Lifting Up Caged Voices: We Have Nothing to Lose But Their Chains

Friends, I’m reaching out to you today in this somewhat informal post to ask for your help in supporting a very important effort on behalf of Illinois’ abused prisoners. The Uptown Peoples’ Law Center (UPLC), an organization doing crucial work around prisoners’ rights, has only one day left to reach its fundraising goal – a goal that would allow attorneys to make monthly visits to Illinois prisons to gather first hand accounts of substandard medical treatment, solitary confinement induced trauma, and other human rights abuses.

Having been an intern at Uptown Peoples’ Law, I can tell you that the work they do is both under-compensated and positively essential. The efforts of its small team of employees are a labor of love, both for the invisibilized, and for the pursuit of justice itself. While there, I helped disabled individuals fight for the government benefits they desperately needed to survive, stay off the streets, and reclaim the dignity that poverty and an ablest society had stolen from them. The center’s work with prisoners is similarly grounded in a commitment to fight for those society has left behind.

As an abolitionist, I want to see the total deconstruction of the prison system, but for now, harm reduction is wholly necessary. In our day to day struggles against the injustices that we can see and feel for ourselves, we cannot forget the humanity of those who are caged and abused, because they deserve better, and our own humanity demands that we love and protect them, regardless of their guilt or innocence. They are human. We are human. As a society, we must decide what those realities are worth. To me, they’re worth an awful lot, because I believe in our decency, as well as our potential.

This week, my friends and I are building a mock up of a solitary confinement cell for an exhibit being put on by UPLC this Thursday. The Chicago Light Brigade has never tapped into our prop making toolkit for an exhibit that wasn’t also a direct action, but we feel this fight is critical, and that the  combined efforts of grassroots organizers and committed legal professionals, like the UPLC team, are essential to the fight against prisoner abuse. We hope you will join us on Thursday, but for today, we hope you will join us in making sure that attorneys are able to make their prison visits, to ensure that prisoners’ voices are heard.

As you consider clicking on the donation link, please remember what Assata taught us:

We have a duty to fight for our freedom.
We have a duty to win.
We must love and protect one another.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.

Volunteers paint sections of a full size model of a solitary confinement cell for an upcoming exhibit. (Photo: Kelly Hayes)
Volunteers paint sections of a full size model of a solitary confinement cell for an upcoming exhibit. (Photo: Kelly Hayes)

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