I don’t have my property with me. I went to the library today, searching for some text that could nourish me until I received my property or books from comrades. As I perused the shelves, I realized how absent my communities are from what was available. There were no works on abolition, Black queer studies, Black studies, feminism, queer/trans liberation, disability justice or community organizing. I searched by topic and author. I searched specific titles. Nothing. This is how the PIC wants it to be. This is how fascists want it to be. I usually don’t depend upon prisons libraries for reading materials. But what about those who do? Where do they find affirmation? Where do they find sustenance for their spirits?
Moments like this make real the connection between censorship on both sides of the walls. People and their experiences are being erased. People and their concerns are being silenced. I remember the feelings of home and hope when I first encountered Joe Beam’s In The Life. That book gave me life. I was struggling. I felt alone. I felt despondent. One book changed those feelings. One book opened the world to me. In prison, marginalized people cannot find the materials that affirm them, that connect them to the world, that tell us we belong.
As I took in the purposeful absence, the shutting out, of marginalized voices in the prison library, I questioned why people and organizations partner with the state, the biggest purveyor of censorship, and believe they are providing imprisoned people with opportunities for transformation. The state denies imprisoned people the materials we need to grow. The state will never provide or allow materials that call it into question, that encourage critique of racial capitalism, heteropatriarchy or ableism.
This trip to the library encouraged me to dig deeper and find ways to get the materials we need to live, to build community and to effect real transformation.