This project is dedicated to the life and legacy of Herman Wallace, a man who wrongfully spent 4-decades in solitary confinement in the state of Louisiana. From solitary confinement, Herman became jackie sumell’s mentor, elder, and the driving force behind Herman’s House and The Solitary Gardens. He was released on October 1st, 2013, and joined the ancestors on October 4th, 2013. Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox and Robert King are collectively known as The Angola 3, their love, patience, and tutelage has been central to jackie’s political and personal orientation since 2001.
jackie is the lead artist, prison abolitionist and visionary. She has spent the last 17-years working with folks serving their sentences in longterm isolation. Her 12-year long collaboration with Herman Wallace has positioned her at the forefront of the campaign to end solitary confinement in the United States. An ardent lecturer and professor, she is the recipient of many grants and fellowships including Rauschenberg Artist-As-Activist, A Blade of Grass, Soros Justice Fellowship, and Eyebeam Project Fellowship. She is based in New Orleans where she maintains her commitment to those directly impacted by mass incarceration through both art and advocacy. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Project Manager, Mary Okoth came on board in 2016 and has been the yin to jackie’s hyper yang. An indispensible part of the project Mary has contributed her time, energy and heart to the project and to our Solitary Gardeners. Mary is an aspiring social worker, prison abolitionist, and multimedia artist. She is a graduate of Oberlin College (B.A. Studio Art, B.A. Art History) and a Master's candidate at Tulane School of Social Work, with a concentration in Disaster Mental Health and Trauma Studies. She is a co-founder of Bar None, an initiative offering arts opportunities to those directly impacted by incarceration. She is completing her graduate field work at the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, the juvenile public defender’s office for Orleans Parish. She is the magic behind Grow@SolitaryGardens.org
Jamal is the Lead Volunteer Farmer and all around CLUTCH for the Solitary Gardens. His farm, SUA NOLA/ Whipple Farms, is a neighbor to the Solitary Gardens. He can often be seen straddling his time between these projects, consulting on planting schedules, or showing us just how to hack the sugarcane. He has been an invaluable partner from the start of this project.
Born and raised in New Orleans, Bella Blue is mostly known for her presence in New Orleans and the world as a burlesque performer, producer, and educator. She is also the Letter Writing Coordinator for the Solitary Gardens. Bella believes that through letter writing, incarcerated persons can experience a sense of liberation. In turn, letter writers can begin to dismantle their own stigmas and beliefs around people who is imprisoned. Through letters, there are no walls, bars, guards, etc. There is just connection and action to create something on the outside via the dreams and imagination of someone on the inside. If you are interested in corresponding with a solitary gardener, send an email to: Bella@SolitaryGardens.org
Ron came on board early in the development of the project to develop the platform through our Eyebeam Fellowship. The designs for this website are inspired by their incredible vision. Ron is a designer and social practitioner. They work to create strategies using art and design that help people understand how urban systems work and how to work within them. They have been a collaborator with design teams that implemented projects in New Orleans, Ghana, Colombia, New York, and Venice and has had work featured in AIA New York, the UN World Urban Forum, and the Allied Media Conference.
Imani Jacqueline Brown
Imani was the first project manager for the Solitary Gardens and had a tremendous influence on the success and direction of the project. Currently a Graduate Student in London, Imani’s wisdom, creative eye and talent are sorely missed. IJB works to install an ethical and humanistic practice and theory in the Culture Industrial Complex through actions, interventions, writings, and projects that approach architecture, public space, and cultural production as manipulable tools for a restorative justice agenda.
Abi is a landscape architect based in Minneapolis, MN working to reconcile the benefits of landscape architecture with environmental and social injustices. Her attraction to landscape architecture stems from her experiences working with limited resource communities in urban environments. Through work with teens living on the street in Tacoma, WA she recognized the social tolls that urban environments demand if designed without sensitivity. Building school gardens in Jackson, MS she realized the benefits of engaging people in appropriately-designed, functional and beautiful outdoor spaces. Abi volunteered to develop the original site design and renderings for Solitary Gardens in 2015, since then she has continue to support Solitary Gardens as a consultant, offering botanical guidance for Solitary Gardens seed packets and lending a hand in Solitary Gardens' 2018 installation at Project Row Houses. She is fascinated by the impact of place on people and constantly looking to collaborate on socially and ecologically responsible design.
Toussaint has travelled to and fro as the co-pilot of The Garrison, and the main muse for jackie’s prison abolition work. True to his name and nature- he is a liberator and the best friend a project could have.