That video up there is from KLRU’s Women and Girls Lead program, about my wife, Katherine Craft, and Conspire Theatre, the organization she started that provides theatre and creative writing classes to women incarcerated at Travis County Jail.
I mention her on this here blog every so often, and every time that I do, I get a few people asking how they can be involved. Here is one very important answer: donate to the Conspire Theatre Pub Quiz Fundraiser that is going on right now!
I’m captaining a team for the quiz, and we’re trying to raise at least $600 for Conspire, so they can continue the work that they do every week in Travis County Jail. If you’ve ever talked with me about the organization for more than two minutes, you may have heard why raising money for Conspire is very difficult:
- It does work with a population that most people don’t give a shit about. (“I don’t get free theater classes,” they say, “Why should a bunch of criminals?”)
- The people who do care about incarcerated women mostly want to fund services for them that are scripture-based, and Conspire don’t preach.
- The work they do is invisible, for the most part. That KLRU video is the first thing to ever be filmed of Conspire’s work (and it was actually shot in Gatesville Prison, where Conspire does intensive workshops a few times a year — jails aren’t keen on letting photographers and filmmakers in). It’s really hard to explain to people why they should support something that they can’t see.
- Using art as a healing and transformative (and, yes, anti-recidivist) tool is still pretty radical to people who don’t recognize that these things are actually often more effective at teaching life skills than “life skills” classes.
- Doing this work with women — whose reasons for incarceration and needs while they’re in jail are very different from those of their male counterparts — isn’t, frankly, as fascinating to people as doing work like this with men. You know that This American Life episode where those guys in the St. Louis prison perform Shakespeare? That’s what we call a man-bites-dog story: Big, tough guy inmates being moved to tears by Shakespeare? People are fascinated by that. Those organizations are definitely worthwhile, but when you do something similar with women, people pay less attention. Frustrating, but true.
So that is the wall that fundraising is up against. This is all in Texas, too. There is not a lot of institutional money in Texas for work with prisoners. Which means that they have to do things like a Pub Quiz Fundraiser. I am captaining a team of six (if you’re in Austin and want to play and help fundraise, there are a couple of open slots left) that is going to bring glory to the names of all who fund the campaign by clobbering the opposition in this quiz.
You give Conspire Money. They provide vital classes to one of the most vulnerable populations in Texas. (Incarcerated women have it rough, y’all.) We enter and win this pub quiz, carrying a Game Of Thrones-like banner in the name of those who supported via the link.
$600 is our minimum goal. I’m pretty convinced that there are enough people who give a shit about incarcerated women out here, and who have a couple bucks to chip in, that we can break that number with time to spare, and make sure they can afford to offer these classes (and more! They’re launching a program for women who’ve been released this summer, so they can continue to find support after incarceration!) to women for a long time to come. Can you help?
It feels weird to use this Tumblr to ask y’all for money. But this shit is really important, and if people like you don’t help, there is literally almost no one else who cares about this stuff.
Hi again with this, Tumblr.
So, this campaign ends today. All of the stuff I said up there is still completely true, but I also wanted to say a couple of other things. Primarily: thank you.
We’ve raised $1,140, which is very nearly double our original goal of $600. Some of that money came from total fucking strangers who appear to have found this post and then gave money. That is amazing. Honestly, I had hoped it might happen, but I didn’t expect it. The currency of social media websites is often attention/reblogs/likes/favorites/etc — not actual currency. But people gave real money that will help real women. I’m so pleased. Thank you.
Now: If you know anything about operating a small non-profit, then you know that funding is an ongoing need, and so while it is thrilling to have surpassed the goal, there’s still a ton more to raise. So I will ask one more time for help. Can we get six people to give $10 and make it an even $1,200 for Conspire Theater and their work with incarcerated women?
Again — fundraising is a tacky feeling. I hate asking people for money. But this is important, so I’m doing it again.
Here’s a quick aside: I’m researching a pitch right now for a story about incarcerated mothers and breastfeeding (which is rare and difficult and, as you may expect, very important). I did some Googling, just to see what was already out there, and what opinions were being expressed. Most of those opinions, especially on motherhood/breastfeeding/what-to-expect-when-you’re-expecting forums?
“This is probably a horrible thing to say but, if a woman is in jail, I doubt that her main concern in life is to provide her child with the best nutrition possible. Even if there WERE breast pumps in prison, would any of the women ASK for them?”
I’m sorry, this is probably not the popular opinion but breastfeeding is the least of this lady’s problems. Having kids and breastfeeding is a privilege not a right. If she wanted to breastfeed so bad she shouldn’t have broken the law.
If you know your pregnant, you better not land yourself in jail if you want to show you even care about your child in the first place.
These were basically the first three comments I saw on the first three forums I opened. We are a culture that still takes great glee in judging, dehumanizing, and condescending to women in the criminal justice system.
The work that Conspire does that facilitates them telling their own stories, in their own voices, is just really important. I hate asking for money, but I’m gonna ask for money one more time, because funding this program really does make a difference.
Meandering song posts and dumb jokes and pictures of my dog and all the rest of that stuff to resume shortly. Thanks.
Reblogged from dansolomon