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Influential Texts

The following texts are influential to my social justice studies by empowering me to live authnetically, constantly learn from those around me, and the power of storytelling.

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|Marcus, Girls to the Front (2010)

The Riot Grrrl Revolution is one that has been disputed and disregarded for years. This text identifies the radical feminist uprising that came to the surface whether folx wanted it to or not. Punk bands such as Bikini Kill and Bratmobile lead the revolution through music. Women with no patience for sexism were the pinnacle leaders of The Riot Grrrl Revolution. This text is exemplary in embodying feminism that is intersectional and forward thinking. It identifies social change tools that are entirely DIY through the process of zine making and consciousness-raising groups and manifestos. They preached inspiration and improvisation instead of institutionalization. This text was a great reminder during my college career that bossy girls get shit done, that free speech is a right, that I have a right to be angry, to fuck shit up, and that it is more powerful to believe in girl love rather than man hate. Every girl is a riot grrrl.

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|Chanel Miller, Know My Name (2019)

Know My Name is the memoir of Chanel Miller, whom the world previously knew as Emily Doe. In her memoir, she tells the world her story of trauma surrounding sexual assault and her resilience against a world that favors rapists over victims. Inside this text, she critiques the criminal justice system and addresses how it is quite literally designed to fail many marginalized communities. As she tells her own story, she is also telling the story of many, including women experiencing sexual assault and living in institutions the are built to protect men, including those who have been cheated by the criminal justice system, by those who have never had faith in the people’s whose job it is to protect them. Know My Name is a book that is driven through reclamation and showcases the power of individuals telling their own stories. Hearing about Chanel Miller’s case in high school and only recognizing her as Emily Doe had a profound effect on me. I immediately advocated for Brock Turner to be locked up and to throw away the key. However, as I have recently read Chanel Miller’s story and began to learn about restorative and transformative justice, I have learned that my hopes for the outcome of Brock Turner are not restorative or transformative. My old beliefs do not line up with my current ones of being a prison abolitionist. People who commit violent crimes are still very difficult for me to imagine as being potentially resolved without the prison system, but I know that I am taking the steps needed to learn and understand this new framework. 

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|Reynolds & Eisenman, Tamms is Torture: The Campaign to Close an Illinois Supermax Prison (2013)

Tamms Prison in Illinois was a Supermax Prison, meaning that everyone there was under a super-maximum security. It was often described as the “worst of the worst”, operating on sensory deprivation and isolation. The incarcerated people are isolated from each other, from family, isolated from any potential opportunity for community. Research has shown that these supermax prisons don’t resolve things like prison violence, but instead increase tension and worsen behavior. In Laurie Jo Reynolds and Stephen Eisenman’s article about the campaign to close the prison, we learn that political artists with real-world political goals were the key to shutting down the prison. Legislative art is crucial to the conversation surrounding abolition, because prison policies are made at the legislative level. Artists are often familiar with engaging with the so-called “impossible”. In order to stop violence, Melvin Haywood says that “it’s got to come from people from the streets, from the inside -- not the academics”. This article reminded me that the most influential social change happens when led by the oppressed group and artists alike. It encouraged me to work with other folx in the political and legislative world, and reminded me that I don’t need to reinvent the wheel when advocating for social change. 

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|Bancroft, Nesbett, Andress, Letters to a Young Artist (2008)

Inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, Letters to a Young Artist is a pocket sized book that includes twenty three letters that synthesize advice and opinions from popular artists including Yoko Ono, Adrian Piper and Mierle Laderman Ukeles. A thread between all of these artists is that their work is centered on community building, collaboration across disciplines, asking questions -- everything that my own artistic practice is dedicated to. This text makes one thing very clear -- that this small Art on Paper Book is filled with life lessons. These direct letters gave me faith, hope, fear and excitement in my career and my newly discovered identity as a young artist. It is a curious thing, receiving unsolicited advice from folx that I look up to with such high regard. Within each letter, I felt as though every artist was talking directly to me, speaking to me, offering me comfort and hope. I learned while reading this small text, that I want my art to have the same effect.

Emergent Strategy

|adrienne maree brown, Emergent Strategy (2017)

This book is for those who want to participate and envision radical social change. First and foremost, Emergent Strategy is not a book meant to be read cover to cover in one sitting. It is meant to be returned to, jumped around in, again and again, more than once. It includes poems, exercises, and essays. It includes music and facilitation guides and curriculums, all piled neatly in one small book. Inspired by Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, Brown offers the opportunity to engage with tools to transform ourselves and the society in which we inhabit. This text highlights three incredibly important things: that change is non-negotiable, that we must get rid of the status quo and that collaboration is the cornerstone of change. This text was one of the foundational texts to my Art for Social Change Program, in which I learned about theories and practices for building complex patterns and systems of change through small interactions. 

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|Helguera, Education for Socially Engaged Art (2011)

In Pablo Helguera’s Education for Socially Engaged Art, he creates a curriculum for Socially Engaged Art. There is a strong overlap in a hands-on approach between art, social engagement and education. This text discusses the complexities of identifying oneself as someone that practices socially engaged art, analyzing the convolutedness of being a generalist or a specialist within one’s field. Not only that, it outlines the difficult journey one must make between engaging within socially engaged art or taking a different path directly involved in community organising, ethnography, activism, or fields of that kind. This text was incredibly helpful in giving me the tools and language to discuss an art form that no other text had before.  It solidified my calling to become an artistic activist and taught me how to engage in public art and grounded my belief in collaboration across concentrations to promote real, influential social change.

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