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News in Brief: December 5, 2021

This week’s news stories from SAIC, Chicago, the nation, and the world.

By News

A wide-mouthed character tilts its head back and gobbles up a variety of news briefs and debris. Illustration by Jade Sheng.

Illustration by Jade Sheng.

Eclectic and eccentric night of performances at Pride Arts Center

On Saturday night, Crooked Mouth, the Chicago-based “alt-rock-country-funk-cabaret” (according to their Twitter bio), opened a show with the tale of a snake with no skin. Leveling his gaze at the forty or so audience members, Beau O’Reilly (SAIC Writing Faculty), Crooked Mouth’s frontman and the night’s emcee, warned us that none of the performers would be funny compared to “our friend Cat,” for whom the show collected donations for hearing loss.

Crooked Mouth performed songs about finding a place to hide at a spooky, rural writing residency and “shitty motherfucker friends.” As emcee, O’Reilly introduced a trio of actors who used comic panels and dog-toys to tell the the story of an over-spoiled and under-trained pandemic puppy. Poets, singers, storytellers, and sound artists took turns on stage, spinning a yarn of eccentric humor through the evening. At intermission, O’Reilly recommended drinks at the 7-11 across the street. 

The final performance featured the aforementioned Cat. In a verbal eye-roll, Cat pointed out the irony of a benefit for hearing loss featuring so much music. According to Cat, all the dear friends’ performances sounded “like garbage.” To recreate the sensation of sound filtered through Cat’s hearing, Cat and the guitar player from Crooked Mouth used a tabletop apparatus that resembled a keyboard. Together they pecked out two atonal, buzzing songs, by way of finale.

Chicago Cultural Center hosts homages to disruption

On the ground floor of the Chicago Cultural Center, Lumpen Magazine, the underground radical magazine is celebrating its thirty year anniversary with a four-month-long exhibit, “Successful Failures.” This past week, as part of the ongoing celebration, Lumpen invited the Red Rover Series to perform at their space. Founded in 2005, the Red Rover Series features Chicago writers and makers performing their work and interacting with audiences. 

On Wednesday, the artist M_m<M (MFA Photography 2017) performed an “intimate love song for the unclassified social history of NASA.” Wearing a cut-off blue NASA flight suit with a “Lady Apollo” patch, M_m<M (pronounced M M M) plucked a microphone from among a medley of sound equipment splayed across a rainbow unicorn rug. M_m<M is interested in “redreaming” and “retouching” the meganarrative. They passionately pointed to the connections between NASA and Disney and ex-Nazi scientists but the exact nature of these relations was lost on me. 

M_m<M’s intention mirrors those of Lumpen, which was “created to take part in the battle for truth in the infowar against corporate media: a lofty and naive ambition, but a real one too.” “Successful Failures” is on display until January 31, 2022.

Two Pillars of Illinois Incarceration Challenged; Common teaches at prison

The United States harbors one of the most regressive incarceration systems in the world. Individual states have unique policies that determine the severity of their prison system. Illinois currently has no limits on how long a person can be held in solitary confinement, nor does the state practice discretionary parole. The Illinois legislature now faces two bills addressing these wrongs: H.B 3564, the Anthony Gay Isolated Confinement Restriction Act; and S.B 2333, Earned Discretionary Reentry.

Widely regarded as torture, solitary confinement denies an inmate human interaction. The United Nations’ Mandela Rules state that solitary confinement is a “measure of last resort,” but in U.S. prison systems, solitary confinement is used as a population control mechanism. Guards have been known to arbitrarily enforce solitary confinement for disagreements between inmates as trivial as NFL games. Anthony Gay, for whom H.B. 3564 is named, spent 22 years in solitary confinement after a street fight in which he was charged with aggrevated battery and robbery of a hat and a dollar bill.

Discretionary parole, the subject of SB233, is the practice of revisiting an incarcerated individual’s sentence in order to recommend earlier release. Illinois abolished discretionary parole in 1978. Inmates with life sentences expect to die in prison, even if decades of rehabilitation and maturation make repetition of their youthful mistakes unthinkable.

In his album “Black America Again,” Chicago artist Common raps: “The new plantation, mass incarceration / Instead of educate, they’d rather convict the kids.” At Stateville Correctional Center, half an hour from Chicago, nine inmates are wrapping up a twelve week music course with Common. Warden Dave Gomez told CBS News “You can’t just throw people away,” and that having a therapeutic community leads to better outcomes for staff and inmates at Stateville. The course is called “A Rebirth of Sound.” Perhaps, with this new legislation, some of these inmates can hope for a rebirth of their own.

Harsh “Remain in Mexico” policy revitalized for U.S. immigration

Refoulement is the forcible return of migrants to a place where their safety is threatened. Under international law, refoulement is illegal, yet, the United States is working with Mexico to threaten the already tenuous lives of asylum seekers.

In January 2018, the Trump administration instituted the Migration Protection Protocols (MPP) also known as the “remain in Mexico” program. Affecting some 70,000 migrants since its inception, the MPP requires migrants to wait on the Mexican side of the US-Mexico border while they await immigration hearings. Documentation of rape and kidnapping abound for those waiting in Mexico. Squalid living conditions and ruthless gang violence forced migrants to leave before their trials. As much as 43% of MPP applicants missed their court appointments, an absence that automatically causes deportation. In January, Biden fulfilled a campaign promise by scaling back MPP. He terminated MPP in June. 

In August, a Texas federal judge appointed by Trump ordered the Department of Homeland Security to reinstate MPP. The Biden administration restarted talks with the government of Mexico in September. Last Thursday, Dec. 2, the administration announced that MPP was not only reinstated, but expanded. The previous MPP allowed non-Spanish speaking migrants to wait in the U.S.; Now these immigrants also wait in Mexico.

A Parallel Story, Across the Water: Libyan Detention Centers brutally reroute E.U. Migration

On the other side of the Atlantic, the European Union similarly conspires with bordering states to stymie the flow of migrants. The E.U., led by Italy’s Minister of the Interior Marco Minniti, has employed the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept migrants travelling by boat across the Mediterranean, despite Libya’s tenuously splintered government. The Libyan Coast Guard is composed of local patrols without unified command.

It has been reported that migrants are beaten as they are dragged onto Coast Guard vessels. The abuses worsen. Migrants are then herded to Al Mabani, the deplorable prison complex near Tripoli, Libya’s capital. Recent revelations about Libyan officers pocketing humanitarian aid has caused financial and material resources to the migrants to dry up. The crowding in cells is as intense as three individuals per square meter —a diagram in the New Yorker conjures the imagery of eighteenth-century slave ship holds. Indeed, the migrants can be bought in Al Mabani at modern slave markets. 

The funds to purchase the Libyan Coast Guard vessels, to outfit the Libyan officers, and to install showers at Al Mabani come directly from the E.U.’s agency for border protection, Frontex. No plan to process these migrants exists in their brutal strategy to stem migration to Europe.

Michaela (MFAW 2023) is the News Editor at F Newsmagazine. Hopefully she is drawing a tree.

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