Scene from Calero Creek Trail • Photo by Don DeBold/Creative Commons

Hey, friends! Your boy Felix here.

I want to take this opportunity to welcome everybody and formally introduce you to my new IE column: “On the Fence Line.” You may have already read a few pieces attributed to me and now my pieces will be unified under that title. What does “On the Fence Line” mean?

The name represents a few different things.

“On the Fence Line” represents the literal chain link fence that separates the two recreation yards at Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC) — it’s 12-feet tall and lined with razor-wire. Due to the separation of our prison units and the decline of cultural/peer-led programming space, for many of us serving time at SCCC, the fence line is our only opportunity to congregate, catch up, and organize for systemic change, rain or shine.

It’s not unusual to hear conversations on politics, sports, entertainment, goals, hopes and dreams, grief and despair, love and purpose. So the title both references the fence lines found throughout the United States’ pervasive carceral state, as well as the many in-depth conversations happening every day between prisoners from all backgrounds and walks of life.

Another interpretation of “On the Fence Line” relates to how some individuals within our Asian American community may be “on the fence” about where they stand on crucial social issues like prison abolition, anti-Blackness, patriarchy, and so much more. I hope this column introduces readers to these terms and theories that may, understandably, be unfamiliar to many of us.

Lastly, the name symbolically represents the broader fence line that separates prisoners from community and the conversations we should be, and will be, having with one another on that fence line. Here’s what I am trying to accomplish with these writings:

1. Give our community an insight into life inside a prison and tell stories of everyday struggles and resistance.

2. Discuss the effects of mass incarceration ton our community hat many don’t know of.

3. Highlight the beautiful resistance and collective organizing happening between different ethnicities and cultures inside prisons.

4. Bridge the gap between our community outside and those of us inside, illustrating our common struggles and seeking solutions that are grounded in abolition, resistance, cultural preservation, and radical love.

5. Amplify the voices of the incarcerated.

“On the Fence Line” is also a space for conversations, debates, humor, and healing — and it will continue to be that until all fence lines crumble, replaced with community gardens and libraries.

Everybody is encouraged and welcome to write to me. I invite you to respond to past pieces that may have resonated with you or disagreed with and to submit any questions about prison life in general. Your question may be answered in a future installment. No question is too stupid. The answer is yes, “courtesy flushing” is mandatory! I know what you all were thinking.

But in all seriousness, the team at the IE has provided me with an incredible opportunity to write and amplify the voices of my people who are currently trapped inside these concrete cages. This is a responsibility that I humbly accept and do not take lightly.

On a personal note, as both a Seattle native and Asian American, being able to speak directly to you from here is a privilege that I will always be grateful for. I want to continue honoring our community by telling stories from those of us who have long been forgotten behind these concrete walls — the victims of shame, resentment, and broken promises.

Selfishly, I yearn to someday be a storyteller that my father can be proud of again, but that’s a story for another time. “On the Fence Line” will forever belong to the community. So until next time, as we say at SCCC, see you on the fence line.

Felix Sitthivong is a journalist, organizer, member of Empowerment Avenue, and advisor for the Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Awareness Group (APICAG). Through APICAG, Sitthivong has organized immigration, social justice and youth outreach forums and has designed Asian American studies courses, an intersectional feminism 101 class and an anti-domestic violence program. You can reach him via Securus (WA #354579) or write to him at Felix Sitthivong #354579, 191 Constantine Way, Aberdeen, WA 98520. 

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