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New Street Art Project Addresses the Effects of Mass Incarceration on Mothers and Their Children

April 17, 2017

Freaking LOVE this project!

This week I stumbled on a trio of relatively new wheatpastes in Kensington that address the effects of mass incarceration on mothers and their children. Located at Cecil B. Moore avenue and Hancock street, two of the three wheatpastes used the hashtag #UnbrokenByBars. That hashtag led me to a Google search where I learned that these wheatpastes are apart of a public art and storytelling project which creates works of art from the messages that previously incarcerated mothers of color shared with their children during their incarceration.

As the project’s website goes on to explain:

“Many women are incarcerated for non-violent offenses related to drugs or self-defense and have been victims of relational abuse or race-related violence and poverty. Women are the fastest growing prison population, but incarceration affects female migrants of color and Black-Americans at the highest rate.

“All of the women of color who volunteered to participate in this project are working toward breaking the cycle of inter-generational incarceration in their families and are working toward futures free of prison through activism and self-care. The women share a common experience of being incarcerated while pregnant. Some were shackled on their way to childbirth and had officers in the delivery room, and their children were born in prison. We built friendships with these women and through a seven-month interview process, we generated portraits and quotations that celebrate each of their ongoing journeys and indivisible love that ties them together.”

By using art as a social change agent, we are working with the mothers to bring their stories out from behind bars and into public spaces where Americans are forced to engage with the mothers and interact with the reality of the criminal justice system.

Please check out the ‘Unbroken By Bars’ website – there’s so SO much more information there on this project and on each of these wheatpatses!

For me, it’s infuriating that – of all the issues that divide this country, the ENORMOUS problem of mass incarceration seemed to be one of the few issues that both Democrats and Republicans agreed on this past 2016 presidential election season. Yet, we’re nearly 100 days into the new President’s term and not a whisper has been spoken about criminal justice reform. How can we call ourselves the “the land of the free” and continue to fight for freedoms in other countries, when so many Americans – disproportionally so many Americans of color – are put away in private, for-profit prisons for minor, non-violent crimes? This is not only an insult to the American people, it’s an insult to logic and reason. We need to do better, and NOW.

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