"The whole movement of life is learning" (Krishnamurti). "To be an act of knowing, then, the adult literacy process must engage the learners in the constant problematizing of their existential situations" (Freire). "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free" (Douglass). "I can learn anything I have the desire to learn" (White, S.G.).

Monday, February 17, 2014


Reflecting on last week's discussion about the connotation of words and how they connote different meanings among different groups, I considered my work at the Richmond City Jail and our positive association with the word “manifesto.” We publish a (usually) quarterly zine, and instead of writing a mission statement or a preface to each edition, we collectively wrote a “manifesto."

I don't recall having a lengthy conversation about why it should be called a manifesto and not a mission statement – but we all agreed we'd rather have a “manifesto” than a pretentious sounding “preface.” Also, it is less about 'us' trying to accomplish a mission than it is about 'us' wanting to work with 'y'all' to expand the movement against the prison industrial complex which is inseparable from capitalism. We hope that the writings in the zine will serve as a call to action against the current INjustice system; perhaps this is the best reason why we call it our manifesto:

An open mind breathes in and out, and in sanctuary—the safe place—we breathe deeply. Though some of us are locked up, our minds are still free. we* have discovered truth and change in ourselves and each other. In sanctuary we inspire one another. we help heal, give courage, and build confidence in ourselves, accessing realms within us that we never knew existed. we honor the uniqueness of our experiences, and we throw them all together in one basket, to share. The writings we present are in dialogue with each other, and with you, too. we want you to feel what we feel; to go the places we go in our minds; to understand us, shake the stereotypes and embrace the differences. we wish that you appreciate and relate, knowing we are not as much inmates as we are your neighbors. And to make this possible, we kick it from our minds to the paper, and the paper we move to the outside, to you, our words a bridge over the barbed wire between us.”

*The use of the humble, lowercase “we” is intentional.


  1. Seth, I agree that the word "manifesto" is much more appropriate than "preface." When I think of a manifesto, it brings to mind images of transformation, liberty, and power. When I hear the word preface, I think of the boring section at the beginning of my Norton Anthology of English Literature that I have never read and never intend to read. :-)

    Thank you for sharing your group's manifesto with us!

  2. Seth, "growing up" with prison work, I have always felt the "subversive" power of literacy. Often this "defiance" is in the form of a letter of apology, a fearless examination of one's past actions, an open appeal for support for learning. I think what really breaks through the stereotypes is these "radical" texts that show how much we and "THEY" are alike. How disorienting when the dualism falls away and our common sense about criminals is called into question. Manifesto indeed... B.


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this post. Diverse opinions are welcomed.