Richmond Justice profiles David Coogan

01/16/2016 7:54 AM by

Field Studio’s Hannah Ayers and Lance Warren recently launched Richmond Justice, a 52-week project presenting stories and portraits of Richmonders whose lives are shaped by the justice system. Each week in 2016, we will release a new story and portrait.

The first post on January 8 profiled Adrian Swearengen, a barber-in-training. Yesterday’s post shares the work of Church Hill resident and VCU professor David Coogan:

Years ago before I started Open Minds, there was a violent crime in the community where I live. Four teenagers attacked a young woman and her boyfriend. Months later, after their attackers were caught, the woman asked, “Why would they do this? Why would they ruin their lives?” I thought, if she can ask that, then shouldn’t the rest of us be asking? I knew that in my capacity as a writing teacher I didn’t know how to solve the problems of policy. But I wanted to put my profession to the test. Does an educated writer become a more thoughtful, compassionate citizen with agency? That’s how we describe the benefits of literacy. I wanted to put that into action, building a community that would be a testing ground for the theories of the profession—and, in that way, close the gap between the university and the community.

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