Resources on Justice: Sarah Ross

Open Engagement has invited a group of contributors to make this year’s blog into a timely resource for organizing, moving forward and thinking creatively during particularly unjust times.

In light of our current reality and to align with this year’s conference theme of JUSTICE these blog posts will feature strategies, testimonies, literature, art and instructions as tools for working and living in the world as we know it.

The 2017 blog project, Resources on Justice, will grow over time, be published incrementally and will feature responses from a wide range of participants including activists, writers, thinkers, artists, teachers, arts professionals, community leaders, cultural workers, and more. It is an inclusive and accessible platform to think through the conference theme, introduce dialogues specific to the conference’s host city, as well as instigate ideas that can be applied beyond the context of this conference.

Sarah Ross is an educator and artist whose work uses narrative and the body to address spatial concerns as they relate to access, class, anxiety and activism. She co-founded the Prison + Neighborhood Arts Project (PNAP), a cultural project that brings together artists, writers and scholars in and outside Stateville prison to create public projects concerning segregation, criminalization and incarceration. During this time Sarah worked closely with local artists, activists, lawyers, torture survivors and scholars on Chicago Torture Justice Memorials—a recent four-year campaign for reparations for survivors of Chicago police torture.


 

  1. CRITICAL RESISTANCE 

CR has been around for almost 2 decades now. I learned about them in the mid 2000s, and in 2007 I went to the 10 year conference in Oakland. Their framework trained me up on what abolition is— and their work has made prison abolition a much more common term, idea, and vision. They put out The Abolitionist newspaper, which goes to thousands of people in prison and published an edited volume called Abolition Now. I recommend reading both. Plus they have lots of tools on their website to think about how to teach abolition and ways of addressing harm that don’t rely on punishment, prisons and policing.

2. INCITE

I’ve followed the work of INCITE for a while and appreciate their analysis of ‘carceral feminisms’. In the 2000s I worked with people who identified as women, and who were surviving domestic violence and I saw how social service systems relied on police and prisons as a solution to violence, not the source of it. INCITE’s work succinctly understands this. Furthermore, their work helped me more deeply understand how (the figure of the) white woman has been— and continues to be —used as a reason to criminalize and lock up more and more people of color. INCITE’s work names this racism and resists it— and builds much needed resources and support for women, trans, and queer people of color.  

3. YOUTH JUSTICE PROJECTS

There are so many people and groups doing work with and by young folks. I am excited about these projects because they are leading our future! I’ve followed Youth Justice Coalition in Los Angeles from afar and only seen them speak a few times, but when I did, I was blown away. These young folks articulated the ways they solved problems without policing, fought for better education and housing, and organized against the use of gang injunctions and other policing tools that so heavily surveilled them. In Chicago, Project NIA, founded by the amazing Mariame Kaba, has done similar work that focuses on how criminal legal systems ensnare young people. Project NIA has created tons of circular resources, developed workshops, started peace circles, and hosted exhibitions. In 2011 I attended a summer workshop around the PIC that Project NIA hosted. I learned so much with other organizers and see their work show up in the world in powerful ways today— like the work of Page May who is a cofounder of Assata’s Daughters a grassroots collective project project that, among other things, offers political education, black feminist theory and organizing training to black girls.  

4. LEGAL TEAMS AND LAW PROJECTS

I’m a big fan of law projects in Chicago like the People’s Law Office, Transformative Justice Law Project, Uptown People’s Law in Chicago, The Children and Family Justice Center, Center on Wrongful Convictions, Cabrini Green Legal Aide, Metropolitan Tenants Organization and others. They represent and believe people when others won’t, they sue state systems for misconduct (or worse) and are able to use the law for us, when so often it’s used against us.

5. EDUCATION PROJECTS

There are also many awesome education projects that offer free or low cost education to people. Centro Autonomo, Sister Jean Hughes Adult High School, the Michael Barlow Center, the Odyssey Project, even Chicago City Colleges offers free GED classes and some free college credits. Free and affordable education, housing, and healthcare are some key ways to build communities of care necessary to ending segregation, prisons and policing. We might see this connection more clearly by looking at this rise in gun violence in Chicago and the state’s inability to pass a state budget, which has, for 2 years resulted in little to no funding for basic, life sustaining services.


Resources on Justice – Aaron Hughes

Open Engagement has invited a group of contributors to make this year’s blog into a timely resource for organizing, moving forward and thinking creatively during particularly unjust times.

In light of our current reality and to align with this year’s conference theme of JUSTICE these blog posts will feature strategies, testimonies, literature, art and instructions as tools for working and living in the world as we know it.

The 2017 blog project, Resources on Justice, will grow over time, be published incrementally and will feature responses from a wide range of participants including activists, writers, thinkers, artists, teachers, arts professionals, community leaders, cultural workers, and more. It is an inclusive and accessible platform to think through the conference theme, introduce dialogues specific to the conference’s host city, as well as instigate ideas that can be applied beyond the context of this conference.

Aaron Hughes is an artist, activist, teacher, and Iraq War veteran based in Chicago. He works collaboratively with a range of art and activist projects and organizations including the Tea Project, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Warrior Writers, National Veterans Art Museum, Justseeds Artist’s Cooperative, and Prison & Neighborhood Arts Project.


 

  1. Community

The successful projects, organizations, and movements for justice that I know of have been deeply rooted in community. Communities defend, sustain, grow, inspire, and transform movements just as movements defend, sustain, grow, inspire, and transform communities. Personally, my community of artists, activists, and veterans have saved my life, motivated me to act, given me ways to fight for justice, inspired me to make a deeper commitment to organizing for the long haul, helped me understand the intersectionality of oppression, and connected me to new friends and family. Some of the organization’s in my community include:

  1. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence given on April 4, 1967 at the New York’s Riverside Church and the emerging Chicago based Resist. Reimagine. Rebuild. network

(Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Image from Democracy Now!)

April 4, 2017 will be the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Beyond Vietnam speech linking the war in Vietnam with racism at home and highlighting the intersection and destructive power of militarism, racism, and materialism. To this day this speech humbles my heart and provides a vision of a path forward towards a more just future. A year to the day after the Beyond Vietnam speech, April 4, 1968, Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee while campaigning for sanitation workers.

It is no coincidence that the Chicago based Resist. Reimagine. Rebuild. network announced its first public action Looking Back, Not Going Back, a citywide convergence and teach-in, for this same date, April 4, 2017. Resist. Reimagine. Rebuild. is a network of more than thirty Chicago organizations committed to building a united front to Resist repressive policies and neo-fascist tactics; Reimagine our futures knowing that our progressive struggles—anti-racist, anti-war, anti-capitalist, anti-xenophobic, and Queer—are inextricably linked; and collectively Rebuild our communities. It is in this vision of a united front that highlights the intersections, just as Dr. King did fifty years ago, that I see Chicago’s path towards a more just future.

(Graphic from the Resist. Reimagine. Rebuild. network.)

  1. Graphics for the Movement from Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative (Celebrate People’s History Poster Series and Justseeds Graphics Page)

(Image from Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative.)

 Celebrate People’s History Poster Series

Since 1998, Josh MacPhee has organized and curated Celebrate People’s History Poster Series to highlight the stories of people’s movements and underdogs who are often left out of history books. The series pulls from Howard Zinn’s framework outlined in his famed book, A People’s History of the United States of America, making the project a powerful and popular tool for education and political organizing. Prints from the series end up in classrooms, community centers, activist spaces, and art spaces inspiring and educating students and activists alike.

Top Left: I am Trayvon Martin by Jesus Barraza, Mazatl, & Melanie Cervantes

Top Right: Resistance! by Tara Murino-Brault

Bottom Right: Sanctuary Cities NOW by Pete Railand

Bottom Left: Protect the Water | Defend the Land by Melanie Cervantes

Justseeds Graphics Page

This page hosts graphics by Justseeds members and their allies that are created with and for a broad spectrum of people’s movements. The graphics are free for people to use on flyers, posters, banners, t-shirts, and websites for the movement. Most of the graphics are inspirational, uplifting, and highlight messages from frontline organizations. These graphics are an amazing resource when developing designs for political posters or in preparation for demonstrations. They also inspire artists to produce their own graphics and get their message out there. Download and distribute for the movement today!

  1. Public Libraries

Everywhere I’ve lived in the United States I’ve found the local public library and used it for information, inspiration, meetings, shelter, and relaxation. Libraries are abundant in resources. Just think of all those books on topics from legal rights, to organizing, to gardening, to poetry. A few of the publications in the Chicago Public Library that I think of when considering the struggle for Justice are:

I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle by Charles M. Payne

Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities by Rebecca Solnit 

Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire 

The Long Haul: An Autobiography by Myles Horton

  1. Universal Declaration of Human Rights

(Eleanor Roosevelt, diplomat, activist and former First Lady of the United States, reading from the Declaration in 1948. Image from United Nations.)

Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948, this document outlines universal and unconditional rights and has been used as the inspirational underpinnings of legal arguments, powerful people’s movements, and groundbreaking organizations including:

 


Resources on Justice – Carron Little

Open Engagement has invited a group of contributors to make this year’s blog into a timely resource for organizing, moving forward and thinking creatively during particularly unjust times.

In light of our current reality and to align with this year’s conference theme of JUSTICE these blog posts will feature strategies, testimonies, literature, art and instructions as tools for working and living in the world as we know it.

The 2017 blog project, Resources on Justice, will grow over time, be published incrementally and will feature responses from a wide range of participants including activists, writers, thinkers, artists, teachers, arts professionals, community leaders, cultural workers, and more. It is an inclusive and accessible platform to think through the conference theme, introduce dialogues specific to the conference’s host city, as well as instigate ideas that can be applied beyond the context of this conference.

Carron Little creates public engagement projects for neighborhoods and cities. She founded Out of Site Chicago in 2011, a public performance series that has funded and produced over seventy public performances by local and international artists to date. Little teaches in the Performance Department at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and in Chicago Public Schools.


 Five selected texts:

N-Paradoxa – International Feminist Art Magazine edited by Katy Deepwell

Living by the Word by Alice Walker

The Death and Life of American Cities by Jane Jacob

The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz

Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord

I’ve been asked to write about Justice in relation to the texts I have chosen and as a way of living in the world as a creative practitioner. For me justice starts at the point of thinking about what I am going to make and this is highly connected to how I choose to live and engage with the world. I never know what I am going to make when I start a project and this unknowing is an important part of the process. I go in with my eyes open looking and listening.

For example, Eden Unluata curated five artists in Uptown in 2013 for Open House Chicago. Each artist was given a historic building and I was given the Bridgeview Bank. I knew I wanted people to walk away with more wealth than what they entered with. In a meeting with the Bank Manager who was rather dubious about The Queen of Luxuria’s performance, I explained that each participant would walk away with a gift, that the performance was structured like a game of monopoly looking at value and personal happiness. Through further research I came across statistics related to pay inequality in America. I decided to create a calculation where I evaluated what people hadn’t received due to pay inequity. The statistics in 2013 were shocking with Hispanic women earning 53% to the average salary of a white male counterpart. African American women were earning 63% and white women 73%. Each of these statistics have moved up 5% since. Through the performance research of the project I discovered something even worse. Every time I perform this work fifty percent of the participants I interview are earning 15,000 dollars a year or less. When we talk about justice, art has the capacity to reveal the problems that we don’t want to see. This project reveals how people and families are impoverished systematically across racial and gender lines.

In 2015 I was commissioned to do a public engagement project for the neighborhood of Beverly. I had proposed to interview eight people over the age of seventy about their life stories. In bringing the eight participants together throughout the development and making of the project we discussed everything from race relations in America, the Civil Rights Movement, to queer history and culture in context of a worldly perspective and the women’s liberation movement. Open space was made for these people who had been neighbors for fifty years to get to find commonalities and become friends. It also gave room to a younger generation to

learn about their untold history. We all learnt some much from each other. After doing the performance for Beverly Art Walk in 2015 I chose one of the participant’s stories to develop further and started to research through archive in the city. I contacted institutions in Chicago and down state and started to uncover an undocumented story of Women Mobilized for Change that were a women’s collective that grew out of the Civil Rights Movement. They existed for eight years and made a lot of progress in fair housing legislation helping to pass through Bill 155 in Springfield. In 2016 I got funding from Chicago Park District to create a public performance that traveled around the park district. I put together a diverse group of women from all parts of the city, I gave them the poem, the music, the research and with a theater Director and Choreographer asked them to collaborate to create a public performance. We invited original members of Women Mobilized for Change to each performance and after each performance we held hour long circle conversations talking about the issues raised in the performance. Women Mobilized for Change held their first conference on March 4th 1967 and we were able to book Chicago Cultural center fifty years to the exact same day, date and time.

Women’s history being written out of history is a constant struggle within a local and global context. Magazines like N-Paradoxa, the International Feminist Magazine seek to redress this and it is imperative that we provide the tools for the next generation. I was traveling last semester for SAIC doing admissions work and I was in St Louis where this one student said to me: “I’m a child of the nineties, I grew up with no positive female role models. I want to address this in the work I do.” I was horrified that collectively we have all let down the next generation if we don’t make diverse representations now. Writing diverse representations of people into the work we create is imperative and inclusive representation is justice in form. It is imperative that we think about how we make and produce images. It will not be easy, as there are so many divisions to heal, so many prejudices to overcome but everyone entering these spaces is working for justice and that has to be acknowledged, supported and mutually respected. We will make mistakes and the conversations won’t be easy but we have a long road to walk and we need to do it collectively and thoughtfully for the next generation.

That is why I have selected these five texts that have informed the work that I do as an artist. Living by the Word by Alice Walker was a vital book growing up and helped shaped my consciousness as a teenager. The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz I’ve carried with me from London to Chicago and is structured around the story of one women from birth to death who is forbidden to leave the house. The Death and Life of American Cities by Jane Jacobs is a vital book re-thinking our cities and is important to the work I do as founder and director of Out of Site Chicago. In the current climate, I would like to recommend Surpassing the Spectacle by Carol Becker and Spectacle Pedagogy by Charles R. Garoian and Yvonne M. Gaudelius. Both these texts reference and are inspired by Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle that was written in 1967 and predict the current times we are living in.

 


Resources on Justice – Diaz Lewis

Open Engagement has invited a group of contributors to make this year’s blog into a timely resource for organizing, moving forward and thinking creatively during particularly unjust times.

In light of our current reality and to align with this year’s conference theme of JUSTICE these blog posts will feature strategies, testimonies, literature, art and instructions as tools for working and living in the world as we know it.

The 2017 blog project, Resources on Justice, will grow over time, be published incrementally and will feature responses from a wide range of participants including activists, writers, thinkers, artists, teachers, arts professionals, community leaders, cultural workers, and more. It is an inclusive and accessible platform to think through the conference theme, introduce dialogues specific to the conference’s host city, as well as instigate ideas that can be applied beyond the context of this conference.

Diaz Lewis – the collaborative duo comprised of Alejandro Figueredo Diaz-Perera and Cara Megan Lewis – create art to prompt social change. After the couple met in 2012, they worked across the divide between Cuba and the U.S. Now based in Los Angeles, their practice as artists and activists is fueled by deconstructing social processes and the symbols and politics behind them. The pair dissect themes such as rhetoric, immigration and property rights from two distinct and often opposing angles. Diaz Lewis were most recently artists-in-residence at the Chicago Cultural Center through the support of the Joyce Foundation. Today on the blog they share with us their Top 5 Resources on Justice.


 

  1. “Apology of Sócrates” by Plato

When reading the Apology of Socrates one could be led to believe that when Plato developed his famous Allegory of the Cave he was actually describing the struggle of Socrates when he attempted to open the eyes of his greek contemporaries. The Apology gives readers the possibility of understanding the main principles of philosophy and the ideological basis of Western civilization through the eyes of the political struggle of that time and context. With this read one realizes that philosophy, when used right can be as a strong a tool for social change as a riot.

  1. “Before the Law” a parable contained in the novel “The Trial” by Franz Kafka

Before the Law is less of  a short story and more of  a shout for mobilization of the people and the poor. With this paradox Kafka forces us to consider our own societal self-censorship and the chains that keep us oppressed have been locked by ourselves. This is the book that can make you re-think yourself as a political actor for the first time when you are just a teenager. It’s cry for social justice hits you in the heart.

  1. “Payoff: How Congress Ensures Private Prison Profit with an Immigrant Detention Quota” Report by Bethany Carson and Eleana Diaz, April 2015.

This report is the most detailed investigation and explanation of the immigration detention system and the business of the For-Profit Prison Industry in the United States.

  1. Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

In this letter King exposes the social context and the ideological walls that made impossible his long deferred dream of Social Justice.

  1. “Un libro levemente odioso,” by Roque Dalton, 1972

This is a book of sarcastic poetry from a revolutionary and politically involved Salvadoran writer who considered Cuba to be his 2nd homeland.

 

 


Resources on Justice – Amber Ginsburg

Open Engagement has invited a group of contributors to make this year’s blog into a timely resource for organizing, moving forward and thinking creatively during particularly unjust times.

In light of our current reality and to align with this year’s conference theme of JUSTICE these blog posts will feature strategies, testimonies, literature, art and instructions as tools for working and living in the world as we know it.

The 2017 blog project, Resources on Justice, will grow over time, be published incrementally and will feature responses from a wide range of participants including activists, writers, thinkers, artists, teachers, arts professionals, community leaders, cultural workers, and more. It is an inclusive and accessible platform to think through the conference theme, introduce dialogues specific to the conference’s host city, as well as instigate ideas that can be applied beyond the context of this conference.

About the contributor: Together with collaborators, Amber Ginsburg creates site-generated projects and social sculpture that insert historical scenarios into present day situations. Her background in craft orients her projects towards the continuities and ruptures in material, social, and utopic histories. She teaches in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Chicago. Amber shares with us her Top 5 Resources on Justice for the 2017 blog project.


 

  1. Chicago Torture Justice Memorials and the Jon Burge Reparations

The Chicago Torture Justice Memorials project, which helped facilitate and lead to the Burge Reparations for survivors of police torture is one of the most remarkable models of artists, activists, survivors and lawyers coming together and effectively advocating for accountability. Said best their own words ––

“Chicago Torture Justice Memorials (CTJM) aims to honor and to seek justice for the survivors of Chicago police torture, their family members and the African American communities affected by the torture. In 2010 CTJM, a group of attorneys, artists, educators, and social justice activists, put out a call for speculative memorials to recall and honor the two-decades long struggle for justice waged by torture survivors and their families, attorneys, community organizers, and people from every neighborhood and walk of life in Chicago. This effort culminated in a major exhibition of 75 proposals and a year-long series of associated teach-ins, roundtables, and other public events in 2011-2013.CTJM now turns its attention to a campaign for reparations for those affected by Chicago Police torture, and to working in solidarity with other groups and individuals for racial justice and to end police violence and mass incarceration.”

The Burge Reparations offers redress to individual survivors, their families, their communities, provides education on police torture in public schools and allows descendants of survivors education and training opportunities, as well as a public memorial. This multifaceted approach to reparations, in very real terms, recognizes the depth of loss perpetrated by torture and injustice.

Recommendation: Read the Burge Reparations

  1. Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN)

IMAN, a south-west Chicago organization offers health care services, dentistry, youth poetry slams (they are great!), art classes, green construction training for formerly incarcerated men, counseling and much much more. This small organization, deeply immersed in the community directly combats negative ideas spread through Islamophobia by their powerful social justice programming.

imancentral.org

  1. Chicago Community Bond Fund

“The Chicago Community Bond Fund (CCBF) pays bond for people charged with crimes in Cook County, Illinois. Through a revolving fund, CCBF supports individuals whose communities cannot afford to pay the bonds themselves and who have been impacted by structural violence. Inability to pay bond results in higher rates of conviction, longer sentences, loss of housing and jobs, separation of families, and lost custody of children. By paying bond, CCBF restores the presumption of innocence before trial and enables recipients to remain free while fighting their cases. CCBF also engages in public education about the role of bond in the criminal legal system and advocates for the abolition of money bond. CCBF is committed to long term relationship building and organizing with people most directly impacted by criminalization and policing.”

chicagobond.org

  1. Prison + Neighborhood Arts Project (PNAP)

“Prison + Neighborhood Arts Project is a visual arts and humanities project that connects teaching artists and scholars to men at Stateville Maximum Security Prison through classes, workshops and guest lectures. Classes offered include subjects ranging from poetry, visual arts, and film study to political theory, social studies, and history. Classes are held once a week, on a 14 week semester schedule. Each course results in finished projects—visual art, creative writing and critical essays—with specific audiences and neighborhoods in mind. These works are then exhibited and read in neighborhood galleries and cultural centers. Over the course of an academic semester, artists and scholars on the inside and outside address key questions:

What can we learn from each other?

Who are our audiences?

What materials and methods best relate our concerns?

What can we say from inside a maximum security prison?”

p-nap.org

  1. Jane Addams Hull House Museum

In terms of the theme of Justice, I would be remiss to not include Jane Addams, such an important thinker and model for lived/action-based ideas of change.

hullhousemuseum.org


Resources on Justice – Marisa Jahn

Open Engagement has invited a group of contributors to make this year’s blog into a timely resource for organizing, moving forward and thinking creatively during particularly unjust times.

In light of our current reality and to align with this year’s conference theme of JUSTICE these blog posts will feature strategies, testimonies, literature, art and instructions as tools for working and living in the world as we know it.

The 2017 blog project, Resources on Justice, will grow over time, be published incrementally and will feature responses from a wide range of participants including activists, writers, thinkers, artists, teachers, arts professionals, community leaders, cultural workers, and more. It is an inclusive and accessible platform to think through the conference theme, introduce dialogues specific to the conference’s host city, as well as instigate ideas that can be applied beyond the context of this conference.

About the contributor: Marisa Morán Jahn is an artist, activist, and founder of Studio REV-, a non-profit organization that produces public art + creative media with low-wage workers, immigrants, and youth. She teaches at MIT and The New School. Her current projects include CareForce (mobile studios: the CareForce One and NannyVan), Video Slink Uganda, Bibliobandido. Marisa shares with us her Top 5 Resources on Justice on the blog.


1. Cassils, Transliberation

Cassils is a transgender artist whose powerful works are particularly resonant right now. Here is a video Cassils created in response to the Pulse night club shooting. I recall watching this for the first time and crying from its power; the retrenchments of LGBTQA rights under the new administration invoke that same horror and shock. Here is a link to more of Cassils’ work. When showing their work to students I first show them the wikipedia definition of transhysteria which we discuss and address.

2. Immigration Resources

Women Step Forward is an easy-to-use website that offers step by step instructions to guide individuals with different immigration status towards trusted, verified resources. You can also find trusted, vetted lawyers (since a lot of immigrants face fraud in legal processes), advocacy pipelines, and options. The site and its resources were created after the election by We Belong Together, an initiative of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (an organization with whom I work closely) and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (who support immigrant, women leaders).

3. Digital Inclusion

Stemming from a long-standing curiosity about the technologies of intimacy (extimacy) such as letter-writing, the Roman postal network, Ugandan bootleg industries, Afghan fighters composing love poems to their enemies via bluetooth, etc., I’ve been recently fascinated by the rhetoric of so-called “networked economy” whose de-territorialized metaphors (“the cloud”) belie an ecology of server farms relaying messages to select countries via underwater sea cables lain by 19th century colonial allies. How do these infrastructures reify hegemony or alternately, support digital inclusion? For example, in 2016, Facebook and the entrepreneur Elon Musk sent a satellite into space (which exploded), intending to “bring Facebook to Africa” — an undertaking that provokes a question about how corporate-owned proprietary networks produce a new form of reliance and dependency.

For more information about the politics of a digital economy on which most of us depend, I recommend Nicole Starosielski’s amazing book, The Undersea Network.

4. Grow the movement! Provide childcare at political gatherings!

Providing childcare at political gatherings (and ideally cultural gatherings as well) helps grow the movement. Let me unpack this a bit. Having a kid is expensive. National estimates say that the average cost of having a cost is about $13,000 and it gets even more expensive in urban areas. So paying for a babysitter isn’t always an option for people — especially artists, activists, lower-income folks, and those from frontline groups. Without organized childcare at events, we thus exclude many from participating and end up with insular conversations. When we do include childcare, those kids develop life-long friendships with their peers within the movement and the arts community. Plus, older, more experienced activists who have kids are able to participate and share knowledge; they are also reinvigorated by younger artists — so this is a two-way street.

Organizing cooperative childcare can be low-cost or free. I remember going to punk disco dance parties in Canada where they provided childcare. And many immigrant groups and most domestic worker groups offer childcare at meetings. They simply asked those from their community to volunteer. If you do want to turn to domestic worker and childcare coops for support, here are two:

  • Beyond Care (Brooklyn) is a child care services cooperative created and run by professional nannies.
  • ChiChiCo (Chicago) is a group of volunteers who support the participation of parents, especially mothers, in racial and economic justice work. The collective matches volunteers with community organizations across the city to have fun with kids while their parents participate in and lead organizing efforts to defend their rights and build a better Chicago.

5. Screenprints from the series Solutions for the CareForce

Title: Mamas Wanna Dance (from the series, Solutions for the CareForce)

Authorship: Marisa Morán Jahn (Studio REV-)

Date: 2017

Medium: Silkscreen (1 of 10)

Dimensions: 19” x 25”

Photo Credit: Taehee Whang, 2017

Special Thanks: Taehee Whang



Title: Grow the Movement (from the series, Solutions for the CareForce)

Authorship: Marisa Morán Jahn (Studio REV-)

Date: 2017

Medium: Silkscreen (1 of 10)

Dimensions: 19” x 25”

Photo Credit: Taehee Whang, 2017

Special Thanks: Taehee Whang



Title: Increase America’s Pre-Tax Care Allowance (from the series, Solutions for the CareForce)

Authorship: Marisa Morán Jahn (Studio REV-)

Date: 2017

Medium: Silkscreen (1 of 7)

Dimensions: 19” x 25”

Photo Credit: Taehee Whang, 2017

Special Thanks: Taehee Whang



Title: Support America’s Elderboom (from the series, Solutions for the CareForce)

Authorship: Marisa Morán Jahn (Studio REV-)

Date: 2017

Medium: Silkscreen (1 of 10)

Dimensions: 19” x 25”

Photo Credit: Taehee Whang, 2017

Special Thanks: Taehee Whang

Title: Caregiver Credits (from the series, Solutions for the CareForce)

Authorship: Marisa Morán Jahn (Studio REV-)

Date: 2017

Medium: Silkscreen (1 of 7)

Dimensions: 19” x 25”

Photo Credit: Taehee Whang, 2017

Special Thanks: Taehee Whang


Let’s continue to make magic together – Registration for OE 2017 is open!

Dearest friend of Open Engagement,

While the conference might look polished, well funded, and fully staffed, the reality is that the conference does not even have one dedicated full-time staff member, and our operating budget is 1/3 that of convenings a fraction of our size. The primary team of OE is only four people. With how much we have done with so little I think we might be legitimate witches.

It is almost springtime in Chicago, and that magical feeling of rejuvenation and transformation is in the air as we ready ourselves for the 9th annual conference, set to take place in Chicago on April 21-23 2017. We are steeped in the details and logistics of realizing what has become the largest artist-led and operated conference dedicated to socially engaged art. Last December we met with over 25 artists, organizers, and community members to program the conference through our open call for proposals that generated over 300 submissions. We are thrilled and excited about the quality of programming, the projects from around the world, and the critical conversations and performances that we have lined up for Chicago.

Open Engagement in Chicago is the second in our three-part thematic trilogy that is taking the conference from Oakland (2016 –– POWER), to Chicago (2017 –– JUSTICE), and ending in New York (2018 –– SUSTAINABILITY). As founder and director, and with OE’s ten year anniversary coinciding with our last scheduled conference in 2018, I am thinking about the future, and where our values, punk ethos, centrality of weirdness, collective care, love, dreams, and magic may take us.

Since 2007, OE has grown and evolved in so many ways. We have worked on nine conferences in two countries and six cities, hosting over 1,600 presenters and over 6,000 attendees. I started work on this conference in 2006 because I saw an urgent need for community, for support, and the political potential of art and dialogue. It has become a site of care for this field. We have formed a national consortium of five organizations and institutions who also believe in the power of art and artists to enact creative change in the world.

Open Engagement began as a student project, as my graduate thesis. It was made possible because of a DIY spirit, and an incredible group of community members who rallied around the idea and worked hard to make the conference happen with wildly limited resources. The small core team that on a part-time basis make the day-to-day workings of Open Engagement happen, are Assistant Director Crystal Baxley, Alex Winters on social media, and Administrative Assistant Latham Zearfoss.

Recently three of us connected in Chicago for a few days of intensive OE work. One evening, following our work day, we went to a premiere screening of Open TV’s second season of Brujos, a web series chronicling four gay Latino PhD candidates who are witches. Similar to OE, Open TV is a space that values, centers, and respects voices and individuals that are often marginalized. Following the screening of the first episode, writer/creator/director/lead actor Ricardo Gamboa noted that POC and WOC are not represented in popular televisual media centering on the occult and supernatural magic. Gamboa noted the inherent irony, arguing that we must be magic to have not only endured, but to have survived, occasionally even thrived. With how much OE has done with so little, I feel a similar way: magic that has allowed us to get to this point. We have made a space within the art world that more accurately represents the one we would like to see, and conjured a community to exist there with us—you!

Magic is essentially about transformation and power. OE has been able to continue for nearly a decade, in part because we have been able to navigate institutional partnerships. In so doing we reassign value and resources, creating new hybrid space of material and psychic support. Socially engaged artist, writer, and educator Ted Purves has been present at Open Engagement from the very inception of the project. He served as my external examiner for my graduate thesis work, which happened to be the very first iteration of OE. He affirmingly described Open Engagement as a “punk” conference. This description without a doubt captures the scrappiness of piecing things together, but also, and more importantly, the urgency and the desire to make our own institutions that enact our values. As we turn the corner towards a decade of this endeavor, I want to ensure that we do not lose this self-actualizing sensibility.

Our recent OE intensive work session ended with the three of us in a nearly completely empty karaoke bar on a Tuesday night with me singing Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” to Crystal and Latham. Before this, we had dinner together and discussed our dreams for the future of the conference. The conversation explored radically different forms, long-term options, satellite models, more distributed weight and labor, chapters, rural locales, and more. Unifying these disparate tracks is a need to fortify OE as a site that imagines and realizes what does not yet exist, that we can be radical, and that above all that we care for and support this field.

Latham mentioned a piece of advice that he received from a mentor that he often returns to. The sentiment is simple: if you are working collectively, and not everyone is in agreement, there is always a better idea. You all are our collaborators, our co-conspirators. We exist because of you. We are excited about the next two years of Open Engagement with you, as well the potential that the future holds. What do we need to do next? What work is not being done that we can manifest and conjure for the field? We cannot continue to serve as a site of care for the field without your help. Please know that when you choose to contribute to Open Engagement we see it as a confirmation of the beloved community that continues to work hard, fight for change, and show up for one another in the continued struggles of our time. We ask that if you are planning to attend OE 2017 that you donate what you can during the registration process. Register for OE 2017 now! If you cannot attend and still want to make a contribution we ask that you do so by April 15th. Information on how to make a donation is below.

OE needs your support, let’s continue to make magic together.

To all the weirdness, magic, care, and love our hearts, minds, and spirits can muster,

Jen Delos Reyes with the Open Engagement team—Crystal Baxley, Alex Winters, Latham Zearfoss