Recentering an Abolitionist Framework – Satya Varghese Mac, BFA Sculpture, 2020
Since the second week of August I’ve been able to work in person twice per week on certain work that cannot leave the SRLP office. Since staff are on a staggered schedule, I have been able to take safety measures including working in a private separately ventilated room.
Though it absolutely changes the relationship to my work and the scope of my involvement, working in person while adhering to important safety measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 limits my ability to build connections with my supervisors, other staff, and community members. This work is so community and consensus based that this has been a challenging aspect of our reality for the entire organization.
My supervisors have graciously offered me numerous professional development resources including sending me to the Groundswell Fund’s Grassroots Organizing Institute virtual convening where I took part in workshops about digital organizing, mutual aid, updates from movement organizations around the country, and training on direct action.
As a part of the Shelter Organizing Team’s Campaign for Safe Shelter, I have been working on our correspondence with stakeholders to follow up on demands for improving the conditions for trans and gendernonconforming (TGNC) people in shelter. As with any organizing strategy, at some point you must take a step back and reassess the efficacy of your action. Moving past one year of correspondence with city agencies, the Shelter Organizing Team is reassessing and noticing that staying at the table and keeping a passive engagement is not bringing the results that we need to end the systematic harm perpetuated against TGNC people.
My involvement has continued on the report based on the work and experiences of the Prisoner Advisory Committee, and I have been able to contribute in a writing capacity by helping to re-evaluate and re-write the policy recommendations to make them align better with SRLP’s abolitionist and non-compromising agenda.
With all of this work, I find that my perspective and training as an artist with a RISD education has served me most in my eye and intuition for narrative. We are working with the very personal realities of trauma, resilience, and lived experience, and it can be difficult to hold the individual and their narrative experience when trying to reach policymakers and potential allies. Although the realities may be incommunicable, it is my responsibility as a storyteller to begin to bring these realities out of the abstract.