Mary Sutton, activist and 2016 alumna of the MA in Urban Sustainability program has dabbled in a variety of careers from bus driver to graphic designer. Today, she is running her own non-profit Collective Remake, a social enterprise that supports the creation of worker-owned businesses and other kinds of cooperatives with people who have been “incarcerated or otherwise marginalized in society.”
How did you get involved with Antioch and the Urban Sustainability Program?
I originally got an art degree from Minnesota which I didn’t use much but it got me into social justice work. I had been a bus driver for years, graphic designer, and waitress. When I came to LA I worked for a non-profit arts organization for 12 years. When I got to Antioch I was starting my fifth career and I had been so immersed in this struggle around mass incarceration, I found that the criteria of the program was a perfect match for me. I loved tying in the ecosystems thinking of what we’re doing to human beings locking them in cement cages and taking them away from their families.
How was your experience at Antioch?
The environment is so friendly and supportive at Antioch LA. The mindset is very progressive and forward-thinking or radical thinking. I’m on the radical side of things and I’ve found my perspective on things well received and listened to at Antioch. Donald Strauss of the Urban Sustainability program is very supportive of going in directions where sustainability meets social justice and that’s been important to me.
How did you get started with Collective Remake?
I designed Collective Remake in 2016 as a capstone of the Urban Sustainability program here in Los Angeles. I’ve been an activist most of my life, I was in the anti-apartheid movement of the 70s-80s. I had a friend who ended up going to prison for eight years and I got involved in the network of folks that were around California fighting prison and jail expansion in Los Angeles. This was at the height of prison overcrowding. I saw the lack of will and organization in the local, city, and state governments to create alternatives in the community and reinvest in the community.
Collective Remake is a design of social enterprise to support those returning home from prison or jail. It gives people an option who are otherwise discriminated against because of a criminal record. In Los Angeles, the unemployment rate of formerly incarcerated people is already high. We at Collective Remake provides an option for people in areas who have been impacted heavily by incarceration.
Get involved by visiting Collective Remake’s website and attend one of the many community events this summer.