Hello there! My name is Jesse Escalante and I am a 21-year-old student at San Francisco State University majoring in Sociology and Dance. This past semester I took Grassroots Organizing for Change in Communities of Color that focused on what it actually means to organize and the work that goes into it. One of the requirements was to volunteer at a local grassroots organization. Each week, we had guest speakers from various local organizations speak of their work and how it related to our class material. This is how I first heard of the Freedom Archives and, with the help of my professor, I began to volunteer with them.
During my time at Freedom Archives, I added to the collection on control units and super-max prisons, specifically focusing on ADX Florence in Colorado. During this project, I was able to explore the archives and engage with various materials regarding control units (used inter-changeably with super-max) and ADX Florence. I read articles, interviews, letters from prisoners and accessed various media resources, such as video and audio files, which furthered my knowledge about the history of super-max prisons. By the end of my project, I not only had a better grasp of the work Freedom Archives does, but also more information on the use of control units.
Volunteering with Freedom Archives has given me an insight into what it means to be a grassroots organization. Although the work done here is vastly different than the work done in some large non-profit organizations, it still has an impact. Since my internship, I have been able to reflect upon my own K–12 education compared to college. I had never even heard the term “super-max prisons” until my internship. Now, I have a better understanding of the ways control unit prisons repress movements, torture those locked inside them, and isolate people from their community and family. All this information is accessible through their website. Freedom Archives is providing a service greatly needed, especially in a political climate like now. I have benefited from their work and I know others will too. If you’d like to make a donation to support the work of the Freedom Archives, you can do it here.