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Vol. 27, No. 3: The Abolitionist South

  //  fall 2021

Guest edited by T. Dionne Bailey and Garrett Felber, this issue of Southern Cultures makes visible a radical US South which has long envisioned a world without policing, prisons, or other forms of punishment. A region so often exceptionalized for its brutality and white supremacy is also the seedbed of freedom dreams and radical movement traditions.

Table of Contents

Front Porch: The Abolitionist South

by Marcie Cohen Ferris
“The phrase ‘abolitionist South’ pulls us back to the region’s traumatic and violent history of slavery and Emancipation but also anchors us in a radical present.” In this issue of Southern Cultures, we examine the abolitionist South. This phrase pulls us back to the region’s traumatic and violent history of slavery and Emancipation—brought to life most »

Until There Is Victory

by T. Dionne Bailey, Garrett Felber
This special issue, the Abolitionist South, coalesced during the Black Spring protests and the global COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. Following the police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and others, precincts and cop cars burned, and calls to defund and abolish the police reverberated through the streets. In response to overcrowded prisons and »

The Radical Yes

A Constellation of Mutual Aid Projects in Charlottesville

by Lyndsey Beutin, Cherry Henley, B. Esi Okesanya, Sally Williamson
“We knew the state would protect white supremacy. We wanted to protect each other.” We want to tell you a story about a wildly successful community project whose time has come to an end: the Charlottesville Community Resilience Fund. The Resilience Fund was an integral point in a constellation of mutual aid efforts for community »

Locked in Dark Calm

by Tameca Cole
I use art to examine not only the depths of my own mind but all that surrounds me. Locked in Dark Calm symbolizes the experience of having to process anger inside of a controlled and contained environment. It also represents a turning point in my life. To be able to move forward, it is necessary »

Looking for Abolition

by Tiffany E. Barber, Adrian. L. Burrell
Oakland-born artist Adrian L. Burrell is a light worker. Using lens-based media that require light to function (primarily photography and film), the artist has traversed various “Souths”—from the local to the global, including Louisiana, Mississippi, Nicaragua, Brazil, Nigeria, Senegal, and South Africa—to spotlight instances of struggle and self-determination. Burrell’s family history, along with his own »

The System I Imagine

by Antonio Rosa
“I’m surrounded by many brilliant minds, any one of them fully capable of doing what I’ve done and more if given the opportunity.” The presentation at the Making and Unmaking Mass Incarceration (MUMI) conference in December capped a very productive 2019, which, judging by the current state of our society, can only be considered exceptional. »
Interview BUY ACCESS

The Life in This Movement

by Jared Ware, Maurice Smith
“We’re not going to go anywhere if we can’t win the people.” This interview was conducted in early January 2021, ten months into the COVID-19 pandemic and on the eve of Joe Biden’s inauguration. Jared Ware, cohost of the podcast Millennials Are Killing Capitalism and independent journalist covering twenty-first-century prisoner movements, speaks with incarcerated organizer »

Riot and Reclamation

Black Women, Prison Labor, and Resistive Desires

by Micah Khater
Breaking through the discord, there was a harmony: hundreds of tables and chairs scratching against the floor. Trays of corn bread sliding across the tables, uneaten. It was not just the sound, but the smell, too. Spoiled meat and heaps of scraps sunk into the walls amid the summer’s heat. On any day, the carefully »

Texas Prisons

A Million Unanswered Questions

by Britney Gulley
The injustices keep worsening. How can prisoners report the abuse when they have no voice? When will the hate stop? When will justice be served? Injustices at the prisons in Texas are perpetual. Correctional officers go to work bullying, assaulting, harassing, discriminating, raping, belittling, taunting, judging, and retaliating against prisoners! Treating prisoners inhumanely and subjecting »

Food, Punishment, and the Angola Three’s Struggle for Freedom


by Gabrielle Corona
In 1971, as Black Panther Robert Hillary King Wilkerson later wrote, “The mood in the streets had caught up with the men in prisons.” That same year, Robert King, Albert Woodfox, and Herman Wallace formed the first official incarcerated chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP) in the largest maximum-security penitentiary in the United States, »

Amnesty for All

Organizing against Criminalization in Post-Katrina New Orleans

by Lydia Pelot-Hobbs
As I write in the summer of 2021, the US is in its fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Amid the celebration of widely available and highly effective vaccines, federal, state, and local governments have abandoned most public health protocols and failed to consider how their decisions have repeatedly led to the nation’s coronavirus case »

Incarceration Is Spiritual Death

by Antoine M. Lipscomb
What societal interest is served by keeping prisoners illiterate? What social benefit is there in ignorance? Much has been written and much has been said about life in prison. Some write of the glaring incidents of violence that occur, certain that such subjects will grab the attention of the reader. Others play down the violence, »

Keep the South Dirty and Our Needles Clean

by Laura McTighe, Catherine Haywood, Deon Haywood, Danita Muse
Thirty years ago, Women With A Vision (WWAV) was just an idea, thought up by a collective of Black women on a front porch in New Orleans, Louisiana. The year was 1989, and the so-called War on Drugs had already been raging for nearly two decades. Black women were increasingly being demonized as “welfare queens” »

Stand Strong, Stand Long

by Loretta Pierre
“While I struggle, I will continue to study and learn about the struggles of others.” After spending almost thirty-three years in a Mississippi prison, on a hot summer day in 2020, I was contacted and invited to be a host of a radical study group. What intrigued me about this program was that it was facilitated »

the portal appears

by Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Destiny Hemphill
It is an honor and a pleasure to be welcoming remarkable poet and visionary Destiny Hemphill as Poetry Editor alongside me here at Southern Cultures. Too often poetry journals, or even the small space poetry takes up in larger magazines, become vacuums that amplify the taste of one person. We’ve worked hard to make sure »
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