Emiliano Lopez’s new ID hangs on a rusting pipe inside the New Industries Building on Alcatraz Island, part of the new exhibition “Future IDs at Alcatraz.”
The freelance software developer’s 54- by 84-inch vinyl print has a self-portrait he drew, his full name and states his purpose: “Connected Communities: Advocate for Youth and Life Skills Development.”
Below that is a date Lopez thought would never arrive: Dec. 1, 2017, the day he was released from prison.
“That was a date that I didn’t know was even going to exist; I didn’t even know it was going to happen,” Lopez, 41, says. “I had a life sentence and, at that time, Gov. [Jerry] Brown wrote a letter to oppose my parole.”
Lopez is one of 42 people featured in “Future IDs at Alcatraz,” which runs through Oct. 19.
Led by artist and Arizona State University professor Gregory Sale, and in partnership with the National Park Service, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, Anti-Recidivism Coalition and more than 20 other community organizations, “Future IDs” showcases artwork by individuals who were, or remain, incarcerated, as they consider their identities beyond being inmates reduced to a last name and a couple of digits.
Phillip E. Lester is a math specialist and academic coordinator as well as an alumnus from University of Southern California. Lavell Baylor is a U.S. Congresswoman. Cirese LaBerge-Bader suggests she’s a lot of things and a “mom too.”
Others acknowledged the limitations of a single identification card and opted to stick with their full names, a poem, or reached for the one-size-fits-all label: “Member of the Human Race.”
Sale wanted to reshape narrative around reintegration for people with conviction histories through visual art.
“If part of the problem of being stigmatized [when] reentering society, after you’ve completed your sentence and your time, is a cultural problem, then what do cultural solutions look like and how could we find that together?” Sale, 57, asks.
But “Future IDs at Alcatraz” is more than an art exhibit. Monthly programs every third Saturday co-presented with organizations including Actors’ Gang Prison Project and Young Women’s Freedom Center are scheduled to address issues around reintegration and rehabilitation.
On July 20, William James Association and the Alcatraz Formerly Incarcerated Speaker Series’ “The Family’s In Prison, Too” included an honest conversation between two mothers and daughters, revealing how families are affected when they see a loved one institutionalized.
“I’ve never been able to talk about it or even ask,” Rebecca Jackson said, trying to hold back tears as she turned to her daughter, Celeste Jackson. “What was it like for you to have a mom that was gone and in prison?”
The art show and public programs both emphasize that reintegration is a long, delicate and complex process of healing that may not be as swift or conclusive as a single release-date or ID-card.
For Dominique Bell, project collaborator of “Future IDs” and a Loyola Marymount University alum who graduated with a degree in African-American studies, full reintegration only comes once his past story is no longer asked to be told.
“It’s like the prologue; I don’t mind if it’s a small section,” Bell says. “But don’t make it the whole table of contents; it’s one little chapter. Can we talk about other things?”
IF YOU GO
Future IDs at Alcatraz
Where: New Industries Building, Alcatraz Island, S.F.
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily; closes October
Admission: Free with purchase of Alcatraz cruise ticket
Contact: (415) 561-3000, www.parksconservancy.org/our-work/future-ids-alcatraz