my latest 2 pieces about Marissa Alexander

I've been covering Marissa Alexander's case on and off since her sentencing in 2012. Below are my latest two, one just before her final sentencing hearing this past Tuesday and one written in the hours that followed her release.

Two hundred years ago, quilts were an integral part of the Underground Railroad. Abolitionists sewed patterns into the squares of their quilts. They then hung the quilts in their yards, ostensibly to air them out. Runaway slaves could use the squares to identify friendly people, possible guides, preparations and directions towards freedom.

This Tuesday, January 27, quilt squares will once again serve as a beacon towards freedom. In Jacksonville, Fla., the lawn outside the Duval County Courthouse will be blanketed with quilt squares. The reason: to bring attention to and protest the continued prosecution of Marissa Alexander, a black woman, mother of three and domestic violence survivor. Collected by the Monument Quilt, an ongoing project that crowd-sources stories of domestic and sexual violence, each of the 350 four-foot by four-foot squares contains a message about domestic violence or sexual assault. By sharing stories of domestic and sexual violence, the quilt also transforms the prosecution’s narrative that Alexander was the aggressor and, instead, examines her case in the context of a culture where domestic violence and sexual assault are pervasive and often condoned.

Read the entire article at Changing the Culture of Domestic Violence One Quilt Square at a Time, Waging NonViolence, January 26, 2015.

and in the hours that followed Alexander's sentencing and release, I wrote another piece for The Nation:

On Tuesday, January 27, 2015, Marissa Alexander walked out of jail, but not as a free woman. At yesterday's hearing, the judge sentenced her to two years of house arrest with an ankle monitor. The prosecutor's office attempted to argue that Alexander should serve an additional two years of probation after her house arrest ended but were unsuccessful. Their continued attempts to punish Alexander for defending herself are a stark illustration of the ways in which domestic violence survivors are criminalized and prosecuted...

For years, anti-violence activists of color, along with organizations such as Beth Richie and INCITE! Women, Gender Non-Conforming, and Trans people of Color Against Violence, have noted that, by criminalizing survivors, the legal system replays, in institutional form, the domestic violence these women suffered. "Every time the state shames, blames, and punishes victims of domestic and sexual violence, it legitimizes that violence," members of the Free Marissa Now campaign tweeted hours before the sentencing. While Alexander's case has often been discussed as an example of the racial bias of the legal system, the intersection of her race and gender cannot be overemphasized.

When domestic violence is discussed, the "perfect victim" is usually portrayed as middle-class and white; she is also almost always submissive, loving and, most important, non-violent. So when she defends herself (or her children), a woman defies ingrained expectations of what a "perfect victim" should be and, for police, prosecutors, judges and juries, relinquishes any consideration of the circumstances of her action. In the case of a woman of color, who is already less likely to be deemed worthy of legal protection, the situation becomes even more tangled: by defending herself, she negates any claim she may have had to being the victim and gets framed as the aggressor.

Read the entire piece at Why is Marissa Alexander Still Being Punished for Fighting Back?, The Nation, January 28, 2015.