There but for grace

willard-suitcases-1When patients were committed to the Willard Asylum for the Insane in Upstate New York, most arrived with a suitcase packed with whatever possessions they thought they might need for their time inside.

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article-2338714-1A3BDB87000005DC-736_964x640 23626suitcaseAarticle-2338714-1A3BDB3F000005DC-3_964x640Willard inmates were committed any number of reasons including epilepsy, “promiscuity,” postpartum or menopausal depression, homosexuality, “shell shock,” “disobedience,” and the like.
article-2338714-1A3BFE82000005DC-902_964x640article-2338714-1A3BDBCB000005DC-105_964x640article-2338714-1A3BD883000005DC-718_964x640article-2338714-1A3BFF5A000005DC-137_964x640Many were committed by family members, and most never left.

article-2338714-1A3BD977000005DC-878_964x640The average patient stay at Willard lasted for 30 years, & when those patients died, they were buried in graves across the street from the asylum, their suitcases locked in an attic & forgotten.

article-2338714-1A3BD71F000005DC-179_964x640Willard Suitcases Project Case Irma Mei ©2013 Jon Crispin ALL RIGHTS RESERVED20130716049
In 1995, an employee of the mental hospital discovered 400 of those suitcases, dating from 1910 to 1960.

Willard Suitcases Project Case Irma Mei ©2013 Jon Crispin ALL RIGHTS RESERVEDPhotographer Jon Crispin’s photographs of those suitcases and their contents are currently featured as part of an exhibit at the San Francisco Exploratorium, ‘The Changing Face of What is Normal.’

article-2338714-1A3BD813000005DC-997_964x640 More here and here and here.



Kids who die


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Kids Who Die
  –  by Langston Hughes  –

This is for the kids who die,
Black and white,
For kids will die certainly.
The old and rich will live on awhile,
As always,
Eating blood and gold,
Letting kids die.

Kids will die in the swamps of Mississippi
Organizing sharecroppers
Kids will die in the streets of Chicago
Organizing workers
Kids will die in the orange groves of California
Telling others to get together
Whites and Filipinos,
Negroes and Mexicans,
All kinds of kids will die
Who don’t believe in lies, and bribes, and contentment
And a lousy peace.

Of course, the wise and the learned
Who pen editorials in the papers,
And the gentlemen with Dr. in front of their names
White and black,
Who make surveys and write books
Will live on weaving words to smother the kids who die,
And the sleazy courts,
And the bribe-reaching police,
And the blood-loving generals,
And the money-loving preachers
Will all raise their hands against the kids who die,
Beating them with laws and clubs and bayonets and bullets
To frighten the people—
For the kids who die are like iron in the blood of the people—
And the old and rich don’t want the people
To taste the iron of the kids who die,
Don’t want the people to get wise to their own power,
To believe an Angelo Herndon, or even get together

Listen, kids who die—
Maybe, now, there will be no monument for you
Except in our hearts
Maybe your bodies’ll be lost in a swamp
Or a prison grave, or the potter’s field,
Or the rivers where you’re drowned like Leibknecht
But the day will come—
You are sure yourselves that it is coming—
When the marching feet of the masses
Will raise for you a living monument of love,
And joy, and laughter,
And black hands and white hands clasped as one,
And a song that reaches the sky—
The song of the life triumphant
Through the kids who die.