kevin Lindsey, Commissioner of Human Rights, Otis Zanders and Richard McLemore II of Ujamaa Place, Samson Longtin of Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency, Alicia Smith of the Department of Human Services (Yu’pik), Grace Smith, survivor of boarding school (Yu’pik), and John Poupart, founder of American Indian Policy Center (Lac du Flambeau).
Saint Paul: Mitchell Hamline Law School
Thanks to Professor Kate Kruse for inviting WAAC out to MHLS for prep week.
Saint Paul: State Capitol
Meeting with stakeholders to ensure fair hiring across the state!
Washington DC: Georgetown Law
Earlier this week, WAAC joined attorneys and advocates from across the country to examine our juvenile justice system–specifically, how it fails young people of color. Like Davontae Sanford, who at 14 was wrongfully accused and convicted of a quadruple homicide. It took him nearly a decade to return home. Of this tragedy, he said, “If those detectives would have looked at me as their child, this wouldn’t have happened. I would have gone home that night.” (You can read more about his story here: tinyurl.com/z4ob8hh).
More highlights from the day:
Adam Foss, a former prosecutor whose TED talk on reimagining the legal system is sheer brilliance (watch it here: tinyurl.com/zly8w3q), said: “A criminal record is the most useless piece of paper we generate in the legal system” and later: “Acts are violent, not people.”
Christy Lopez, head investigator of the DOJ Ferguson report, noted: “You cannot understand the data divorced from the anecdotal evidence. To discount the stories of people’s experience is to devalue those experiences and their lives and the harm that these practices visit upon them.”
Professor Kris Henning said, “All of us must stand up and fight against the criminalization of normal adolescent behavior in communities of color.” Professor Paul Butler, author of the powerful book, Let’s Get Free: a Hip-Hop Theory of Justice, said, “The police have an extraordinary amount of power. And we heard from [WAAC] earlier that they use this power against African American people especially when they don’t use that in situations with white people. So sometimes people say, what would the black community look like if the police didn’t enforce the laws? If the police didn’t try to lock up everybody they see committing a crime. The answer is it would look like the white community. That’s pretty much what happens with white people now… What we need to be concerned about at the end of the day is this racialized exercise of discretion by police and how it’s not about public safety.”
DC Attorney General Karl Racine said of WAAC, “I can tell you that I’m a criminal, and I didn’t get arrested a lot because I was around Ward 3. That’s where we grew up. We were very fortunate… no doubt that zip code helped me out a ton.” Dr
Daniel Murrie cautioned against reliance on risk assessments, stating, “Each of us is dangerous in the right context.”
Dr Jamilia Blake, regarding school resource officers, said, “We must reenvision what it means to support children.”
The final panel talked about solutions, specifically: restorative justice. “Restorative justice isn’t just developmentally appropriate, it’s humanly important,” said Dr Laura Abramson.
We at WAAC couldn’t agree more.
Raleigh: North Carolina Second Chance Lobby Day
“How many perfect people are in the room?” asked Wake County Commissioner Jessica Holmes. No one raised their hand. Later, she spoke about spending money on schools or prisons: “Either way, our society is going to have to pay. For my imperfect self, for my imperfect family, I choose to invest in people.”
Powerful words from Commissioner Holmes, one of several people to take to the mic today at North Carolina’s Second Chance Lobby Day.
Thanks to Dennis Gaddy, founder of Community Success Initiatives, for inviting me.
St Paul: Goodwill-Easterseals
Thanks to Karin at McGough and the team at Goodwill-Easterseals Minnesota for hosting Commissioner Kevin Lindsey of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights and WAAC for a talk with employers this morning about Ban the Box and Fair Hiring.
Said one woman, testifying to the power and possibilities that come with removing the criminal records inquiry from the job application: “I’d still be unemployed if not for Ban the Box. I got the interview, I got the job, and I just got a promotion.”
US Commission on Civil Rights: Police Practices in Minnesota
Looking forward to testifying with the brilliant Dr. Ebony Ruhland at tomorrow’s US Commission on Civil Rights meeting in Minneapolis. We’ll be talking about Minnesota’s police practices, the disparate impact those practices have on people of color and Indigenous People, and the state’s implementation of the 2015 President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
Chapel Hill: UNC Parr Center for Ethics
Had a wonderful time co-presenting with the incomparable Ms. Miea Walker at UNC Parr Center for Ethics last night. Thanks to Jeff and Russ for inviting WAAC, Katelin and Ana for all the good work you do on campus and beyond, and Katie who coordinated the event–but wouldn’t stand still for a photo.
Coon Rapids, Minnesota: Anoka-Ramsey Community College
I met so many engaged and motivated students at Anoka-Ramsey Community College today. Thank you, Venoreen, for hosting WAAC–and thanks, Edgar, for setting up the exhibit!
Dahlonega: University of North Georgia
Check out our TEDx talk. Thanks for inviting WAAC, Denise, Rachel, Jeremy, and Nick!
Atlanta: Georgia’s Justice Day on the Hill
Nearly four million Georgians have a criminal record — facing enormous obstacles to securing housing, employment, education, licensure, and more. Today, people from all around the state are gathering to change that.
Honored to have been a part of Georgia’s Justice Day at the state capitol. Shout out to Kiana and Sharon (below) of Gideon’s Promise for all of the outstanding work you do, and to Roland (below) who, along with Kate and Sara of the National Incarceration Association fostered the conversation and hosted WAAC in the rotunda.
Chapel Hill: UNC School of Government
I shared WAAC with the 2015-2016 Racial Equity Network’s brilliant and engaged attorneys, like Kehinde, at the University of North Carolina’s School of Government.
To paraphrase James Williams’ closing of the 18-month training: once you appreciate the magnitude of the horror of the criminal justice system upon black Americans, you’re more likely to double down on the change.
Thanks for inviting WAAC to be part of such an inspiring day.
Raleigh: North Carolina Advocates for Justice
I photographed last Friday’s North Carolina Advocates for Justice event, a day filled with presentations and calls for action from brilliant and engaged attorneys. Among them, Jeff Robinson from the ACLU of NY. I was snapping pics instead of taking notes, so this is paraphrased and filtered through memory’s maze, but he said something that needs to be heard by more people than just those in the room:
–The talent that goes into our prisons, the talent of the next generation, that’s a national security issue. We cannot afford to lock up, to lock out, to lose any of it.–
Yes. Thank you, Jeff, for all that you do.
Asheville: National Association of Social Workers
Your support makes it possible for us to catalyze more conversations about crime, privilege, and punishment across the country — like at the National Association of Social Workers conference in Asheville, NC this weekend.
I was thrilled to be joined by Alicia Towler — a social worker and documentarian in Mecklenburg County’s public defender office. Alicia created a short film for our More Than My Mugshot project. Check it out!
Greensboro, North Carolina: International Civil Rights Center and Museum
The University of North Carolina, Greensboro, collaborated with universities nationwide to create and host “States of Incarceration,” an exhibit and opportunity for conversation from coast to coast. We at WAAC were thrilled that two simple questions met everyone who viewed the show: “What is a Crime? Who is a Criminal?”
At one of UNCG’s events held at the International Civil Rights Center and Museum, I had the opportunity to meet several changemakers including Sherrill Roland, Lamonte Armstrong, and Tiffany.
Sherrill spoke about his wrongful incarceration and his resulting MFA performance piece, The Jumpsuit Project. “The more and more I’ve talked to people about what went on, the more and more liberated I felt. This is me,” Roland said. “I didn’t want to hide it. I spent a lot of time hiding the fact that this stuff was going on. In the sense of getting everything exonerated, that’s like hiding it again. My heart’s been broken too much to forget or suppress those kind of emotions.”
Lamonte shared what got him through: “I just kept telling myself, ‘pretend you’re an inmate today.’ For 18 years, that’s what I’d tell myself every morning.” Lamonte Armstrong spent 18 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. “I have a Pardon of Innocence from the governor, but people still look at me like I have an M written on my forehead.”
And Tiffany talked about how lock-up locks out families: “Incarceration prevents our ability to connect with one another. Our ability to love.”
Winston-Salem, North Carolina: Wake Forest Law
Special thanks to Professor Kami Chavis and Lisa Sykes for setting up the events.
Atlanta, Georgia: Justice Day on the Hill
Thanks to the National Incarceration Association for inviting WAAC to be a part of Georgia’s Justice Day on the Hill.
Duluth + St Cloud: Conflict Resolution Center
Thanks to the Conflict Resolution Centers of Duluth and St Cloud Minnesota for hosting two WAAC gatherings. City council members and community members, public defenders and judges, advocates and probation officers, social workers and service providers, professors and students joined us to discuss investment over incarceration.
Minneapolis: The Whole
Jewish Community Action of the University of Minnesota hosted WAAC. Among the students and recent grads was Star Wynn. Star is an Americorps VISTA at Operation de Novo– a Minneapolis-based nonprofit that provides diversionary programs for people arrested or charged with felonies in Hennepin County. In addition to these programs, OdN creates education and employment resources for clients seeking a second chance–and that’s where Star comes in. Among other things, she’s conducting focus groups to get a better understanding of the barriers clients face.
Many employers, she says, are scared off by a criminal record.
Together, we’re working to change that.
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Burton Hall
Thanks to the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development for hosting WAAC. Special thanks to Kelly Winters and KC Harrison for the invitation.
To the class of 2020: we see you, we hear you, we need you. Thank you for using your voice, your talent, and your unique experience to question narratives, shift paradigms, and change the world.
WAAC BDAY BASH @ Indeed Brewery
Thanks to everyone who helped us celebrate WAAC’s bday. Special shout out to Patrick, the brewer who invited us, Indeed Brewery for donating the night’s proceeds, and to The Smoking Cow food truck, for donating 10% of the day’s sales to WAAC. With your help, this year’s gonna be even better than the last!
Minneapolis: BRIDGE + Voices for Racial Justice
Honored to join advocates and activists on the inside and out in Minneapolis. Thanks to BRIDGE and their partners at Voices for Racial Justice for inviting WAAC to be a part of the day celebrating family, fellowship, and power.
Madison, Wisconsin: The Criminal Justice System, its Failures, and the Consequences for our Country
“There is nothing that we have talked about today that we cannot fix.” –Dean Strang
WAAC was thrilled to join Dean Strang, Jerry Buting, Keith Findley, Everett Mitchell, and Carrie Sperling at the 2016 ForwardFest in Madison, Wisconsin.
Thanks to Rachel Neill and Shobhan Thakkar for putting it all together — to the National Council on Crime and Delinquency and FarWell for sponsoring, Madison Public Library for hosting, Field59 for catching it all on video, and Underground Food Collective and 3rd Sign Brewery for all the food and brew.
Fayetteville, North Carolina
Tagged along with Dennis Gaddy, founder of Community Success Initiatives, in Fayetteville for their first Reentry Roundtable
Charlotte, North Carolina
Thanks to the Mecklenburg Public Defender’s Office for hosting WAAC
Big ups to the Eastern State Penitentiary, who asks visitors: Have You Ever Broken the Law?
Thanks to the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College for hosting WAAC — and to John Poupart, Alicia Smith, and Grace Smith for co-presenting!
Durham, North Carolina
“We need to close the empathy gap.”
Thanks to Duke Law’s Jim Coleman (pictured here), as well as Lynden Harris from Hidden Voices, Jennifer Thompson from Healing Justice and author of Picking Cotton, Public Defender James Williams, and to the brilliant advocates at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation for hosting WAAC once more.
Minneapolis: Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Speaker Series with Tholal Ahmed
Thanks to intern Tholal Ahmed, who represented WAAC at the Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Speaker Series as well at Lino Lakes Correctional Facility. At the prison, Tholal was a guest of BRIDGE, a prison justice coalition led by Kevin Reese.
Honored to join the NAACP and others at this evening’s Restore the Vote event.
Wilmington, North Carolina
Thanks to the New Hanover County bench and bar for hosting WAAC
Bay Area, California: Google + KQED
Thanks to Irene @ California’s KQED for featuring us, and to Amrit for hosting WAAC @ Google.
WAAC Bday Bash @ Bauhaus Brew Labs
To the nearly 200 people who celebrated and supported WAAC at our Bday Bash–thanks!
Minneapolis: Hennepin Ave United Methodist
Thanks to all who participated in the dynamic discussions regarding restorative justice
Minneapolis: Capri Theater
Thanks to everyone who helped set up and tear down WAAC’s show tonight!
Reunited with Joshua Esmay for a CLE to a packed room at the Minnesota Judicial Center.
St Cloud, Minnesota
Thanks to the Minnesota Family Support & Recovery Council for hosting WAAC.
Wisconsin: ForwardFest @ Madison Central Library
Free beer and food generously provided by Mobcraft and Underground Catering.
Check out the ForwardFest website to learn more about this event.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota: Department of Corrections
Thanks to Jennifer for inviting WAAC to join the South Dakota Department of Corrections’ annual training.
St Paul: Jewish Community Center
Thanks to Nora for inviting WAAC to join the Jewish Community Action at JCC.
New Orleans, Louisiana: Loyola University
WAAC joined the ABA for a Town Hall talk on juvenile justice in New Orleans.
Minneapolis: Longfellow Station
Thanks to Tarabi for inviting WAAC to join a conversation on policing in Minneapolis’ Somali community.
Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Law School
Thanks to Alex for inviting us!
St Paul: Unity Unitarian
Thanks to Unity for hosting a WAAC exhibit, to Ray for building a listening (and sharing) station, and Patricia for inviting us!
Tempe: Arizona State University
WAAC joined the American Bar Association’s Juvenile Justice Town Hall in Arizona.
St Paul: University of St Thomas
Felipa and Emily meet Piper Kerman of Orange is the New Black.
St Paul: William Mitchell School of Law
Thanks to Nadine for bringing WAAC to William Mitchell.
Minneapolis: Start Anew
Thanks to Cecelia and everyone at Start Anew in Minneapolis for all of the good work you’re doing to welcome people home.
St Paul: MN Youth Intervention Programs Association
Thanks to Paul and Mandy for hosting WAAC this afternoon, and thanks to Alexis for all of the wisdom you shared!
St Paul: Macalester College
Many thanks to the students and faculty at Macalester College in St Paul, Minnesota, for hosting the WAAC banners and discussion!
Washington DC: ABA National Summit on Collateral Consequences
The American Bar Association, in collaboration with the National Institute on Justice and the Law Offices of Jones Day, presented the first annual National Summit on Collateral Consequences. The WAAC banners were exhibited in the hallway and conference room. Thanks to Clinton for helping set the display up, and to the brilliant advocates–especially youth advocates–in the room, speaking up for justice.
Boston, Massachusetts: Boston College
We were thrilled to join nearly 500 students at Boston College for a weekend dedicated to service and celebration. Thanks for making it happen, Alex!
Minneapolis: Lynnhurst United Church of Christ
Thanks to Lynnhurst UCC for hosting WAAC for a month–and many thanks to Tristen and Jennifer for donating your time, frames, and talent!
St Louis, Missouri: Saint Louis University
We Are All Criminals is honored and humbled to have been a part of the WEB DuBois Conversation on Social Justice at Saint Louis University. Special thanks to the panelists that anchored the hope for change within the community, and to Nebu, Norm, and Katie for making it all happen.
Minneapolis: Midwest Mentoring Forum
Mentors and advocates, many of whom had been incarcerated, gathered together to discuss reentry at the Hope Presbyterian Church in Richfield, Minnesota. We Are All Criminals was part of the keynote address, and banners with the project’s stories and photographs were on display. Special thanks to Anthony, Delaine, and Steve!
Sioux Falls, South Dakota: Spirit of Peace UCC
Spirit of Peace UCC in Sioux Falls opened up their community room for a two-week WAAC exhibit. The banners were placed throughout the room’s meditative maze, lending the perfect atmosphere to the question: what have you had the luxury to forget? Or: what would your chalkboard say? Many thanks to Pastors Jean and Rachel, and the more than 50 people who attended the Sunday discussion.
Crete, Nebraska: Doane College
St Paul: Minnesota State Capitol Rotunda
The banners were up in the Capitol’s Rotunda, where passersby were invited to return on March 12th for the annual Second Chance Day on the Hill. Special thanks to Mark Haase from the Council on Crime and Justice and the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition and Representative Ray Dehn for sharing their remarks concerning the need for reform.
More information: We Are All Criminals MN State Capitol Rotunda
New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University and Bridgewater State University
Thanks to the more than 200 students, faculty, and community members who attended We Are All Criminals events in Connecticut and Massachusetts. For those still in New Haven, you can catch the WAAC exhibit in the gallery of the Afro-American Cultural Center at Yale. Many thanks to Nia, Jessie, Aria, and Mitch.
White Bear Lake, Minnesota: Art Shanty Projects
We Are All Criminals will be at the Townhall Shanty at the Art Shanty Projects this Saturday, February 15 at 2pm. Join us as we discuss criminal justice policy on the frozen waters of White Bear Lake.
Minneapolis: Boneshaker Books
The WAAC photographs are on display at Boneshaker Books in Minneapolis for the month of January. Make an evening out of it: drop by to check out the exhibit, pick up a book from Boneshaker’s handpicked select, then walk a block to a table and a lassi at the Himalayan or a booth and a Surly at Luce for some novel time. Special thanks to Ann and HJ.
Minneapolis: First Covenant Church
On December 29th, the First Covenant Church in downtown Minneapolis invited We Are All Criminals and Stephen JohnsonGrove from the Ohio Justice & Policy Center to talk about legalizing redemption. After service, people gathered in the foyer to engage in the We Are All Criminals exhibit and discuss second chances. Special thanks to Nekima, Barbara, and Stephen!
St Paul: Goodwill Easter Seals
On December 12th, Goodwill / Easter Seals hosted a WAAC exhibit and criminal records seminar. Throughout the day, nearly 100 people stopped by and joined the collateral consequences discussion. Special thanks to Andy, Eric, and the young woman who took a break from mopping to let me know the project was speaking the truth.
Twin Cities: Minnesota Humanities Center
With the help of the Minnesota Humanities Center, the Community Justice Project at the University of St Thomas School of Law, the University of Minnesota Law School’s Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice, and MetroState School of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, more than 200 people from the law schools, business schools, law enforcement and criminal justice programs, and sociology departments engaged in the WAAC project this fall. Below are photographs from the UST exhibit. Special thanks to Nekima, Jessie, Perry, Galen, Chris, David, Ebony, and Jason.
Minneapolis: Robina Institute WAAC Exhibition
Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice invited University of Minnesota students, faculty and passers-by to stop by the We Are All Criminals exhibit held on November 5th at the U of M Law School. More than 100 people dropped in, viewed the exhibit, shared their own stories, and discussed what it means to be a criminal. Thanks to the Minnesota Humanities Center for making the event possible!
Minneapolis: Speak Easy Twin Cities
Local storytellers gathered in a residential basement for Speak Easy Twin Cities, “a traveling home show coming to a living room, kitchen, basement, backyard, or rooftop near you.”
Minneapolis: WAAC Website Launch
To the more than 200 people that dropped by The Belmore on October 24th, thank you. Together, we tested out the new exhibit (thanks, Matt!), listened to music mixed with confessions (thanks, Brad!), and officially launched the website and project. Thanks to the Council on Crime and Justice, the Bush Foundation, the Minnesota Humanities Center, Jennifer, Sandy, Martha, Perry, and Christy. Additional and profound thanks, as always, to the participants: this wouldn’t have been possible without you.
Each year in Northeast Minneapolis, more than 500 artists’ studios, galleries, and exhibits open to the public for a weekend-long Art A Whirl tour. This year, We Are All Criminals was in the historic Thorp Building. WAAC had been featured at local lit mag Revolver’s Confess event the weekend before (see below event), and continued to occupy the space through the open studio tour. More than 200 people dropped by, listened to confessions of uncaught crimes shared during Confess, read stories of WAAC participants, and viewed the photographs. A handful of guests signed the WAAC book, sharing their own stories.
WAAC joined local literary magazine and host, Revolver, at Confess, an evening of storytelling, truth, and revelry. The event featured photographs, audio clips, and text of people who had participated in the project–while collecting new confessions from the partygoers themselves.
Prisons… they don’t disappear problems. They disappear people and they exacerbate problems. (Shout out to Angela Davis!)
“It really feels very much like they’re in the room with us,” said Jennifer Bowen Hicks, founder and artistic director of the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop. “Emily captured their spirit beautifully and they were really vulnerable and generous, so I think the way you see them is the way we experience them, so it does feel like they’re here with us. They’re incredible storytellers and really fun students to be with. The fuel of all of this is the men and women right now who are experiencing the effects of incarceration.”
“Voir Dire” is an interview-based podcast featuring in-depth conversations with the people on the front lines reforming the criminal justice system. In this episode, host Schuyler Daum examines the ways in which privilege serves to define criminality.
Formerly incarcerated people are an overlooked source of talent.
“We, as a society, must prevent harm when we can and respond when we can’t. But criminal records can reroute and, in many ways, destroy your life… The response must be reasonable, rational, equitable. And it must be merciful. Those are four things just lacking in our current justice system.”
“It’s not true that, once a criminal, always a criminal. You were criminal, that one time, so you know that the crime a person commits does not define who they are. Think about putting that knowledge toward understanding that most people who have made a mistake don’t deserve to live out the rest of their lives battling all the hardships that come with the stigma of being an “ex-con.””
Scenic Range News
By Manja Holter
Emily Baxter is a story collector. She gathers stories about people who got away with a crime, or were convicted of a crime and got a second chance or about those who are caught in the debilitating cycle of perpetual punishment.
Baxter is also a public defender turned activist who has been working extensively for the past four years on the “We Are All Criminals” campaign (WAAC), raising awareness to the fact that “One in four people in the United States has a criminal record.” She also contends that “Four in four people in the United States have committed a crime.”
Essentially, Baxter advocates for people who, due to their criminal record, experience barriers in their daily lives while searching for jobs and housing or applying for loans and higher education programs.
What differentiates her approach is that she asks the imperative “What if…” question. She calls on all decisionmakers to dig deep in their memory to find that one event they are blessed enough to forget. What if one was caught doing that irresponsible, illegal act? How would one’s personal life and professional journey have been impacted?
The project’s ability to go beyond the statistics resonated with Madison corporate attorney Shobhan Thakkar, who worked to bring Baxter to Wisconsin after he heard her speak at a conference in Orlando two months ago.
“[We Are All Criminals] made us all think about what we’ve done and how lucky we have all been compared to the unfortunate ones and what happened to them,” he said. “It makes you think about how life could be very different.”
Once we graduate and grow up, we will probably think of our crimes as funny college memories. We won’t pause to think that if we had been caught even once, our promising careers in business, law, or medicine might not have been possible. When we hear about a convict on the news, we won’t pause to think. We will thank the American criminal justice system for keeping our families safe every day and ignore the fact that, for each bona fide criminal that is locked up, many more people are permanently punished for minor mistakes.
I challenge you to think and act instead of ignore. If the injustice of it all doesn’t make you want to take action, remember that by some twist of fate, it could be you behind bars one day, the mark of ‘criminal’ on your record for the rest of your life.
We are criminalizing more and more behavior: not just things we abhor, but things we find abnormal.
People who have been convicted of a serious crime have every reason to believe that their punishment will be interminable. For the simple fact that they’re now labeled a criminal.
We Are All Criminals is trying to push us toward a more humane and a more empathetic way of responding to people who – just like the rest of us – have done wrong.
“There has to be an end,” Baxter said. “There has to be hope.”
The present situations in St. Louis and Ferguson force the SLU community to sort through these types of issues, up close and personal. “We Are All Criminals” hit close to home. Sharing stories, experiences and participating in dialogues help everyone achieve their civic potential. Humans have the ability to change, only when grace and the pursuit of truth are also present, too. Baxter’s project promotes working together, and improving justice systems and challenging questions that society faces today.
“What comes to mind when you think of a criminal? Really, take a minute to imagine it. I’ll be here when you’re ready…[crickets]
All right, so what did you come up with? Any chance it was yourself? I’m not trying to call you a bad person, but I’d be willing to bet you’ve committed a crime or two in your day. Whether you were caught is another matter entirely. Take a look at the photos below … what would your sign say?”
“Too many people currently are prohibited from reaching their full potential. We must create a road to redemption for our neighbors, friends, colleagues and strangers. The first step in doing so is recognizing that we’re not all that different.”