Giving Thanks & Perspective

On the heels of Thanksgiving– and for most of the holiday season we will be confronted by many of the frustrations of everyday life– the mini-deaths we all suffer: heavy traffic, mother-in-laws, the competing pressures of over consumption and under realized dreams, the inevitable challenges of the unknown.

These confrontations seem to escalate from the moment the first marching band leads the Macy’s floats until the first day of the newest year.  They are moments that genuinely push us beyond the delicate brink of emotional balance and momentarily assume the mirage of our greatest challenge. Just yesterday I found myself flailing a fist at my sister for using the last drop of milk– the very one i was saving for my morning coffee, as if she drank it just to spite me.

It is in those very moments that I have learned its most important to be grateful. We can catalyze that gratitude by remembering our families behind bars- especially those enduring the barbaric conditions of solitary confinement. At any given moment in the United States over 80,000 men, women and trans people are in solitary confinement. These figures do not include local jails, immigrant detention centers, juvenile facilities or military facilities. Working with Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox, and Robert King for the last 12 years has provided one of the greatest gifts: perspective. Their ability to survive the unimaginable, to endure and expose injustice, and to ultimately serve to change the conditions for the thousands of other human beings in solitary confinement produces a relative perspective we should all call to mind when things like traffic, shopping, dirty diapers (again!) or a lack of cream for your coffee feel defeating.

There are so many reasons to be thankful, simple reasons- and if gratitude is distorted by an illusion of distance, we can look to the faces of those serving indefinitely sentences in solitary confinement to remind us of how fortunate we truly are.

ThanksGiving should be an even greater excuse to Give Thanks.
Please consider committing some of your time and resources to one of the following nonprofit communities who have committed their lives and work to ending the use of solitary confinement in the United States:
Solitary Watch, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity, ACLU
and please join us and NRCAT on December 10th for their human rights day campaign.

We are all in this together, for that I remain absolutely grateful.

Power to the People,

Jackie Sumell


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