At the end of August this year, Tayyib Smith invited me to speak at Mass Incarceration Day. At the end of the event, a man in the audience expressed his aggravation with continuously talking about the issue of incarceration in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia in particular, but not actively addressing solutions to these problems. At this point, I was already in touch with Erin Bernard and Lisa Nelson Hayes about curating a community table at The Painted Bride Art Center, but the frustrations this man described were shared by many of the people in the room at City Hall that day.

‘Art & Incarceration’ will be more than a a group of people talking about a problem, it will be a community discussion about things that are already working to lower rates of incarceration and how we can support those efforts. Organizations facilitating a movement in Philadelphia against prison expansion and that encouraging government spending on education instead will be represented, and information on how to support that work and joining such efforts will be available. My efforts working over the past five years with prison issues and the arts in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, particularly surrounding the death penalty, have frustrated me as well. Fortunately, there are many wonderful organizations and individuals working to end the school to prison pipeline through the arts and education of the underserved in Philadelphia.

You have an opportunity to bring what you have to this community table too by sharing your skills, asking questions, and forging new or deeper relationships with people and organizations doing some amazing work for marginalized populations in Philadelphia. At 6 PM we will receive opening remarks from State Senator, Daylin Leach, who has worked on prison reform issues including an evaluation of Pennsylvania’s death penalty system and other issues currently related to the prison system in our state. After his remarks, there will be a panel discussion moderated by Tayyib Smith, founder of Little Giant Creative, with Jane Golden, director of the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, Sarah Morris, coordinator with the Youth Art and Self Empowerment Project and an organizer with Decarcerate PA, and myself. It is clear to me, that we in Philadelphia must continue to rely on ourselves and each other to make education and curtailing imprisonment a priority in our city and that doing this would reduce the prison rate statewide. Philadelphia is at a turning point; we must now all be invested in the future of this city.

Art & Incarceration curated by Aja Beech
A Community Discussion on the Transformative Effects of Art on At-Risk and Incarcerated Populations
Thursday, October 10th | 6pm-8pm
FREE, advance registration required. Call 215-925-9914 or click here.

Special thanks to participant organizations:

The Painted Bride Art Center

Philadelphia Mural Arts Program

Decarcerate PA

Pull of Gravity

Youth Art and Self Empowerment Project

Little Giant Media

Apiary Magazine

Books Through Bars Magazine

Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

Other Organizations doing some great work in Philadelphia

Taller Puertoriqueno 

Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement

Asian Arts Initiative 


Youth United for Change 

The Leeway Foundation