On Tuesday evening I had the pleasure of attending a galvanizing event hosted by the Youth Justice Coalition at Human Resources Los Angeles, during which an array of formerly incarcerated artists educated the community with stories of how they came to realize their creative gifts while “in the belly of the beast.”
The theme for the night was decolonization, based on the concept of bringing new life to a traditionally “colonized” framework, as modern museums tend to be for the way that they place a type of ownership over art, who is an artist, and how art may be accessed.
By contrast, in bringing together the formerly incarcerated who have been “outcast” from society with teachers, activists, and other members of the community, the program functioned to reclaim public space in a communal, nurturing manner.
The program also allowed participants to recover “lost” time with their neighbors; including time that our facilitators lost behind bars, but also time that participants lost with such voices, as it is all time that we lose from each other.
While each artist spoke, the group engaged in a reflective experience with them, looking back to recognize not just how much we’ve lost as a collective because of mass incarceration, but also how far we’ve come despite it.
Ultimately, our reflections made one thing clear: as far as we’ve all come, we’ve all still got a long way to go to transform the world around us into something more humane.
Staying rooted, however, or connected to each other, we can look forward to the work, knowing that we’re all striving for a better tomorrow in synchrony.
To learn more about the YJC or HRLA, check out the links above!
With honor and respect,