For more info on upcoming events, email email@example.com
Minneapolis: June 14
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/
Durham: June 20
Center for Death Penalty Litigation
Mystic Lake: June 28
2018 Minnesota State Bar Association Convention with Emily and Richard
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!
Invite us to your college, city, or organization
by sending Emily a note at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
“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.”
“commonality means humanization means destigmatization”
“To persuade others that they should give people convicted of crimes a second chance, Baxter is employing an interesting argument.”
“Ever break the law? A Minnesota attorney is soliciting confessions.”
“Have you ever committed a crime? Stop lying: you almost definitely have… [WAAC’s] point is less that we’re all bad people, and more that those who are caught aren’t really all that worse than the rest of us.”
“By emphasizing the crimes of the unconvicted, Baxter blurs the lines between criminal and noncriminal and draws attention to the detrimental effects that a criminal record has on the lives of those who are convicted.”
“It is, at its core, about second chances, Baxter says, and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. No matter how uncomfortably they fit.”
Written by Jill Callison; Reprinted with permission from the Sioux Falls Argus Leader
“The most intriguing part of [the] project lies in its look at society as a whole. Imagine if we had all been prosecuted for every crime we committed, even as a juvenile. What would the crime rate look like then?”
“Few (if any) of us have abstained from crime completely. And recognizing our own criminality is often an important first step in understanding the situation of those who are caught and punished for crimes.”
“Think for a moment about the incredible power a criminal record has over every aspect of one’s life.”
“You haven’t ever committed a crime? Keep thinking.”