Hello! My name is Mara Halpern. I’m a sophomore at Scripps College, and one of the interns at the Freedom Archives this summer. I came into the internship looking to get a sense of the archival field, and to contextualize my academic studies with history of people’s movements.

After learning the procedures and protocols for locating, engaging, and cataloging materials, I was invited to explore whichever collections were of interest to me. I also watched historical documentaries as remote work, which wound up leading me to related resources at the Archives. This showed me how to integrate the archival materials into real life, and supplemented the documentaries’ strengths and shortcomings. 

And so, I got to deepen my understanding of topics I had only brushed over in the past, and to explore altogether new histories I had never been exposed to. 

First, I did a deep dive into the AIDS epidemic of San Francisco, where I was moved by the monumental solidarity between queer folks in the Bay Area. This helped me conceptualize the legacy of gay liberation in the region today. Prairie Fire Organizing Committee’s (PFOC) Breakthrough journal was particularly useful for this, and illuminated the interconnectedness of AIDS solidarity, political imprisonment, and community organizing more generally.

This led me to research political imprisonment, with access to extensive resources on the Soledad Brothers, Angela Davis, prisoner organizing at Pelican Bay State Prison, The Weather Underground, and more. These collections amplified my understanding of prison resistance, which I had formerly understood more so as a political ideology rather than a well-substantiated reality. In turn, I gained tools to defend beliefs I hold around prison abolition with concrete evidence.

Similarly, the Anti-Zionism collection confirmed that pro-Palestinian perspectives are (and have always been) numerous— and vital to understanding resistance to the Zionist state. Work like Mohammed El-Kurd’s poetry will stick with me long-term. Engaging anti-Zionist resources at length reminded me of how vital it is that the public has access to revolutionary perspectives, which are so commonly overridden and diminished. 

I will not hesitate to encourage people around me to seek out radical resources, now that I know the extent to which they are available. This internship has been more impactful than I ever could have hoped. Well beyond learning how to use an archival interface, I am leaving wholeheartedly re-inspired and grounded by what I have learned. Anyone interested in interning should consider applying here: https://freedomarchives.org/get-involved/internships/ or supporting via donation: https://freedomarchives.org/donation/.

– Mara