Working at the intersections of Abolition, Black Spirituality, and Scholarship, Johari Jabir (Black Studies, Univ. of Illinois Chicago) taught the course, “Black Lives in Historic Context” at three sites concurrently; on campus as an undergraduate course, Covenant UCC in South Holland, Ill, and Stateville Penitentiary outside Chicago. Students at Stateville enrolled in the course through the Prison Neighborhood Arts Project (PNAP), of which Johari is an ongoing instructor. The course focused on themes of Slavery, Abolition Democracy, and Citizenship in the 19th Century. A concluding colloquium brought these three learning communities together in person, with PNAP students joining by zoom. “The Urgency of Abolition and Ethical Futures” was the writing and discussion prompt for the group. When PNAP students were finally able to sign on the greeting between these three populations was a kind of advent miracle, a flash of God’s light.
The event inaugurates something Johari has founded called, The Faith and Abolition Network, a radical ecumenical network of people in support of grassroots anti-prison activism. This is the context Johari crafted this poem on Mary’s Magnificat.
I wish I had been there
when Mary got the news
Hark the herald the angels sing
but Gabriel sang the blues