Since Childhood, Chance has been exchanging art through the mail. It has become a fundamental part of their art and abolitionist practice.
t 10 years old Chance received a letter from a person they knew that had just been sentenced to a couple decades in prison. Within the letter, there was a drawing of a school of little fish making the shape of a large fish ready to gobble, a significantly bigger fish. The image stuck with Chance, and developed into a lifelong commitment to building collective power to dismantle systems that benefit few and cause harm to many, specifically prisons.
The ideas conveyed in this mail art were not the only things that stuck with Chance. Holding this piece of mail, examining every part of it, noticing the intention behind each mark on the paper, Chance could feel the presence of someone who was gone. While hundreds of miles, razor wire topped fences, and 20 years of state imposed physical separation stood between Chance and the artist, in the moment when Chance examined that letter, the two were connected. It felt magical. This experience sparked Chance's commitment to working toward connection, collaboration, and solidarity across prison walls through mail exchange.
Eight years after Chance received that letter, they found themself on the other side of razor wire fences, sending mail out to the so-called "free world." During those two years that Chance was imprisoned, they took college classes through the mail and exchanged hundreds of letters and drawings with people on the outside.
Prisons are designed to block the natural flow of ideas, emotions, care, support, and love between people. Chance experienced this harm firsthand and lost many relationships and opportunities. Many people are less fortunate and lose all contact with friends, family, and lovers over the course of long prisons terms. Yet, people continue to love, care, support and learn together across prison walls through mail exchange. These exchanges directly undermine the function of prisons to stifle connections and can be a means of developing new tools, strategies, ideas and relationships that collectively create the force powerful enough to abolish prisons.
The Abolitionist Newspaper
The Abolitionist newspaper is a publication produced by the prison abolitionist organization Critical Resistance which Chance was a member of from 2017 to 2019. With the goal of sharing abolitionist theory and updates on organizing, Critical Resistance sends thousands of copies of the paper to people in jails and prisons.
While the paper was mainly read by imprisoned people, nearly all of the content within the paper was produced by activists and academics on the outside. As one of the Editors of The Abolitionist, Chance sought to provide more opportunities for imprisoned readers to produce content for the paper. Chance also introduced a "Kites to the Editor" section to the newspaper in which readers could write responses to content in the paper and have it published in the next issue of the paper. Chance also collaborated with imprisoned artist to use their artwork within the paper.
To further strengthen the connection between imprisoned readers and abolitionist organizers on the outside, Chance initiated and facilitated a reading group consisting of several imprisoned readers and members of Critical Resistance. Through mail exchanges, members of the reading group analyzed and discussed abolitionist theory and organizing.
in Support of Black Mamas' Bailout
Making and selling greeting cards is a prevalent part of prison life. Those with support on the outside will often trade the commissary they buy for handmade cards. This provides imprisoned artists with access to commissary items and in turn people on the outside receive handmade art in appreciation of their support. While incarcerated themself, Chance participated in this economy of care and support. Once released, they continued to make and sell greeting cards to promote economies of care and undermine the systems that challenge them.
Each year between 2018 and 2021 around Mother's Day, Chance produced and sold Mothers Day Cards and general Appreciation Cards. One hundred percent of profits were donated to National Bailout Collective's campaign to bailout Black mothers on Mother's Day and provide continued support, community, and organizing opportunities on the streets.
The National Bailout Collective continues to do powerful work to support people impacted by imprisonment. To support their work click here.
Chance continues to sell greeting cards to support themself and may be purchased in The Shop.
Inside Outside Postcard Art Exchange
When quarantine hit, we became confined to our homes and unable to see our loved ones in person for an undetermined amount of time. As someone who had experienced this type of separation due to incarceration, Chance realized this was an opportunity to build empathy for incarcerated people and to promote the means of connection that imprisoned people and their loved ones rely on when physical separation exists.
Chance put out a call for art submissions from artists on the inside and outside then screen printed the designs onto postcards that were exchanged between all participants. Through this project Chance strived to promote means of counteracting isolation despite the barrier to connection that presented itself.