The impact of incarceration reaches far beyond individuals impacted and their families. It affects communities of color as a whole and strengthens rampant systemic hurdles already depriving them of equal opportunities. By sharing Suber’s story, Chucha Studios wants to humanize the victims of this prejudiced system and bring down the stigmas against people currently or formerly incarcerated.
Eric Mayes is Suber's close friend and conducted an interview regarding his experience with the jailing and incarceration system through a personal narrative.
Suber is one of the most free spirited people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.
He is kind and thoughtful - eclectic and exuberant. He is one of the few people in my life that sends me random check-in text messages & well wishes. His lens of creativity is more profound than most. He has amazing body art, my favorites being his head tattoos of a large Chinese dragon & a black sheep being abducted by a UFO.
Nothing ever really surprises me when it comes to Suber. When I was asked to do this interview with him I was more than happy to do so. But this was the first time I ever found myself surprised when learning more about my friend. I never really wondered if Suber had any entanglements with incarceration or the prison industrial complex. He is literally one of the best people I know.
Our in-person conversation lasted over an hour, in the comfort of my home in Bushwick. He provided some foundational information about his life growing up in Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C. He noted that during his middle class upbringing, he never felt like he lacked opportunity, although he does wish his parents stayed together. He went to college to study criminal justice, but realized early on that it was not for him, it was really his parents’ dream - go to college, get a good stable job with the U.S. government - regular “American Dream” rhetoric. Suber notes that he is much more in tune with hands-on, creative practices. “What I wanted to do was just make stuff,” he told me.
During this era of early adulthood is when incarceration first became a part of Suber’s journey.
“The criminal justice system started with me when I was young, just skateboarding a little bit. Just starting to smoke weed. In the wrong place at the wrong time.”
He recalls hanging out in a parking lot one night, skateboarding and smoking weed with some friends - regular mundane activities for people that age. The police pulled up and everybody tried to flee in a car. The cops stopped them and searched the car for weed. They found some crumbs of weed and everyone was about to get locked up until Suber told the cops to let his friends go and agreed to take the heat for it.
“I have similar situations like that. Like 8 other times. Wrong place. Wrong time. Being black in white areas.”
I ask him what the longest time he’s spent in jail was.
“Denied bail, waiting about 3 months for trial. You don’t sleep that much. Everyone in there was just young black dudes. It wasn’t full blown prison, but like you still got people fighting over dumb shit. A rapist came through. They were kicking his ass.”
“I think how the criminal justice system treats people is pretty bad. It’s really sad. You have people in jail for petty crimes. Then putting the wrong people in the wrong places within the system. Knowing that they’re not going to survive. Knowing that they may get raped. Knowing that they may get jumped. And you know, they don’t care.”
Suber has come a long way from being a victim of our corrupt and flawed criminal justice system. As long as I’ve known him, his work ethic and positive energy have been greater than most of my friends. Every day I find myself inspired by the things Suber shares with the world. His effortless balance of essentialism and maximalism is indicative of lived experience that can’t fully be captured in a single conversation with him. The wisdom that Suber exudes verbally, as well as physically in his creations, is something that you must experience first hand. The imagery created for this exhibition is just one example of his ability to invoke emotions and thoughts that are beyond words. As I write this account of our “interview”, my words don’t feel sufficient. You had to be there.
And since you weren’t there, be fully present here in this moment now. Converse with the images of the exhibition as if you were talking with Suber directly. What is the dialogue that is instilled within you?
Our interview concludes with dreams of resolution. Where do we go from here?
“I would love to figure out how to be part of something where - you know you can start getting people out into this world and allowing their voice to be heard. That’s my hope for every person who's locked up. Put them in creative positions. Giving them creative resources in jail. Education. Programs like that, man. To like really unlock the mind” says Suber.
I ask Suber if incarceration has done any good for him, to which he replies:
“Patience. It’s taught me patience. Mental toughness.”