Blue Mountain Center

Supporting writers, artists and activists in Blue Mountain Lake, New York

2016 Chertkov Fellow: Kung Li Kung

Kung Li Kung is an attorney and activist for the reform of the criminal justice and immigration systems. Kung helped organize the "I am Troy Davis" campaign in the lead up to Davis's execution, and went on to work for the "Undocumented and Unafraid" movement. From 2014 to 2015, Kung directed the Sunrise Initiative (formerly the US Human Rights Fund) and continues to consult with foundations committed to supporting grassroots immigration reform. 

Kung devoted part of his time at BMC to a project that retraces Alexis de Tocqueville's 1831 tour of American prisons. The project involves a three-month-long itinerary, which includes a day with Trayvon Martin's mother, a walk through Alabama's women's prison with its former warden, an interview with John Lewis about his experience as a Freedom Rider imprisoned at Parchman Farm, dinner with Angola Prison's in-house journalist Wilbert Rideau to prepare for an interview with Angola's famously slippery warden Burl Cain, and three days in Jena, Louisiana with families of the Jena Six. 

Kung Li also spent more time than initially anticipated working on a novel of speculative fiction. And as they described in their presentation to residents and staff, the two projects aren't entirely disconnected. The presentation offered a moving meditation on the idea of dual stories, fusing parts of the novel with the trip tracing de Tocqueville: "We tell ourselves a narrative as Americans — what happened in the past is what should have happened — but what if that isn't the case?" 

Photo credits: Trevor Nathan (Home), Karin Hayes (Community, Support Us, & Contact), & Jan Mammey (Apply).

Photo credits: Trevor Nathan (Home), Karin Hayes (Community, Support Us, & Contact), & Jan Mammey (Apply).