I began this blog in May 2009 following the death of Marcia Powell at Perryville State Prison in Goodyear, Arizona. It is not intended to prescribe the path that leads to freedom from the prison industrial complex.

Rather, these are just my observations in arguably the most racist, fascist, militaristic state in the nation at a critical time in history for a number of intersecting liberation movements. From Indigenous resistance to genocidal practices, to the fight over laws like SB1070 and the ban on Ethnic Studies, Arizona is at the center of many battles for human rights, and thus the struggle for prison abolition as well - for none are free until all are. I retired the blog in APRIL 2013.

Visit me now at Arizona Prison Watch or Survivors of Prison Violence-AZ

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Light in us All

This is the photo that the Department of Corrections had posted on their website in Marcia's record at the time of her death, which was so widely circulated in the press. She appears frightened, traumatized, disheveled, and likely very depressed. It may evoke pity - and apparently contempt among some - but it doesn't invite empathy, or leave open the possibility for most that Marcia could have just as easily been their mother, daughter, sister, or friend.

I've been reading chats about her today that appear to be written by people too ashamed of their comments to use their real names. Yet many seem to be enough at home with eachother in their chat rooms that they don't hesitate to ridicule a dead woman for falling victim to circumstances few of us could have endured for 48 years. I haven't blogged all day just because I've been so sick from what I've read.

This photo below, now on the ADC website (but not in the press), appears to be from several years earlier, before decades of addiction, poverty, and mental illness began to take their toll. Perhaps had the press used this photo, fewer people would be so quick to speak about her as if she were trash, or of less significance than a dog. She was once a vibrant woman whose smile belied the trauma she'd already endured. She was a living soul, and in both images, if we look beyond what we've been told, it's not that hard to see the light of God in her, as the Quakers are fond of saying.

The Light of God.

I don't consider myself religious, but I do think that life is sacred and the Mystery that causes our hearts to beat, our faces to smile, our arms to hug, our stomachs to turn, our eyes to tear, our minds to open or close, our souls to grieve, and the deepest part of our being to long to be better than we are is not a Power to take lightly. Whether or not her life was worth saving shouldn't even be up for debate. How we respond to this tragedy ultimately says nothing about Marcia; it says everything about what kind of people - what kind of community- we are.

Fortunately not everyone is so callous or cruel - I know there are folks out there who would do something if they could to set justice right for Marica and all those who struggle each day just to survive. There's actually a lot we can do; it's worth repeating.

Contact elected officials and demand an independent inquiry.

Write letters to the editor expressing your outrage and sadness over her death - don't bury it in a chat or a blog.

Organize or attend a vigil or memorial with members of your community. Vigils for prisoners who died at the hands of the state give permission to the frightened families of other prisoners to open up to their neighbors, speak about their experience, and stop living in shame.

Make a donation in Marcia's memory to a prisoner support or a prison abolition or reform program.

Let the Department of Corrections know that some of us expect prisoners to be treated better than that - we want them to come out healthier and saner than when they went in, not more disturbed or despairing. We need them at their best if they're going to come home to our neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools. Otherwise, what's the point of putting them away in the first place?

And don't bother arguing with those who are just entertained by your concern. They aren't likely to abandon their bigotry, especially if it's the only thing that makes them feel superior to others. Talk instead to open minds and compassionate souls who just need a little encouragement to take constructive action - to be the change.

Finally, we must all insist that they tear down those cages in the sun.

No comments:

Post a Comment