A Year of Love and Survival Teaching Incarcerated Kids at Rikers Island
by Liza Jessie Peterson
Pub Date 18 Apr 2017
ALL DAY is a behind-the-bars, personal glimpse into the issue of mass incarceration via an unpredictable, insightful and ultimately hopeful reflection on teaching teens while they await sentencing.
Eighteen years ago, performance artist Liza Jessie Peterson never thought that her day of substitute teaching at Rikers Island C-74 would change the course of her life, but it did. It ignited a lifelong passion--which continues in her work with incarcerated kids today--to make a difference in the lives of youth in trouble.
Her powerful narrative captures the essence, humor, intellect, creativity and psychology of children in the penal system. She intimately introduces readers to her students. We see them, smell their musk, feel their attitudes, hear their voices and learn how they came to be jailed--residents of "the island."
Everyone in the classroom grows-including the teacher-in this must-read memoir for anyone who cares about children and education. Peterson's perspective and insights will make any teacher a better teacher. This book will encourage and empower anyone committed to social justice.
"ALL DAY takes your breatheven as it makes your heart beat faster with tension, fear, desperation and outrage. Liza Jessie Peterson’s writing is magical, poetic and haunting. Her words force us to live as she lived – as teacher/artist/warrior fighting with all of her talent and power to help incarcerated youth escape the cycle of poverty, pain and oppression to stay “alive and free.” Her lessons of liberation to her students become personal revelations that can help us move toward personal liberation."
—Jamal Joseph, professor at Columbia University, author of Tupak Shakur Legacy, Academy Award nominee, activist and former Rikers Island Inmate and Rikers High School Student
"It's a really bad idea to send children to prison. It only breeds a criminal class. Liza Peterson has spent most of her adult life working to undo the harm done by the prison system, working one-on-one from the bowels of the notorious Rikers Island. She has poured her heart and soul into guiding and loving these young people who, if directed, can make miraculous contributions to society. Read her journey and know that we as a society have to do better for these at risk children.”
--Russell Simmons, entrepreneur, author, activist, philanthropist
"This remarkable work of witness, testimony and empathy by Liza Jessie Peterson is a literary gift which could not be more precipitous. We seem to be reminded near weekly now of how disposable and hated young black men are by powerful sectors of this society. Peterson challenges us to see and feel beyond dangerous tabloid stereotypes. This feat she accomplishes with exquisitely flowing, pungent prose. ALL DAY is a generous bouquet of hip, laconic storytelling informed by big-sisterly-love and a compulsion for social justice."
—Greg Tate, author of Flyboy in the Buttermilk and Everything But the Burden
"Liza Jessie Peterson speaks the recipe of all of our freedom into existence. And magnificently so!"
—asha bandele, author of The Prisoner’s Wife
"Liza Jessie Peterson has captured the essence, the humor, the intellect and the psychology of the lives of young people (especially young Black men) trying to survive in the penal systems of America. I was captivated by the characters. I could see them, smell their musk, feel their attitudes and hear their voices to a point where I felt I knew them and would recognize any one of them if I bumped into them on the street. The stories, the characters, the talent, conflicts and the love are all there with a message: There must be a better way to raise our youth who have gone astray than to warehouse them in penal institutions. ALL DAY is a must-read for anyone who cares about children and believes in the possibilities that arise from affording them the opportunity to have the brightest of futures."
--Abiodun Oyewole, founding member of The Last Poets, author of Branches of the Tree of Life
"In a very real voice Liza Jessie Peterson recounts her days teaching young men imprisoned on Rikers Island awaiting trial. She switches between her street wise motherly voice to the voices and inner thoughts of young men struggling to maintain identity, dignity, credibility and sanity. Her interactions with them and them with each other are both heart wrenching and chilling at the same time. She peels back layer upon layer of these kids’ reality and exposes the humanity and vulnerability of young men who are scared, beautiful and dangerous. Liza also finds insights into herself about how to truly make a difference in the lives of children lost in the matrix."
—Danny Simmons, executive producer Def Poetry Jam
"ALL DAY is a gem, a honest look at our all too often forgotten youth. Liza Jessie Peterson takes us on this journey in a way that only she can, holding up a mirror and forcing us see what we are allowing our fellow citizens to go through. Her journey is as remarkable as the way in which this book was crafted. It's truly a must read."
— D. Watkins, author of The Cook Up