Beyond The Box 1 (AWAKENING to Transformative Practices)

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In tandem with Coby Kennedy’s artwork Kalief Browder: The Box, Pioneer Works and For Freedoms presented Beyond The Box, a four-part program series to consider the realities of mass incarceration through the lens of art and activism. The programs followed the four new freedoms created for For Freedoms’ 2020 Awakening campaign and their work beyond: Listening, Awakening, Healing, and Justice.

Just as Kennedy’s sculptural installation communicates a fraction of the physical, emotional and psychological torment of solitary confinement, the series aimed to provide a creatively-driven introduction to the myriad ways in which the United States’ current carceral system has impacted individuals and communities. By inviting a dynamic roster of artists, activists and experts to conduct open dialogues with one another, For Freedoms and Pioneer Works hoped to imagine into the future, and collectively envision a transformed world without prisons.

AWAKENING to Transformative Practices  expanded outwards to see how individuals and organizations cultivate a radically transformed future through local action. Baz Dreisinger, the founder of Incarceration Nations Network and the Prison-to-College Pipeline; Jacqueline Renaud-Rivera, of the Red Hook Community Justice Center; and artist Jesse Krimes joined moderator Devon Simmons for a conversation on the future. This program centered on how art, education, and community action contribute to the abolition of the prison industrial complex and the generation of new institutions for resolution.

About the Panelists

Dr. Baz Dreisinger is a professor, journalist, justice worker, film and radio producer, cultural critic and activist. A professor of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, she is the founder of the Prison-to-College Pipeline program, which offers college courses and reentry planning to incarcerated men throughout New York State, and broadly works to increase access to higher education for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals. She is the Executive Director of the Incarceration Nations Network (INN), a global network and think tank that supports, instigates and popularizes innovative prison reform efforts around the world; INN is currently building a global multimedia platform for innovative prison reimagining efforts and justice solutions.

Jesse Krimes is a Philadelphia-based artist and curator, and the co-founder of Right of Return USA, the first national fellowship dedicated to supporting formerly incarcerated artists. While serving a six-year prison sentence, Krimes produced and smuggled out numerous bodies of work exploring how contemporary media shapes or reinforces societal mechanisms of power and control.

Jacqueline Renaud-Rivera is the Manager of the Red Hook Community Justice Center’s Peacemaking Program. A traditional Native American form of achieving justice that focuses on healing and restoration, peacemaking brings together people who are in conflict, along with family members and other members of the community who have been affected by the dispute. Prior to joining the Peacemaking team, Ms. Renaud-Rivera was a Red Hook Responder, responsible for serving unmet social needs in the community and helping residents recover from Hurricane Sandy. Before joining the Justice Center, she worked as a department of mental health crisis counselor and counseled those directly affected by Hurricane Sandy in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Prior to that position, she was a parent coordinator with the Board of Education. Ms. Renaud-Rivera received her B.A. in Criminal Justice from John Jay College, and is a proud, long-time Red Hook resident.

About the Moderator

Devon Simmons, a Harlem native, is a 2019 Atlantic Fellow for Racial Equity. In 2012, while incarcerated at Otisville Correctional Facility, he enrolled in John Jay College of Criminal Justice’s Prison-to-College Pipeline program. Soon after his release, following over 15 years of imprisonment, he obtained his AA (with honors) from Hostos Community College, and subsequently graduated summa cum laude from John Jay with a BA in criminal justice. As a global ambassador for higher education, he has traveled to Cuba, England, Jamaica, and South Africa in an effort to help establish prison-to-college pipeline programs internationally.

About For Freedoms

For Freedoms is an artist-led organization that models and increases creative civic engagement, discourse and direct action. We work with artists and organizations to center the voices of artists in public discourse, expand what participation in a democracy looks like, and reshape conversations about politics.

About Negative Space

The production management company Negative Space was conceived in response to the pandemic’s dramatic effects on the ways we interact and a growing need for more public art. Working in the space behind the scenes, Negative Space helps artists and organizations who are socially-engaged to produce contemporary public artworks that strive to advance social justice. Negative Space offers project management with principles of inclusivity, empathy, transparency and accessibility, and has worked with clients like Hank Willis Thomas, Radical Media, Incarceration Nations Network, The Brave House, and now Pioneer Works.

This series was co-presented by For Freedoms and Pioneer Works, and was organized by Negative Space.

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