Graduate students from the University of New Orleans were joined by faculty members and local community partners as they traveled to New York City to participate in the States of Incarceration National Conference, which was held April 15-16, 2016 at The New School. The conference is part of a national public history project aimed at examining the history and effects of mass incarceration across America.
“States of Incarceration: A National Dialogue of Local Histories” is a nationwide effort coordinated by The New School's Humanities Action Lab (HAL). As a participating school, UNO joins 20 partner schools teaching courses dedicated to incarceration and its history, staging events with community partners and contributing to a national traveling exhibit. UNO’s contribution to the exhibit, entitled "Windows on Angola Prison," was assembled by students in UNO faculty member Ben Weber’s “Policing and Prisons” class. Students Tiffany Campo and Hannah Galloway presented the class project at the conference. Elizabeth Baez and Sheila Phipps are both community partners on the UNO project. A visual artist, Phipps’ portraits of incarcerated men are featured in the exhibit.
The exhibition is on view in New York City from April 3-21 at The New School's Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at the Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries. The exhibition will soon travel to partner sites across the country, including an opening at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans in April 2017.
"The UNO student presenters did an incredible job sharing the work we have done and continue to do with this project, and we are tremendously fortunate to have had Sheila Phipps with us at the conference sharing her wisdom and her art," said Ben Weber, a visiting lecturer at UNO’s Midlo Center for New Orleans Studies. "Our collaboration with the Humanities Action Lab has been a tremendous experience,” said history professor Mary Niall Mitchell, who also served as supervising faculty for the project.
“The recent opening and conference in New York allowed us to engage with our counterparts at other universities,” Mitchell said. “UNO students, faculty and community partners had the opportunity to contribute to urgent conversation on issues of mass incarceration and policing, issues that affect our own community on a daily basis. We are looking forward to next year when New Orleanians will be able to see and engage with the exhibit.”
Stories told through the exhibit range from Angola’s slave plantation-turned-prison in Louisiana, to the legacies of the Dakota Wars for Native American incarceration in Minnesota, to immigration detention at Ellis Island and Elizabeth, New Jersey. To complement the exhibition and launch event, the conference included active participation through interactive installations, live polling, small group discussions and commentary from scholars and criminal justice practitioners.