For Freedoms: Beyond The Box 3 (HEALING through Community Collaboration)

In tandem with Coby Kennedy’s Kalief Browder: The Box, Pioneer Works and For Freedoms present Beyond The Box, a four-part program series to consider the realities of mass incarceration through the lens of art and activism. The programs will follow 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 aims 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 hope to imagine into the future, and collectively envision a transformed world without prisons.

HEALING through Community Collaboration brings focus to youth and community, opening with a performance by Truthworker Theater Company, a theater troupe of high school and college-age youth in Brooklyn, and followed by a group reflection on the performance. The reflection period, moderated by Devon Simmons, will invite performers from Truthworker Theater Company and Ebony Underwood, the founder and CEO of We Got Us Now, a national nonprofit that advocates for the children of incarcerated parents, to share their insights, ahead of those from the audience.

About the Panelists

Truthworker Theatre Company is a social justice based, hip-hop theatre company founded and directed by Samara Gaev, for high school and college-aged youth in Brooklyn, NY. Providing youth leadership programming, professional stipends, and rigorous artistic training; Truthworker raises awareness and catalyzes action for racial, gender, and economic justice. Young visionaries directly impacted by mass incarceration write and perform original productions that interrogate the prison industrial complex, challenge systems of oppression, invite healing dialogue, and foster artistic interventions, inspiring solutions for collective liberation.

Ebony Underwood is the founder and CEO of We Got Us Now, a national nonprofit nonpartisan advocacy organization built by, led by and about children and young adults impacted by parental incarceration. She is a social entrepreneur, content creator, actionist and Soros Justice Fellow. Her interest in this advocacy work is personal and pivotal. As a daughter of an incarcerated parent, Underwood was traumatized and emotionally devastated by her father’s incarceration, silently suffering for years. In 2014, she began to speak publicly and share her story through film, television and social media advocacy.

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 is co-presented by For Freedoms and Pioneer Works, and is organized by Negative Space.