On Thursday, December 21, Evansville Letters to Prisoners (ELTP) hosted an event at Central Library where attendees read about common pathways to prison, explored and took home zines and other prisoner support materials, dropped off paperback book donations for the Vanderburgh County Detention Center, checked out library materials on mass incarceration and abolition, and listened as members of ELTP read aloud letters from prisoners. Some of the letters were written specifically to be shared at the event.
The event was part of a series developed by the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library called "A Million Voices in the River City, "which aims to ask the question, "is 'E' really for everyone?" Each month, a different group of people whose voices are often overlooked are invited to use the lobby of Central Library to share their stories.
The letters read aloud were written by Indiana prisoner, scholar, and playwright Anastazia Schmid; Indiana prisoner Shaka Shakur who recently underwent a successful hunger strike for better living conditions; Lamont Heard, a Michigan prisoner who was sentenced to life in prison as a juvenile; anarchist prisoner Sean Swain; black liberation fighter Kuwasi Balagoon; and Malcolm X.
Evansville Letters to Prisoners formed in October of 2015 as a way for people interested in supporting prisoners to work collaboratively. The group regularly holds letter writing events at which people can write to prisoners of their choosing or to the prisoners who are spotlighted that week, such as political prisoners with upcoming birthdays. Periodically, the group also holds fundraisers, movie nights, and other awareness-raising events. For updated information on the group, see facebook.com/evansvilleletterstoprisoners.
On Tuesday, February 23, Evansville Letters to Prisoners hosted a benefit at PG on Franklin Street to raise money for folks from the region who are facing charges related to anti-inauguration protests in Washington D.C. this past January. This was the fifth in a series of benefits in the past six months. This event showed how the volunteers who put these on have progressed in their theatrics, ability to engage in anarchist ideas in an accessible manner, and commitment to exploring the experiences of the beneficiaries in a tangible and interactive environment.
In response to the spectacle of Trump’s ascension, anarchists from around the country met in Washington D.C. and made a counter-spectacle. Several of the images that have become iconic from the inauguration day riots were used to theme carnival games for the benefit in Evansville. Attendees were greeted at the door, encouraged to donate some money and then presented with a table of free literature, including analyses and explanations of the black bloc, the tactic of property destruction, rioting and insurrection.
Protest tactics came to life on Saturday at PG, where attendees at Evansville Letters to Prisoners' event could learn how to "lock down" to equipment, create barricades, make face masks out of everyday items, shield themselves from state violence, and compile and use a street medic kit.
Participants could also make prayer ties and participate in a drum circle facilitated by members of a group of native and non-native people who meet regularly to drum. The repeated rounds of drumming throughout the event echoed the role that spirituality has played at Standing Rock. Drummers carried in mind a particular intention during each round of drumming, including positive intentions for water protectors and hope that those seen as enemies--cops, security personnel, politicians--change their minds and hearts.
I went to the first Critical Mass that I know of in Evansville, in 2008. I think three people showed. It was organized by a friend who I knew through our working together to prevent the construction of I-69. We both lived in collective houses that shared food and other resources. I remember that time as being a lot of fun: the way we got food, the way we made income, the ways we passed time together. That’s why I was glad to see people starting up Critical Mass here again. I wanted to be around people who were thinking about how to use the city as something more than a site of routine and drudgery. I was ready for more fun. I’m glad I’ve been going on the ride because I’ve found some of those folks.
Below is an interview with three people who ride at Critical Mass regularly. After the interview are a few of my thoughts on ways people who enjoy Critical Mass might be able spill that joy from into the streets to the homes and workplaces and all the places they lead to in each of our lives.
The Evansville Letters to Prisoners working group will present art and writings by anarchist prisoner and hopeful astronaut Casey Brezik at PG coffee house on Wednesday, August 17.
Casey needs to raise money to continue his coursework toward earning an engineering degree, which he will one day use to send anarchists into outer space.
The event starts at 7 p.m. and will include music performances by Alien_she and TheSunSeven. Some of Casey's artwork will be available for sale. To learn more about Casey and read his essays, check out kansascityabc.wordpress.com/category/casey-brezik/.
The Evansville Letters to Prisoners project supports efforts to end incarceration and supports people transitioning from prisoners back to people.
This is to be the first in a series of benefits and presentations in Evansville to build relationships with people imprisoned and those supporting them. Look for upcoming articles and information about a national prison strike that will kick off September 9 on the anniversary of the Attica rebellion.