Stevie Wilson and the Smithfield Abolition Study Squad (SASS) read A Raisin in the Sun
Stevie Wilson, a Black, queer, writer, activist, and student incarcerated in Pennsylvania, is the coordinator of, and participant in, a network of self-organized prisoner abolitionist study groups at SCI-Smithfield. On the website of the four study crews, Dreaming Freedom | Practicing Abolition, Stevie recalls a scene from Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun in his essay, “Doing Abolition.”
“My daily practice of abolition is grounded in a compassionate attitude towards everyone. I check my impulses to judge and categorize people based upon their present circumstances and recent behaviors. I find that this makes it easier for me to connect with and listen to other people.
It is said: Hurt people hurt people. Behind these walls, there are many hurting people. When someone does something we don't like, we want to lash out and punish them. Abolition obligates us to recognize, check and change this attitude. In a scene from A Raisin in the Sun, Mama Younger tells Beneatha the following:
"There is always something left to love. And if you ain't learned that, you ain't learned nothing. . . Child, when do you think is the time to love somebody the most; when they done good and made things easy for everybody?
Well then, you ain't through learning—because that ain't the time at all. It's when he's at his lowest and can't believe in hisself 'cause the world done whipped him so.
When you start measuring somebody, measure him right, child, measure him right. Make sure you done taken into account what hills and valleys he come through before he got to wherever he is."
This scene reminds me to not be judgmental, hastily casting people off, rendering them disposable, because they've done something not to my liking. Abolition reminds me that those are the times when love, understanding and compassion are most necessary.
—Stevie and the Smithfield Abolition Study Squad (SASS)
Stephen “Stevie” Wilson is a currently incarcerated Black, queer, writer, activist, and student. For over two decades, he was active in the Ballroom/House community and worked as an HIV prevention specialist and community organizer. His work, writing, and practice inherit teachings from prison abolition, transformative and racial justice, Black Feminist theory, and queeration. Stevie works to expose and dismantle the PIC and to build a world in which we deal with harm without caging and exiling people. He desires a transformation in our society, in our world, and believes that art, especially storytelling, plays a critical role in bringing about that transformation because art is not just a mirror of who we are, but also a forecast of what we can be. Stevie is a member of Black & Pink and Sylvia Rivera Law Project’s Prisoner Advisory Council.
The Smithfield Abolition Study Squad (SASS) is the longest running study group at SCI-SMITHFIELD. SASS meets monthly and is comprised of members of the prison’s LGBTQ support group. Its focus is penal abolition theory and practice that centers the lived experiences of queer/trans folk with policing, imprisonment, and parole/probation. Texts thatSASS has studied and discussed include Queer In(Justice), Captive Genders, and Invisible No More.