Interview with the Certain Days collective

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What is the Certain Days Calendar?

The Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar is a joint fundraising and educational project between outside organizers in Montreal, Hamilton, New York, and Baltimore, with two political prisoners being held in maximum-security prisons: David Gilbert in New York and Xinachtli (s/n Alvaro Luna Hernandez) in Texas. This calendar project has now been around for 20 years. Calendars feature 12 essays and 12 pieces of art by prisoners &/or their supporters, as well as radical dates commemorating movement history. All proceeds from the calendars are given to abolitionist-minded groups and organizations working to better the lives of those locked behind the bars.

When and how did it get started?

The idea of a political prisoner calendar, to be used for fundraising and education, was first thought up by longtime political prisoner Herman Bell, in conversation with outside supporters in Canada. This was around 1999 or 2000. The initial idea was to make a clear connection between historical struggles for justice and those happening at that time. It was, and still is, a way to bring the lessons of the past to bear on today’s struggles, and to highlight the significant roles that political prisoners have played in creating the world that we now live in.

A solid group of prisoner advocates and abolitionists in Canada, in conjunction with political prisoners Herman Bell, Robert Seth Hayes, and David Gilbert (all founding members of the calendar project), created the first calendar in 2001. The name Certain Days came about a few short years later, and is meant to signify the importance of time to those behind bars.

How is it produced?

Internally we like to joke that this is a full-time job, and in essence, it really is. The production of the Certain Days calendar—coming up with a theme, writing and widely distributing a call-out for artwork and essays on that theme, compiling and choosing which submissions to include, communicating with artists and writers (both inside and outside), drafting and editing the final product, and then selling and distributing the calendar—is literally a year-long process. We finalize a theme in January/February, send out call-outs in March, finalize submissions in July, and have the calendar to the printer by October. So by the time we’re ready to sell calendars and raise funds, we’re already thinking about what we need for the year ahead.

How would you describe the politics of the project?

We work from an anti-imperialist, anti-racist, anti-capitalist, feminist, queer- and trans liberationist position. All of the outside collective members are involved in day-to-day organizing work other than the calendar, on issues ranging from refugee and immigrant solidarity to community media to prisoner justice. Outside collective members consider themselves anarchists, while our inside collective members are probably more in the ballpark of ‘small c’ communists, maybe Black nationalists, etc.

How has the project changed over the course of its life?

The biggest, perhaps most unexpected change, was the release of Certain Days founding members Herman Bell and Robert Seth Hayes in 2018, after spending over 40 years imprisoned for their roles in the Black Liberation struggle. Unfortunately Seth passed away in the winter of 2019, but he did so from a place of freedom.

Over the last 20 years, the number of outside collective members has changed, and expanded, though some founding outside collective members are still involved in the project.

The scope and reach of the calendar itself has also changed drastically in the last 20 years. During the first few years we printed a few hundred calendars and raised quite a bit of money for political prisoners. Now, we print several thousand calendars, distribute them around the globe, and are able to provide considerable funds to abolitionist groups and prisoner justice organizations.

Have the many crises of 2020 impacted the process of putting the calendar out, or the contents, or how you see the project?

Covid-19 and Trump’s growing audacity have definitely provided greater challenges than in years past. The majority of our outside collective members are also parents of young children, and this pandemic has forced us to find a greater balance between family life and calendar work. Collectively and individually, we have tried to offer support and solidarity to political prisoners infected with Covid-19, and those unable to social distance due to confinement. We are also seeing a nearly unprecedented rise in political prisoners during the last few months, especially after the police murder of George Floyd. We try to include writing or artwork by more recent political prisoners in the Certain Days calendar, if for no other reason than to highlight the continuity of struggle.

When will the 2021 calendar be released? How can people get a copy?

The 2021 Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners calendar is now available to order. People can go to to order and to find out where calendars will be available near you. In the U.S., the calendars can be purchased at Burning Books in Buffalo and in Canada folks can order the calendar at Kersplebedeb, that’s This year’s calendar, our 20th edition, was truly a labor-of-love, and we’re really happy with the finished product. We hope others are too, and given the current state of affairs, we’re hoping to raise more funds than in years past in order to support the new crop of political prisoners battling the Trump regime.

Do you have anything you’d like to add?

Buy a calendar. Write to a political prisoner. Read our monthly political prisoner column Prison Break. Follow us on social media. Offer solidarity at jail supports, protests, etc. There is so much work to be done, so many ways to get involved, and so many things that need to be changed. A better world is possible, but we need your help.


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