Radical Imagining We All Need Rehabilitation!


(audience applauding) – [Male Narrator] The top one
percent made more than double their take of the nation’s wealth – I’m upper middle class. – [Female Narrator] The
number of incarcerated women has risen dramatically in recent years. – I find myself laying
in bed at night thinking how I can get an ounce
of cocaine when I get out because that’s the only thing I see to do. – This is not the usual Dartmouth class. – I am here for Sophomore summer and it’s like the best time of your life. – You get way more. It will change you. – It’s a scary place where criminals go and normal people like me aren’t supposed to be going to prison, aren’t supposed to be
stepping foot in it ever. – You have four groups. You’re going to work on four skits. These skits, they’re going to be the show. – I hated her. I absolutely hated her
from the minute I saw her. She’s like what you
think the Dartmouth girl is going to look like. She’s beautiful, she’s blonde, she has pretty teeth. – Hi, my name is Signe Taylor and I’m the director of It’s Criminal. You can watch the rest
of our trailer online and the film on Canopy. The reason that I’m standing here and that we showed this
clip is that the film, It’s Criminal features
our next three speakers. It documents the class
taught by Ivy Schweitzer and Pati Hernandez, and shares the story of Charlotte Rankin. I was drawn to documenting
Pati and Ivy’s work ’cause in this time,
which I think we all know is pretty divided, and I think also full
of a lot of prejudice and a lot of fear, Pati and Ivy do an amazing
job creating a space and platform for people from
very different backgrounds to connect. I’ve personally had an intense
experience with connection the first time I filmed one of their prisoner student collaborations
at Windsor Prison. And that was the first
time I’d ever gone inside a correctional facility, which is a very daunting experience, if you haven’t had it. And as I was filming, I noticed
that one of the performers looked a lot like me. She was similar in age to me. She had similar haircut, similar diction, dressed all in black. I thought that she was a late in life Dartmouth student perhaps, maybe a mother exploring
her creative side. But then when the performance ended and the testimonials began, which is when student and prisoners share the impact of the class on them, I learned more about her. She said she was an
experimental film maker and I thought, oh well I’m not surprised. And then she said that she had made a film about the exact geographic center of The United States
and that that was where her life had started to go awry. She revealed that she
was in fact imprisoned and she said her age
was 42, which was my age at the time. And then she talked about
the length of her sentence which was seven years. And she said what made her most sad was that she would never
have a biological child. And I was in shock when she said that and I finished filming the performance and I packed up my equipment and I went to my car and I cried. And I cried for my two
beautiful children at home. And I cried for the ones
that she would never have. And I cried because she could be me, and I could be her. And although I’d always
known that in my head that there’s no difference between me and someone on the inside, I had never felt it in
my core, in my heart. So that’s Pati and Ivy for you. They’re life changing from
the minute you meet them. And that’s Charlotte too, who has an incredible
ability in a very quiet and forceful way, to speak truth to power. So please joining me in welcoming
Pati, Ivy and Charlotte. (audience applauding) – I’m Ivy Schweitzer. I’m a professor of
English and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies
at Dartmouth College. As a feminist academic I’ve always been committed to social justice and as a teacher of literature I’ve always been alive
to the power of stories. But meeting Pati and
working with her program Telling My Story, rocked the foundations
of my academic world. It challenged me to take thinking out of the abstract realm
and into the concrete realm of feeling and doing to involve the spirit and the heart as well as
the head and the mind. This is considered radical
for higher education but it shouldn’t be. Our collaboration really
taught me something about our connection to cross differences. These were differences of culture, Pati is from Chile,
educational opportunity and temperament. And we use this collaboration to create an academic course that we
still teach at Dartmouth called Telling My Stories in which we work with
populations in crisis to identify the visible
and invisible walls that separate us. I used to think that I was so different from those populations. And then I realized that
we all need rehabilitation. So this is how it happened. In the late 1990’s I was at a lecture here at Dartmouth given by Angela Davis, one of my intellectual
and political heroes. And she was challenging
all of us to include issues about prison and prison abolition in our teaching and our research. At the time I didn’t
know anybody in prison. And I didn’t really know
that we had a problem with prisons, but I was
so inspired by her talk that I immediately went and created a unit on incarcerated women in my upcoming feminist theory class, but because my knowledge of this subject was so theoretical, I really wanted somebody
who worked on the ground in correctional facilities
who could join the class. And I asked around the upper valley and everybody said you must meet Pati. That was 2005. Pati was working with men in a prison up in Newport, Vermont, and we have been working and
learning together every since. What I realized from our
collaboration is that we cannot ignore our differences, just as we cannot ignore our privileges. But we can and must acknowledge them and turn them towards
the goal of humanizing dehumanizing situations. – Hello, my name is Charlotte. And as I child I grew up in an abusive and painful environment. You didn’t share your emotions, your pain, your shame or your guilt. You felt very cold and compassion less and I’d always felt alone but mostly misunderstood
and like insignificant. I ran away from home the first time when I was about 11. I was picked up three states away and promptly returned home. And the authorities had just assumed that I was a problem child. Nobody asked, nobody
asked why an 11 year old felt that the cold and
unknown streets were safer than her home, nobody. Not that it would have helped much. My mother taught me early on in life to keep people on what she liked to call a need to know basis. Meaning you only share what
you absolutely have to. Never to share personal information. By my early 20’s I had
experience multiple traumas that I have never dealt with. Most I never even spoke of. A few I had made comments
in passing to my family. But I had felt so much
shame and embarrassment over the abuse that I wasn’t really able to process all of these
feelings and emotions. And I also felt like I had
deserved and was responsible for this abuse. And I was never really told differently. So I think turning to drugs for me was like a natural progression. And I was in desperate need
of help with addiction. And at the time the only
option for me was prison. I had no health insurance and I did not have the money for a private rehabilitation facility and I kind of felt that society had like failed me twice. First as a child and again
now as a young adult. I can be the first to tell you there is no room for low income addicts without insurance or
privilege in our communities. And there is no room for people with mental health disorders
in our communities. And I feel that the stigma
surrounding the issues like incarceration,
addiction and mental health are more debilitating and paralyzing than anybody’s going to talk about. I was lucky enough to participate with the Telling My Story program in 2010 while the documentary It’s
Criminal was being filmed. And the experience changed my life. The way that I look at myself and the rest of the world around me. I learned of fears and judgements that I had held of other people. Judgements that I didn’t
even know existed. Pati taught me how to hold those fears and hold that judgment, to let go of preconceptions. ‘Cause I had somehow had
this image in my mind that my pain was greater
than the student’s. I was wrong. All pain is valid and can connect us on some level. I was able to learn that it
was okay to be vulnerable, to trust, and without human connections, again that I had never dreamt possible, I kind of started to have
faith in people again. – My name is Pati Hernandez. I am the creator and
facilitator of Telling My Story, and inter disciplinary arts program that works on the development of self awareness and communication skills through the arts, by putting the arts to the
service of the situation. I’m also an adjunct professor and the director of Telling My Story on campus at Dartmouth College. This is kind of my official introduction that I put together and I learned by heart over the years in order to look clean and professional in my delivery. But I want to share
something else with you. I am actually very nervous and quite intimidated in this platform. So Ivy was the one that had idea to join Ted X. She said we certainly have a lot to say about the theme of living bridges. And I thought she was right. But I said no, no, no. That’s not what I do. And then I thought, hold on a second. This is actually something one of Ivy’s platforms. And I remember all those
times over the years that Ivy had been right next to me in platforms that were not easy or comfortable for her. And I realized how important it was for me to take this challenge. And to also go beyond my comfort zone which is something that I’m always asking my collaborators to do. And I saw that my defensive reaction was an expression of my
intellectual insecurity. I’ve always felt undervalued because of my limited formal education. I am a physical education teacher. I’m also a self taught. And I would add a feisty doer. So seeing myself in this situation, it really fueled my agency even more to take the challenge and embrace this vulnerable platform. It feels really good and
empowering to be here. (audience applauding) – But it wasn’t always good and empowering for the students or for me. It took us way out of our comfort zone. In fact, the course is
fraught with confusion and even chaos, self doubt and what is the current F
word in academia, failure. Students and especially faculty are not supposed to fail, especially in elite institutions. Failure seems to many people to make us vulnerable and weak. But in fact, dealing with failure, coping with our imperfections and our limitations is the crucial part of the learning process thought not often included
on college curriculum. Just think back to when
you went to college. What did people tell you? They told you, take risks, dare to be great, grab your
dreams, go for the stars. Did anybody advise you to be thoughtful? Or thankful? To speak the truth with humility, to be humble, to listen
deeply to other people and respond to them? To think about community and
work for the common good. I believed all this, in theory. But it really ran counter
to my academic training. How could I grade students on something as vague and subjective
as attitude or presence or coping with failure? Pati grounds her experiential method in the thinking of the
Brazilian philosopher Paulo Freire whose incomparable book, Pedagogy Of the Oppressed, became the bedrock of our work. Freire discusses this
dilemma that I was having between theory and practices
and he says, I quote, “For apart from inquiry,
apart from the praxis, individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and reinvention, through
the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful
inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the
world and with each other.” Still, it was years, years
before I would acknowledge that the practice part of the course, that is the organic work that the students and inmates or residents
did together outside of the classroom should count equally. 50 percent with the more
traditional classroom activities, the theory part of the course that is reading, writing and discussion. What I came to realize is what happens when we really integrate theory and praxis or as Freire calls it,
action and reflection. It produces not compassion,
as some people argue, but something much more profound. It produces a gut level recognition of our shared humanity. – So up until that point in my life, jail had been the most
dehumanizing experience for me. And I had laid awake in my bunk each night asking myself how did I get here and what steps could I have taken that might have led me down
a different, better path. And I kept thinking of the students and their stories, and I
noticed that we had all experienced profound pain on some level. And each day we were
able to name that pain, anger, shame or discomfort
that we had all felt at one point in our lives. And here I was in this
oppressive environment, feeling compassion for the first time. And it was just such a weird experience to reclaim my voice and to be treated as a human and not a criminal or an addict or a victim. And I think in that moment I saw myself as a person of value and
not just the mistakes that have labeled me along the way. And I had never felt such an experience of self empowerment before. And I learned that my voice has power and that my story has meaning, and it isn’t just my story. It’s the story of so many
women who are just like me but also so unlike myself. And I felt like I had somehow bridged this great divide between
myself and the rest of the world around me. And again, here I was feeling
deep, real human connections, which was another first experience for me. And now I feel like I
just want every woman to know what self empowerment feels like. And how important it is that we stand up and reach out to one another to not be afraid of the unknown and almost to embrace it. And I think we need to realize that it’s society that’s failing us, not us. That the laws and the
policies are actually written to keep the
under privileged always in a state of under privilege. I feel that we need to
stand up and collectively use our voice to change
these laws and policies that make addiction a
punishable, criminal act. We need to make mental
health care accessible for everybody, but most important, we need to realize that every criminal, addict
or mental health patient is a person with feelings and emotions and really should be treated as such. (audience applauding) – When I first went inside
a correctional facility 20 years ago, I thought I had everything figured out. I wanted justice inside the prison and I wanted it right away. It didn’t take me long to
realize how clueless I was. But to this, I need to add something. I believe prisons are punitive
and not rehabilitating. And they are to me the epitome of racism and social abandonment. I also could see that many of my assumptions were based on this ongoing judgment of others. So I embarked on this journey, in where vulnerability led my way. And it became an empowering practice. I hang out with people for hours and hours without really knowing
where the whole thing was going to go. I felt lost and not really clear to what I was actually trying to do. And made mistakes, many many mistakes. And by the way I still do. But I also learned to value the importance of muddiness and imperfection. And I realized that waiting
and not have an agenda can take me really long way. And that analysis is defintely not enough. But when I’m willing to
put myself in the middle of the situation, I can
see what part I play in it and how I contribute on a regular basis to the building of social walls. So in other words, I learned
how to smell the shit. (audience laughing) With this very bold attitude is what took me to where I am now. I learned how to accept and trust that the process as it needed to be and not as I had envisioned it or I wanted it to be. So we began to dare to trust one another. And together we learned
how to value our humanity. When students joined the collaboration I was quite surprised
to see that there was not much difference in the process. It was then when I realized
that we are all part of a profoundly wounded society. So patience, trust, love, compassion and empathy became
important and powerful tools in this effort to come together to build something different. And it has been a
wonderful experience to see how everybody so badly want to imagine and create something significantly better and different to what we right now. So the challenge here is
how do we take all this out in the world to
make it more accessible? I believe if we come together to make this work, extraordinary and
ordinary at the same time. – How can I facilitate the
social intellectual mobility of the people around me? – And if I have more does that mean somebody else has less? – How can I reconcile what I am inside with what I have to be out in the world in order to survive? – How can we live from day
to day in an unjust world? – When is enough enough? – Why does it feel that
trying to be perfect is more important than trying
to be honest and truthful? – I wonder is this just words or can we really imagine
and create a better world? – I wonder what opportunity looks like to somebody else. – I wonder what it would be like if we were not so afraid of one another. – [All] Thank you. (audience applauding)

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