We’re back. Remember when 2016 ended and we all thought it just couldn’t be any worse? This year. Damn. We don’t have to explain it, because we know you’re feeling it too. That being said, we’re back this week with a short interview with Daniel McGowan from the Certain Days Calendar.
One thing that has influenced and informed our politics, our strategies and our actions has been being deeply involved in prisoner support. We started doing prisoner support not just because it is the “right” thing, but because we genuinely believe that we owe it to others who are in the inside for us to be out here for them. Also, because we know we might be on the other side of those prison walls one day ourselves. Daniel McGowan, a former ELF political prisoner and homie of ours, takes prisoner support seriously. He’s made it a tremendous focus in his life since his release from prison several years back.
We’re continually inspired by his tirelessness and focus on getting folks free. We caught up with Daniel to talk about the Certain Days Calendar project:
Bloc Party: Can you tell us about the origins of Certain Days? How did it begin? How long has the project been running?
Daniel McGowan: Certain Days started in 2000 and the first calendar was released for 2001. The idea was conceived by political prisoner Herman Bell, who is still an editor (with David Gilbert and Robert Seth Hayes).
How did you get involved with Certain Days?
I started to contribute in around 2005 and wrote an article in 2008. I joined the collective after the 2015 calendar came out.
The artwork every year is both beautiful and incredibly varied in style. How do you curate the art for the calendar?
We come up with a theme for each year in consultation with editors inside and through discussions over the course of months. Once we have that theme, and write a call, we send it out all over the place and do a fairly large mailing to prisoners inside. Sometimes we also approach movement artists as well and we keep our eyes open all year for beautiful artwork. Once we have our submissions, we pick favorites and whittle it down from there. It is not easy to come up with 12 pieces when you get about 100!
How do you see art connected to anti-prison and prisoner struggles?
I think art is integral to anti-prison and prisoner struggles because it expresses ideas in a way words and dry essays about the prison system just cannot. I like to think art can be more accessible than the normal ways our movement(s) communicate our ideas. Street art, in particular, is much more accessible to me than something hanging in a gallery.
What do the proceeds from the calendar go towards?
We have two long standing organizations our proceeds go to: Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) in New York City and Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, in Palestine. They both do amazing work to support prisoners in their communities. This year, we will be donating to a third group or campaign that has not been decided yet. We wanted to maintain flexibility to be able to respond to new flashpoints. In the past, we have donated to the Unist’ot’en Camp, 4 Struggle magazine, TGI Justice Project and the Six Nations Land Defenders Legal Defence Fund.
How can people support Certain Days or potentially get involved in the future?
There are a few ways people can get involved. One of the best ways is to help distribute our calendar. Basically, people can buy bulk copies of our calendar for $10 each and sell them for $15 each, keeping the $5 for your organization. We have many campaigns, friends and organizations that do just that and it helps fund their work.
We also have single copies of our calendar available via kersplebedeb.com, AK Press and Burning Books. Another way people can help is to sponsor copies for prisoners. We offer discounted copies to any prisoners for $8 (postage paid). If you have friends inside you want to sponsor a copy for, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org Finally, people can reach out to us to help out with editing for next years calendar at the email and check out certaindays.org
Thank you so much, Daniel!
Be sure to check back here on IGD every Friday for Bloc Party columns and interviews. We’re also excited to takeover the IGD instagram every Friday now with #FTTPFridays, where we’ll have prison/er related content that you won’t find on the site.