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.
The final program, JUSTICE for Our Future, is a culmination of the full series, unveiling and addressing the systemic reality of mass incarceration and deepening understanding of the work being done to do away with it. Mikelina Belaineh, Director of Impact at The Last Prisoner Project; Donna Hylton, advocate and activist; and artist Mary Enoch Elizabeth Baxter will sit down with moderator Devon Simmons to discuss the policy, theory, and practices in the works to dismantle the prison industrial complex.
About the Panelists
Mikelina Belaineh is the Director of Impact at The Last Prisoner Project. Prior to joining, Belaineh served as the chief program officer for the nonprofit social enterprise InnerCity Weightlifting, a street violence reduction program serving street and gang-involved young adults by connecting them with new resources, networks, and opportunities.
Donna Hylton is a women's rights activist and criminal justice reform advocate. Today, she is a groundbreaking advocate for criminal justice reform. She was a featured speaker at the 2017 Women's March on Washington, and works hand-in-hand with other influential voices to ensure prison safety and to end mass incarceration in the US. Hylton speaks publicly about the issues facing incarcerated women and girls and the significant impact the significant increase in the female prison population is having on families, children and our communities.
Mary Enoch Elizabeth Baxter, also known by her hip-hop name “Isis Tha Saviour,” is a Philadelphia-based artist who creates socially conscious music through an autobiographical lens. She is an art and design graduate of the Community College of Philadelphia who recently received her second degree in behavioral health, as well as a single mother, entrepreneur, and prison reform advocate. Although it has been a decade since her release from a Pennsylvania prison, Baxter’s time spent on the inside continues to shape the direction of her music and film work. Her entertaining but poignant works offer a critical perspective on the particular challenges women of color face when they become immersed in the criminal justice system.
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.