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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Learning About the Oppressed

Today was a very unusual day as we did not start out the day with Qi Gong. Theatre of the Oppressed was ended yesterday and today it was all about exploring North Philadelphia (not entirely though). We started out the morning session with a field trip to North Philadelphia to meet some graffiti artist and tour around the neighborhood. The neighborhood was almost like the other neighborhoods we had visited before.

Since we had four groups, there were four tour guides (one guide for each group). The tour guides were street artist themselves so they knew everything there was to know about graffiti. They informed us about how they look for a spot and the unwritten rule of graffiti, for instance, one cannot do street art on a church or mosque. We walked by some of the works they did but they didn't go into detail about the work. Towards the end of tour, we were allowed to chat with the street artist one on one. I asked one or the street artist if he had a mentor and he said he didn't but there are some who do. The whole tour lasted about one and a half hour and we took the SEPTA train back to campus.
Our lunch today was cut short becuase we had another field trip to go to; this time it was to the Eastern State Penitentiary.
I have never visited a prison before (Thank God) for any reason. When we got to the Eastern State Penitentiary, I thought that we were in front if a castle because the walls were so high up. Again we were split into groups and each group had its own tour guide. The tour guide showed us around one of the  Even though Alcatraz is kind of close by, I never bothered to visit and tour it. Let the prison be closed or open,  prisons have always creeped me out so it didn't really cross my mind about what the living conditions were there. I have always thought negatively about prisoners and criminals and how they deserve to be in jail for the crimes they committed. But I have never thought that people in prison can change. To me, it always seemed like the change was non-existent for a prisoner. eWe had two guest speakers today who were ex-cons but now have followed their passions and no longer do the things they went into prison for. The first guest speaker, Jesse Krimes, was convicted for possession of cocaine as he was trying to sell it. He talked about his experiences in prison and negative the whole environment is. He said that the prisons were very dehumanizing and boring. There was almost no free time so he spent most of the day doing art in his room with his bedsheets. The next guest speaker, Dr. Kirk James, was convicted at 18 years old for the same crime. Dr. James now holds a Doctorate Degree and teaches at Columbia. Dr. James explained that the reason why he thinks that mass incarceration is like modern slavery and believes that the 13th Amendment legalized slavery in terms of mass incarceration. He said that slavery was an economic institution and when slavery was abolished, they needed another economic institution. Dr. James ended by saying that prisons are the most dehumanizing aspect of society. Now that I think about it, I can see how that is true and agree with it. After both were done with their testimonies, we had Q & A session with the guest speakers. 
My teaching fellow, Carly, wanted her group to get together to discuss what the things that has happened the last couple of days. After we got back from the Eastern State Penitentiary, we went out for gelato ice cream. The gelato was really good and we sat down to talk about what we thought of today's session. Unfortunately, Jun and I couldn't stay for the whole discussion because we signed up for an activity at Summer Discovery. Jun and I went back to the Quad to get our movie tickets for the movie we signed up for. The movie was very funny and it was something new. Tomorrow we will be going to Jersey Shore and I hope that it is nothing like the drama. I hope that the weather is nice and it won't rain because that would be tragic. 

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