As I walked into a warehouse filled with about 70 replicated prison beds in perfectly straight rows my stomach dropped. I could feel the stripping of inmates individuality, I could feel the dehumanization of the inmates, and as I walked through the beds I could feel the pain of their loved ones. However, when I saw the passion, drive, and vision of about seventy Artivist I became optimistic. Jail Bed Drop was a county wide art installation organized by Justice LA, an organization that is currently fighting the LA County 3.5 billion dollar jail expansion plan. On December 24th, 2017 over 50 Artivist dropped replicated jail beds in different cities within Los Angeles County. [ Artists crafted visual Art pieces, hosted picnics where people wrote letters to inmates, and as for myself and my collaborator Jeremy Grandberry did, created a performance art piece.] Our piece was displayed at Manhattan Village shopping plaza in Manhattan Beach, CA. This was our target population because it is an affluent area where 82 percent of the population are not people of color, this demographic of people are less likely to be directly affected by mass incarceration. We performed in a busy walkway where many people were walking and driving by. Our piece disrupted the walkway, informed shoppers of the LA County jail plan, offered them an alternate way to use the money, provided statistics to support the alternate plan, and challenged those passing to see the inmates as themselves through images we created with our bodies and the frame of the bed. We removed the slats of wood from the bottom of the bed and placed them against the wall and used them to write on. The frame of the bed symbolized how the structure of the prison system plays a major role in the US economy, education system, and the overall enslavement/oppression of black and brown people. We dressed in fashionable, relatable, and attention grabbing clothes to humanize inmates and draw our audience in. For an hour and twenty minutes we created uncomfortable and everyday-like shapes and postures in the frame of the bed.While going through these shapes we took turns writing different statistics on the slat of wood. These shapes were to show confinement and discomfort. We repeated gestures throughout the piece that physically said “Can you see me?” and “I am you and you are me.” This was different for people because it was disruptive, yet silent. It didn’t tell people something was right or wrong but it provided information with an image. What I love about images and movement in relation to activism is that it can easily convey feeling and emotion which is something that everybody can connect to to some extent. The LA County jail plan is not something that will just affect LA County, it affects the United States as a whole. This money being distributed to jail expansion rather than things that are going to help the roots of the problems such as drug and alcohol rehabilitation, mental health programs, schools, and healthcare, is just simply adding to the enslavement of people. We all have the power to affect what is happening in our local and global communities. We ask that you participate with us in signing a petition to stop this jail expansion.
To sign a petition click the link below:
Photography by: Ella Mikayelyan @ellamika_
Collaborator: Jeremy Grandberry @iosonoii
A VIDEO WILL BE COMING SOON!!!!!!!