How we started:
One of the many racist legacies of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 was its elimination of Pell Grants for prisoners, which dismantled prison education programs. As a means of providing a space to explore Black History and discuss the legacies of resistance, resilience, mass incarceration, and American racial capitalism, Liberation Literacy began as a reading group with inside students at Columbia River Correctional Institution (CRCI) in Portland, Oregon. We then established a donation-based Freedom Library with books about social justice and the African diaspora. In Fall 2016, at the suggestion of longtime participant Joshua Wright we initiated our first community reading group at CRCI which meets weekly and is comprised of around thirty inside/outside students. With the help of the community and particularly students at Catlin Gabel High School, the library is now home to nearly 500 books, which are checked out weekly to our reading group and may also be requested on an individual basis by other prisoners at the institution.
We are students of revolutionary politics that have long been forgotten - the Toussaint L'Ouvertures, the Harriet Tubmans, the Assata Shakurs, and the Malcolm X’s, who all recognized the systemic injustice in our country and saw themselves as active agents in fighting for change. We believe Portland and the rest of America is in dire need of becoming more relational, building radical community and pursuing deep healing and repentance. We believe that we, and everyone reading this, can and should join this legacy of humanity and justice.
We just finished a book on the Black Panther Party in Portland and learned how they were a multi-racial organization focused as much on protecting the Black community from the increasingly militarized police, as providing free breakfast, clothing, medical services, and Black history education that the white supremacist capitalist State refused our Black communities. This is why we study our culture and our history - we’re here to take the lessons in literature to change our world. We seek healing through literacy.
When We Meet:
- Weekly reading group at CRCI on Wednesday evenings. The group discusses a book a month related to racial justice or Black History, and breaks into committees that develop curriculum, ways to outreach to the greater community and work on our newsletter.
- A monthly outside reading group for those who have been released from CRCI and are looking to continue participating with Liberation Literacy, as well as anyone in the community that wants to be involved in the work we do. Gatherings will be held at Yale Union (800 SE 10th Ave, Portland, OR) on the first Sunday of every month, from 3-5pm.