The Emory Center for Digital Scholarship (ECDS) has helped Common Good Atlanta (CGA) develop and launch Hourglass, a creative digital journal that showcases the work of formerly-incarcerated students and alumni. CGA is a non-profit education program offering college-level classes at four Atlanta-area prisons and one downtown class for prison-impacted people. The program “provides incarcerated people and formerly incarcerated people with broad, democratic access to higher education so they can develop a better understanding of both themselves and the societal forces at work around them.” Students take classes from Emory, Georgia Tech, Morehouse, Kennesaw State, and Georgia State faculty on literature, writing, history, philosophy, and art, producing publishable essays and articles in the process. ECDS Digital Scholarship Specialist Kayla Shipp worked with the CGA project team on the journal website, which has officially launched today.
- Hourglass Journal: hourglassjournal.org
Earlier this year CGA approached ECDS as a partner in developing Hourglass, helping the non-profit honor their commitment to provide students with resources to tell their own stories. Over the years CGA has encountered difficulty when helping students publish their work, since many established journals can be resistant to publishing the work of previously-incarcerated people, regardless of the work’s quality. The journal presents an opportunity for alumni to showcase their writing, serving as a space to build work experience, and gives the program a central platform for its past work and future promise.
The finished site highlights the alumni’s writing, clustered by theme on the home page and as a complete, browsable collection. Each essay features a photo chosen by the author to represent their work as well as an author photo taken by Atlanta photographer Joe Boris.
Dr. Shipp and the project team chose muted background colors to allow the writing and photos to stand out, and used a boxed layout with subtle lines to evoke a print environment. Shipp adds:
We named the journal Hourglass to reflect students’ ongoing interest in exploring the philosophy of time in their writing, and in memory of an hourglass built by incarcerated students as well as a poem written by alumna Janine Solursh.
As the journal grows, CGA plans to issue an annual print edition, feature other multimedia content created by their alumni, and (with the help of ECDS) train CGA students and alumni to work as its editorial staff. Working on Hourglass will give students skills to include on their résumés as they look for jobs and, most importantly, it will give them control over how and where their stories are told.
“As professors teaching inside prisons,” said CGA co-founder Sarah Higinbotham, “we are creating spaces where our students can enter conversations — with each other, with poets, philosophers, and artists throughout history, and with faculty and students from Georgia’s universities. Hourglass has become one of those spaces. It allows people whose voices have been suppressed to ring out.”
You can read more about Hourglass on the website’s About page, and you can learn more about Common Good Atlanta on their website. You can also support Common Good Atlanta by donating here: commongoodatlanta.com/giving