REPRESENT JUSTICE and Art for Justice Fund Grants Over $680,000 to Legal Reform Efforts

Oct 7, 2020

NATIONWIDE — Through an investment from the Art for Justice Fund, Represent Justice formally announced awards of over $680,000 across 15 projects. Each of these efforts is led by Represent Justice surrogates and ambassadors of organizations and advocates that are addressing mass incarceration. Represent Justice is an organization that lifts up narratives of hope and redemption to eliminate stigmas around people who are incarcerated. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to place system-impacted communities at great risk, the grants provide critical resources to support organizations on the front lines of working to protect the health and safety of vulnerable incarcerated individuals and their families.

“The people who are closest to the harm are closest to the solution. In this case, system-impacted people should lead the way in reforming the legal system. As such, through our grant to Represent Justice, we’ve supported advocates and organizations that are directly impacted, responding to a gap in traditional philanthropy,” said Art for Justice Program Officer Terrence Bogans.

The partnership between Represent Justice and Art for Justice materialized following a December 2019 screening of Warner Bros film “Just Mercy” hosted by Art for Justice at the Museum of Modern Art, which was attended by prominent figures in the art world. The Art for Justice Fund, founded by Agnes Gund, has provided essential support for advocates in their fight for justice reform, using art to increase the visibility of smaller, grassroots organizations mobilizing for change.

“System-impacted individuals are the true storytellers, and are far too often overlooked in criminal justice advocacy and capacity-building support. Represent Justice is proud to partner with Art for Justice to create this opportunity to enhance the impact of our incredible surrogates and ambassadors through their art, advocacy and programming,” said Daniel Forkkio, CEO of Represent Justice.

“In a time of so much uncertainty, this grant means so much,” Represent Justice Ambassador Halim Flowers said. “It not only offers the peace of mind to know we will be able to continue the necessary work we do — work that directly impacts the lives of formerly incarcerated people — but it also acknowledges the role art has in collective healing and helping us forge a new path forward in the fight for justice reform.”

The projects include:

  • When the Village Fails by Halim Flowers, will launch a multimedia installation of written, spoken and digitally photographed work, which will virtually tour District Attorney offices throughout the country. Through the exhibition prosecutors will learn from artists and community members that are impacted by mass incarceration how to best actualize the principles of restorative justice.
  • Witness to Innocence will feature the voices of exonerated death row survivors such as Herman Lindsay across the nation through film, to change cultural understanding of their experience and drive policy change in specific states. A National Geographic photographer will join Witness to Innocence on a cross-country roadtrip to document the participants’ unique perspectives.
  • The Louisiana Parole Project is providing legal representation and residential reentry services for an additional 15 adults, many who were sentenced as juveniles to life without parole. Kerry Myers, Represent Justice Surrogate and Deputy Director of the Parole Project will lead this effort.
  • A Little Piece of Light (ALPOL) led by Donna Hylton, will create its first cohort of women, girls and TGNC individuals who were formerly incarcerated to help develop programs focused on healing and reentry. Participants will receive access to healthcare, trauma-based therapy, and cultural exposure experiences. In 2021, ALPOL will also design a program for employment and small business training.
  • Advocate and artist, Tyra Patterson will launch Higher Art, a free certificate program for artists returning home from incarceration. Higher Art seeks to combat post-release unemployment and recidivism, by addressing key barriers to successful reentry – laws prohibiting employment and housing, technology gaps, stigma, and confidence. Tyra will work with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction and non-profit organizations to identify and connect with talented students looking to pursue higher education before they are released.
  • Televerde Foundation led by Michelle Cirocco, will support Faces of Incarceration, a series of videos that introduce people who are both currently and formerly incarcerated, including those who suffered from wrongful convictions. Faces of Incarceration will give new insight on how people experience incarceration and reentry, shift the narrative on  criminal convictions and promote important policy initiatives such as banning the box, eliminating mandatory minimums, and fighting racial basis in sentencing while seeking to change perceptions about the type of people we send to prison. 
  • The Young Women’s Freedom Center will launch Freedom 2030, which is a ten-year legislative and culture change campaign to end the incarceration of girls, women, and transgender and gender non-conforming  people. Freedom 2030 is focused on replacing mass incarceration with replacing both with transformative justice processes and policies and community-based alternatives that promote holistic well-being, economic self-sufficiency and self-determination.
  • Re:Store Justice will further its Transformative Justice advocacy campaign focused on extreme prison sentences in California to host four Transformative Justice symposia inside prisons once permissible, culminating with a two-day conference on how society responds to violence. In the capstone convening the media, legislators, formerly incarcerated individuals, survivors, and other key influencers will be invited to bear witness and take action towards transformative systems change.
  • Jarrett Harper, a justice reform and foster care youth advocate, will work in tandem with Human Rights Watch to conduct a six month virtual speaking and workshop program designed to educate decision makers about the foster care to prison pipeline. He will engage policy and lawmakers, social workers, universities, religious groups, and other influencers during the speaking tour. The project will also include a program to support foster children, focused on developing self-worth.
  • Bobby Gonz will produce an album alongside AB Eastwood, Ron Gilmore Jr., and Case Arnold titled “In the Journal of My Journey.” The album will feature mastered musical work that Bobby created while he was incarcerated and other new music inspired by his time out. Corresponding photos, videos and multi-media will also be created.
  • The Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth and Xavier McElrath-Bey will expand the Incarcerated Children’s Advocacy Network (ICAN), which is a national network of formerly incarcerated youth, who demonstrate through advocacy and public education work that even children convicted of serious crimes do mature, and become not only rehabilitated but also crucial assets to our communities. ICAN will launch a speaking series to build capacity within the network.  
  • Paine the Poet, through LMSVoice, will create a new curriculum for a 12-week poetry virtual workshop based on his work at either D.C. or Montgomery County Correctional Facilities. The work generated from the workshop will be compiled into a book to allow participants to become published authors. These workshops will highlight the power of storytelling as a tool for connectivity and community building. 
  • Voice Of The Experienced (VOTE)  organized a screening series of Just Mercy in Louisiana for VOTE members, allies, judges, city councilmembers, and newly elected local and state representatives. Panel discussions will follow each screening, placing elected leaders in proximity with those most impacted by mass incarceration. 
  • Advocate and Represent Justice Surrogate Fernando Bermudez will organize a 10-part virtual lecture series for underserved young people. 
  • Californians for Safety and Justice will expand the reach of their Time Done program across California through a phone banking program to reach those hit hard by COVID-19.  This would be part of Californians for Safety and Justice’s Stop the Spread Action Plan.  

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About Represent Justice:
Through stories of hope and redemption, Represent Justice engages audiences and sparks collective action that creates public demand for a fair legal system, dignity for system impacted communities, and an end to extreme sentences. Launched in conjunction with the release of the feature film JUST MERCY (2019), the organization works with a coalition of partners, artists, athletes and more to advance reform and build capacity for other organizations in the space.

In November, Represent Justice organized the creation of a new, large-scale mural by renowned artist JR inside the walls of the California Correctional Institution. In December, organized a concert and roundtable conversation with Grammy award-winning rapper and activist Common inside a California prison facility. In January, Represent Justice hosted a pop-up art experience in partnership with Right of Return at Eastern State Penitentiary featuring a cohort of formerly incarcerated artists. Also in January, Represent Justice Worked with Trap Heals to put together PROXIMITY, a collaborative, week-long art installation in Los Angeles featuring music, poetry and community healers.

About Art for Justice Fund
Art for Justice Fund is a five-year initiative created by philanthropist Agnes Gund in partnership with Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors and the Ford Foundation. The Fund invests in artists and advocates dedicated to ending mass incarceration and the racial bias that fuels it by. To date, Art for Justice has invested over $75 million across almost 150 grants.