In the last days of May’s mental health month, Ark Republic highlights organizations and people who employ revolutionary approaches to mental health and awareness.
Mental health is not only a radical act. For the organization, Dignity and Power, healing is essential to social justice. So much so, they take their campaigns literally to the front doors of jails and prisons in Los Angeles.
Since 2014, Dignity and Power, under the directorship of Guadeloupe Chavez, hold wellness fairs called, Freedom Harvest, where events occur on the lawns of detention centers. Because these spaces are funded by tax dollars, they are public lands. As a result, Dignity and Power re-appropriates their intended use by making it a healing space.
“All revolution is based on land.” Malcolm X
At Freedom Harvests, a team of healers and volunteers provide a range of services to families and friends visiting loved ones inside jails. The day’s offerings include artistic activities, music, acupuncture, massage, reiki, foot soaks, yoga, and flower bundling for a crown.
“This intervention is intended to disrupt and offer some salve to the traumatizing experience of visiting loved ones in prison,” explains Dignity and Power.
Last year, a pop up honoring the life of Quentin Thomas, took place at Twin Towers Jail where Thomas was taken in for a warrant he did know that he had. Seven days later, he was reported dead. His body returned without his brain. His family are still asking questions, including Saharra White, the mother of his now 2-year-old daughter. As Dignity and Power work to seek answers, they offer needed support to Thomas’ devastated family.
A call for mental health for detainees
What started as a summer series in 2014, has grown into a popular yearlong program. Twin Towers is the world’s largest jail, as well as, the nation’s largest mental health facility. However, most who have mental health issues do not receive services.
Dignity and Power are one of many who work on abolishing the prison industrial complex, and provide adequate services to those detained. They just launched a plan to provide a toolkit that helps advocates and activists deal with the grueling work of social justice advocacy in the US. One of the victories recently celebrated was that Los Angeles County announced that it would make one of its central jails a mental health facility for men.
We’re launching a healing justice toolkit with @JusticeTeamsNet today. The toolkit provides a practical guide for criminal justice advocates across the U.S. to adopt in their communities. Check it out here: https://t.co/3uJqfXKfAk pic.twitter.com/HyXeSjFVOR
— Dignity & Power Now (@PowerDignity) May 20, 2019
They said we couldn’t do it—but we did it. https://t.co/XyvWVM9gwI
— Dignity & Power Now (@PowerDignity) February 13, 2019
Pop Up for Quentin Thomas
Below are photos captured by Dignity and Power during an event celebrating the life of Thomas. During the day, they offered support to his family and other families visiting loved ones in jail.
Dignity and Power director Guadeloupe Chavez remains steadfast in keeping the pop up wellness fair on the grounds of Twin Towers.
Saharra White (left) receives bag of gifts from Dignity and Power Volunteer.
Dignity and Power volunteers.
Arts and crafts activities provided mental health relief for families visiting loved ones in jail.
On site, posters and shirts were made for participants to advocate for the abolition of jails.
Dignity and Power volunteer with White and her mother (center).
Event participants enjoy food on the lawns of Twin Tower jails during the Dignity and Power pop up for Quentin Thomas.
Volunteer assembles flower crown bundles.
Volunteers for the pop up take a break from offering support to families.
Dignity and Power members, volunteers and Quentin Thomas family come together for a photo.
Even little ones need support when their parent is gone.
Painter takes a break activist-art.
Prison abolitionist shows poster in support of getting rid of US prisons and jails. Currently, the US has the largest population of detained people and those in the criminal justice system.
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