For two intensive weeks that covered 40 hours of class time, students in Piper Anderson’s “Creative Justice” class read materials on the criminal justice system and the transformative justice movement, conducted interviews with people about their views on policing, and worked together to lay out how a community arts project might intervene in the issues. They came up with fundamental questions to ask themselves and others:
What does community mean to you?
What makes you feel safe?
Do police make you feel safe?
What should the relation between the community and police be?
What resources exist or need to exist to create safety in a community?
Can we create safety without prisons and police?
Students pulled together responses to these questions for a presentation for the public on Friday evening, January 23, 2015. At one point in the evening, Piper asked everyone – students and audience members – to place themselves physically on a spectrum that represented where they stood on the issue, from abolition of prisons and policing to an endorsement of the criminal justice as it now exists. The line spanned from one side of the room to the other. People then had to speak to their neighbor on the spectrum and articulate why they had picked that position.
The presentation itself modeled the practices of community arts activists. It generated dialogue, encouraged opposing views to be expressed and listened to, and asked everyone to use their imagination to envision how society might change. The HAL/Global Dialogues project on incarceration will continue the conversation!
(Follow Piper Anderson’s work as an arts educator and activist here.)