On November 29, SFCC staff and a group of corpsmembers attended the infamous Alcatraz Island, a designated National Historic Landmark for its significant contribution to the nation’s history. We learned about key individuals as we toured the facility, one of which was an African American man by the name of Robert Lipscomb. The Alcatraz website provides a look into Robert’s past, describing his upbringing as, “turbulent,” and having included, “a period when he was institutionalized by his mother at the age of 9 after being declared psychotic”. We learned that he started committing crimes at an early age and was imprisoned at 18 for auto theft, which led to his incarceration at the State Reformatory in Ionia, Michigan. He was later transferred to Alcatraz Island due to his efforts to resist segregationist practices within the prison system. He was considered to be a real “threat” and “danger” to the prison system and American status quo.
Historically, Alcatraz has been associated with death, horror and inhumane conditions. While all ring true, there is a bit of hope illustrated in a new art exhibition coined: Future IDs. Socially engage artist, Gregory Sale states, “Future IDs is a multi-year, social art project about individual stories of transformation and how those stories collectively can help reframe the narrative of re-entry. It comprises art/future planning workshops, exhibitions and public programs across California, building towards an arts-based public service campaign. The central idea is for returning citizens to create new identification cards for future selves — perhaps for a dream job, a role in society, or a continuing role with family, such as father or mother.”
Our corpsmemebers appreciated the opportunity to re frame their narrative as many have been involved in the justice system. We returned to the City with an increase of history, appreciation of life and hope for the future!