Prison Art for-sale
Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 May 2011 18:09 Written by Piankhi Tuesday, 08 March 2011 10:03
"How We Started"
The Evolution Of An Idea
The name "Papyrus" was originally a title given to me by Michael Flinner. The title was suggested for the collective shortly after I was invited to develop a group of death row inmate writers to introduce the www.deathrowinmate.org public forum. The name itself, inspired by my particular interest in Ancient Egyptian history and art --- papyrus being the Egyptian aquatic reed once used to produce paper.
I had immediately embraced the title, and went to work on what would eventually become the symbolic logo to represent the collective by merging the hieroglyphic symbol for papyrus into the word itself --- fashioning the hieroglyph into the center letter "Y".
The idea for the Papyrus Collective along with the opportunity for myself and other even more talented writers to share their work through this online public forum at DRI, is almost perfect. I envision the potential to accomplish much more once we were able to harness some of this condemned population's willing and ready talent to be a part of this new idea. The only real requirement I consider being of necessity, is a serious commitment to the effort and continued interests of the collective, a fair sense of self and the world around you, a free-thinker, and always invested and/or open to personal growth and development---aside from the most-likely candidates,the last of which above pertains to the new young generation willing to participate.
To organize a "collective" (the true meaning of the word) as meaningful a challenge as it is, it's an effort that presents some significant obstacles. The more I thought about it, the more I began to experience some doubt and reluctance, but was reassured by one of the collectives first members who gave me a very convincing pep talk and encouraged me to lead us forward.
One of the main obstacles is the very manner and purpose in which our physical environment is structured. From our one-man cells to the exercise yards where we interact with other inmates some five to six hours out of every day or so, are very isolated groupings of 30 to 60 or so inmates, assigned to several (close to a dozen) individual yards fenced approximately three feet from one-another, making it difficult and in some cases impossible to directly interact and communicate with members and participants of our collective.
In addition to that, years (decades even) of sporadic, violent, disruptive episodes between groups and individuals, frivolous "snitching", amongst personal safety issues, has created this modified environment placed in order by prison official practices and as a result by design, has ultimately fostered a prolonged state of division, suspicion, rivalries, conflicts, and a generally sad state of stagnant affairs.
San Quentin's death row in particular is a small confined space where banal preoccupations, complacency, conflict and factionalism remain a common theme. Our situation is dire. A number of us are victims of economic and political adversity, and almost all of us on some level have been victimized through judicial misconduct, wrongful convictions, and even racism. A recent strike and protest of Georgia State prisoners, where individuals and groups of all racial and factional divides, from the least to the extreme --- found common ground. A cause that brought them together to accomplish something quite significant and effective. I was inspired by that, and my hope in earnest for papyrus collectives forum here at DRI, as well as our developing efforts and potential elsewhere for the future, is to encourage others to be a voice that can lead to setting inspirational examples for everyone.
I am grateful for the support and confidence of the few but solid who make up the current membership of our collective, especially those "young elders" (5-10 years my senior --- I'll be 34 in April 2011) who've put aside their egos and differences to share their voices and important resources with us and others.
We hope that this forum will motivate other inmates to pick up a pen and begin writing about what moves them, sharing important things of interest with our readers as well as their personal stories of struggle and achievement. Expect a variety of contributors to join the forum over the following months and to bring with them their stories, knowledge and perspectives.
General Coordinator Papyrus Collective
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