Charisse “Happy” Shumate at a conference!

by Urszula Wislanka
Charisse ShumateA very special workshop was held at the National Women’s Studies Association’s annual conference in New Orleans on June 21, 2003. It was titled “From the South to South-Central [L.A.]: Giving Philosophic Structure to Concrete Events in Women’s Struggle Against the Criminal (In)Justice System.”
Georgianna Williams told her story, of growing up on a plantation in Mississippi, of “escaping” to Los Angeles, and her awakening as a criminal (in)justice activist when her youngest son, Damian, was arrested after the 1992 rebellion. She spoke of the creation of the LA 4+ Defense Committee and Mothers ROC (Mothers Reclaiming Our Children), both composed primarily of women of color, whose children were being prosecuted by the police.
We then saw that part of the “Truth to Power” video where Charisse Shumate spoke to the legislators during the hearings at CCWF in October, 2000. I told the audience a little more about her life and about the fight she fought to re-create herself as a “we person.” (see The Fire Inside #17, March 2001, for my take on this.)
Ron Brokmeyer rounded out the panel by speaking on the power of the ideas for social transformation that come from the deepest layers of the population. This is a real source for ideas of women’s studies, and a way to liberation for everybody.
The audience participated by contributing their ideas and their stories. One young woman from Florida told of her father’s experience, who used to teach in a local high school. When he offered a class in prison, he noticed how many youths who were in his class, were again in his class.
This workshop was organized by News and Letters Committees. CCWP provided the video. For more information on the conference contact News & Letters, 36 S. Wabash Ave., #1440, Chicago, Il. 60603.