By Declaration, Common Good Atlanta student
As a college in prison program, we have access to two libraries within the prison: one traditional, the other radical. The traditional library includes books that are donated to help people in prison pass the time. They include mainly older novels and other books from the public’s bookshelves. But our library of Liberal Arts (Common Good Atlanta’s college program library) is continuously being built from diversity, built by people who are eager to enlighten others within an institutional setting.
In the spring of 2019, Common Good Atlanta scholars were assigned our first major research project: empathy and community. Research materials are very limited and sometimes burdensome to obtain in a prison setting. CGA’s faculty purchase the books we need to conduct proper research. Also, upon a scholar’s request, the faculty and student peers bring secondary sources, such as academic articles, into the prison classroom for us to use.
Because of prison policy, scholars do not have access to the internet and we are only allowed eight books in our personal property at any time. As gesture of empathy, the Warden at Phillips State Prison recently allowed scholars to have an unlimited amount of books, as long as they are maintained in orderly fashion and college-related. The Warden’s permission is more than a form of empathy, it is a remedy to academic liberation and awareness.
Last semester in English 1102, we had to do some extensive research about a particular community that experienced alienation: the female community. It didn’t occur to us that we have a common connection with women when it comes to the struggles of discrimination, but the cultural analysis research helped us to understand feminism as a cultural movement fighting for social change. Dehumanization is an everyday struggle for women, but during that struggle, we as men must seek ways to humanize others.
We found that researching the unknown can sometimes lead us to disqualifying the various struggles of other communities. At times we try to force research to be more about ourselves than the people we are researching. Such “research” actually destroys our credibility and reveals prejudice. Instead, we as a class grew to see that we should research for the sake of learning and understanding and by that kind of real research, we learned to liberate ourselves from our prejudices.
Traditionally most people might question why and how we as incarcerated men relate to feminism. But relying on those stereotypes of “prisoner” vs. “feminist” will only close the doors of creativity. In English 1102, we were ourselves liberated into different perspectives that gave us a better understanding of how people view the world. I personally think restoring things anew for the common good can build stronger communities; where differences are embraced as a diverse truth― that is truth in every struggle.
The opposite of research is not to investigate matters and to live with a closed mind. How can anyone give a claim from an opposite perspective without research? My advice would be juxtaposing ourselves to the diverse truths and exchanging differences so we can reach the pinnacles of liberation.