People over profit

Even though I live in Madison now, my heart still lives with my activist community in Indiana. Over the last ten years or so, organizers across Indiana have been working to generate a grassroots movement by and for the people, statewide, in one of the most reliably conservative, gerrymandered states. It hasn’t been easy or comfortable work, but I admire their focus and resilience so much and how their work has shifted the culture in my hometown that when they make an ask, I try my best to deliver.

This month, organizers are throwing a Halloween-themed fundraiser to benefit the Greater Lafayette Legal Defense Fund, an organization of people aimed at providing financial support to community members navigating the carceral system in Tippecanoe County, Indiana. GLLD is organized in concert with the area SURJ chapter and the incomparable YWTF. Together, they put on political education events around abolition and reproductive justice, raise money for bail funds, abortion funds, and other informal networks organized around supporting people most impacted by the indignity and dehumanization of racialized, gendered, and class-based injustices. One of the pieces of this grassroots movement that I have learned so much from is that it overwhelmingly centers the leadership and experiences of women and femmes of color, and has provided a home for the left in an otherwise alienating area for leftist thought. Things I couldn’t have imagined as a baby activist are happening now, and I’m so thrilled for and proud of their progress.

So I sent down one of my favorite pieces to date, “Bread for All and Roses Too.” It will be auctioned off along with a slate of other original art and merch to raise money for their efforts.

A couple of notes:

Take a moment to google the following phrase: “Cash bail is ransom.” At the link is an article from the ACLU outlining the history of bail, what it was intended to be, and what it has evolved to be, an unfair way of extracting money from poor communities to allow poor people to experience pretrial freedom that the rich find relatively easy to afford. In short, it criminalizes poverty and rewards wealth, and it overwhelmingly impacts Black and brown people and their families.

Seems like a niche issue? Consider, then, that around 400k people are incarcerated at any given time in the United States, before their trial, when they are still legally innocent: “Many are jailed pretrial simply because they can’t afford money bail, others because a probation, parole, or ICE office has placed a “hold” on their release. The number of people in jail pretrial has nearly quadrupled since the 1980s.”

Back to the embroidery piece:

It’s a rallying cry, rooted in the early women’s movement, rooted in the early workers’ movement, rooted in the desire for justice and dignity for all. Bread stands for our material needs – compensation, money, shelter, and food, resources in exchange for our labor – and roses stand for robust, joyous and humane living and working conditions – joy, rest, delight, comfort, the dignity of our humanity, and the ability to live a full life in and outside of the workplace.

It’s the belief that underpins my politics these days. When “hearts starve as well as bodies,” we deserve a “sharing of life’s glories: Bread and roses, bread and roses.”

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Sharon Needles

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