JUSTstories

About JUSTstories:

Thanks to support from the Art for Justice Fund, JAC is teaming up with social impact production company Unchained Stories to bring their curriculum program JUSTstories to individual artists and organizations that are part of the JAC network.

JUSTstories supports nonprofits, community organizations, and justice leaders in building capacity for impactful visual storytelling and content creation within their organizations. Through a series of workshops and labs offered on a virtual platform, we will bring the program to a cohort of 8 JAC network organizations and artists, prioritizing individuals with lived experience of incarceration and organizations led by system-impacted people.

In the end, each participant will have a short documentary-style video that introduces their own story and their work, and together these videos will begin to weave a narrative about the power of art and impacted voices to advance our collective goal to end mass incarceration. Participants in the cohort will feel confident in their ability and capacity to develop story-based projects to amplify their work and community voices and will have increased institutional capacity for more effective storytelling to raise awareness and funding for their work and transform narratives to advance justice.

Our Team:

Liliana Cabrera

Liliana Cabrera is a writer, freelance editor, transfeminist activist, and educator. She has published three books of poetry during her time in prison as well as several articles in legacy media. She is the founder of Bancáme y punto, a publisher of cardboard books and recycled materials committed to non-conventional media. Bancáme y punto is a project that continues in various formats, including audiovisual productions. She is a member of YoNoFui, a transfeminist, prison abolitionist collective organized by cis, lesbian, bisexual women, non-binary and trans members. For 20 years YoNoFui has offered arts and crafts, and communication workshops in prisons in Argentina, as well as outside of prison, where they also function as a workers’ cooperative.

Film Description: Uncertainty (2022), is an audiovisual piece created by Liliana Cabrera (poet and member of the collective YoNoFui). The images transmit the different sensations that remain after incarceration. Among them, is uncertainty.  Navigating different projections of the past, of other possible worlds, of the City of Buenos Aires, of the present, of the space and time that the State expropriates; of that time of the “outside” that at times seems to continue parallel. These projections run through while we reflect on confinement and the punitive justice installed in our lives beyond prison. At the same time, we try to escape creating other bonds, from the networks we create.

Karen Walker

I was born and raised in Harlem, New York City, and raised by my mother and father, who are both deceased, and I currently live in the borough of the Bronx in New York City. I received my formative education in the NYC Public Education System. I received my Master’s in Social Work in 1990 from Hunter College School of Social Work, and I received my Psychotherapy “R” credentials in 1999. I have a strong work history background in Behavioral Health and Social Services industries with the formerly incarcerated, formerly homeless, trauma survivors, and the mentally ill and chemically dependent population. I am currently a Student Podcasting Cohort member since 12/2021 at Columbia University through the Justice in Education Initiative. My coursework includes learning the fundamentals of Podcasting: story productivity, editing, and broadcasting. Upon program completion, I will produce my own professional Podcast episode series from start to finish. I am also a student at STRIVE/ LaGuardia College – New York, NY since 02/2022. I am studying IT Fundamentals, IT Support Specialist, and CompTIA A+ Certification. My goal is to minimize the Digital Divide that is too often experienced with ageism and on the low socio-economic spectrum. My life experiences of seven years of Homelessness and seven years of being a Domestic Violence Survivor have had the most significant impact on me. I feel compelled to be a lifelong advocate for system impacted youth, adults and families. I believe in understanding the root causes and intricacies of Homelessness and its negative impact on people experiencing Homelessness. I am passionate about social media platforms that can bring awareness and combat the criminalization of Homelessness and address the sigma, injustices, disparities, and inequities that are often too experienced by low- socioeconomic populations. I hope to integrate my own experiences and professional skills to empower system impacted people to achieve upward mobility and improve the overall quality of their everyday lives. It is imperative to me to capitalize on any opportunity to erratic discriminatory policies that are embedded in negative belief systems and stereotypes that contribute to economic, social, health, housing, and educational inequalities. I am so very thankful for the opportunity to be a participant in the JUSTstories in partnership with the Justice Arts Coalition and Unchained Stories! My participation in this pilot program allows me to integrate my Social Work background with my passion for the Arts and media production through Storytelling.

Film Description: The documentary is about two individuals, both of which are homeless in NYC. Both men have a longstanding history of homelessness and have previously lived in the traditional congregate shelter setting. They are/were reluctant to live in the Congregate shelter due to various issues such as random acts of violence, unsanitary conditions, curfew restrictions, arduous admission process, fear of COVID exposure, etc. More importantly, the documentary explores the factors that have led the two storytellers to leave the congregate shelter setting and resort to other shelter measures. This documentary seeks to examine the “Homeless Bill of Rights” introduced in NYC Legislation Council Bill Intro 190.

Devin Smith

Devin D. Smith, founder and CEO of Ship and Anchor LLC, is a business consultant and strategist passionate about inclusion and working with other entrepreneurs and leaders to bring innovative ideas to life. Committed to employing his gifts and experiences to serve and build capacity in others, Devin has spent his career helping organizations align programs and operations with strategic goals. However, in recent years Devin has begun incorporating his creative and artistic nature into his work. As a participant in the spring 2020 class of Mayor Muriel Bowser Presents 202 Creates Residency Program he launched the podcast Letters from America’s 3rd World, which highlights excerpts from his actual journals from prison to humanize the incarcerated and discuss topics related to the carceral system. You can learn more about Devin’s journey and work here.

Film Description: The purpose of the film is to explain my definition of the 3rd world – the marginalized, largely ignored communities within America’s borders that operate under de-facto laws, codes of ethics, and institutions, such as the incarcerated, homeless, those battling mental health, and more. With this project we aim to humanize the current and formerly incarcerated, centering the narrative around our common humanity, which we view as divine. We will highlight the necessary resistance and joy that characterizes citizens of America’s 3rd World.  The film will juxtapose the struggle of constant resistance with the joy of having a dream you are willing to take a risk and go after, in the face of consequences as severe as loss of freedom. It repositions “criminals” as dreamers, people no different from entrepreneurs or Dr. King even – willing to risk it all for the life they envision for themselves and those they care for. This, we hope, will intrigue viewers to new perspectives on how our society can engage our [criminal] dreamers and better direct resources. We hope to intrigue viewers to reimagine the divinity inherent in all humans, including residents of America’s 3rd World.

Noelle Richardson

Noelle Richardson AKA “Faerie Tayler” is a storyteller and ARTivist using performance art and immersive installations as her medium. Recently, she has been working to bring the conversation about the experience being incarcerated to art gatherings, rallies, public spaces, Zoom, retro viewfinders, snail mail, etc.-through a project called Once Upon a Felony – an immersive mobile prison cell featuring her correspondence between other people who were incarcerated and her loved ones while she was inside. While incarcerated, Noelle tutored people in reading, GED prep, and resume writing. Upon her release, she volunteered with Delaware Center for Justice and helped plan conference hosting rehabilitation, transformative justice experts . She was the first person in her family to earn a college degree, being awarded an Associate of Science degree in Criminal Justice and then completing a Bachelors degree in Organizational Dynamics at Wilmington University. Since then, Noelle has built a career in the vegan restaurant industry, while also managing event production at numerous world famous venues including Carnegie Hall and the Barnes Foundation. She was happy to be a 2019/2020 Beyond the Bars fellow at Columbia University’s Center for Justice. Calls to advocacy work with Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) and The People’s Campaign for Parole Justice have shifted the focus on trying to encourage people to create collaborative projects that support and empower humans impacted by direct and collateral consequences of incarceration and push for art as an effective advocacy tool.

Follow her journey on Instagram @onceuponafelony

Film Description: Faerie Tayler and friends are checking in on one another, making art by creating a faerie tale about trauma therapy, and the long term consequences of being incarcerated. 

Faerie Tayler is a storyteller and artist focused on using art as therapy and a smart advocacy tool. It’s 2022,now, Living in the NYC metro area, the Faerie heads out to visit the area where a crime was committed over a decade earlier in 2008. Along the way, RELL, a single black queer mother of a 7 year old, meets the faerie for only the second time since the Faerie and Rell met in a small jail. Their son, King, joins in on the art therapy and faerie tale telling by drawing and coloring with mom. JAREN meets with the faerie thereafter to talk about what’s happened to them in the last decade or so, to make faerie stuff, and to reunite with Faerie. They were co-defendants spending years in prison for a crime committed at 18 years old.  The film ends, meeting KAT and MIRA, and mother daughter duo who chat about the past and their futures while helping Faerie make this faerie tale visual collage short film. 

Faerie then remixes photos, interviews, stop motion, puppetry, drawings, and sounds to present the road trip stories as a faerie and fantasy filled adventure! It’s not all whimsical- the faerie and friends are touched by many small things while making the art, sharing deep truths, surviving since then, how they have kept hope. Everyone grows closer as a community and feels like their story is partially told. The film will focus on using art, even the basics, as a therapeutic tool and implore the audience to share their story by making art and advocacy signs and joining the movement to end mass incarceration.

Tue Huynh

Tue Huynh is a member of the Reentry Health Advisory Collaborative, a program that helps him build a leadership position in L.A. County.  Their mission is to help the system-impacted population and reduce mass incarceration, and Tue offers suggestions and collaborates with team members to tackle the most difficult tasks that the community is facing. He recently started Fear For Breakfast, a 501c3 charitable organization dedicated to promoting quality of life by creating educational content with the help of folks who have been experiencing fear and anxiety during a tough time. Tue is also a college student at Villanova University. With his major in business (entrepreneurship). 

To learn more about the incredible work Tue is doing, visit his website at http://tuehuynh.com/. Visit his youtube channel at https://youtu.be/3UwXr6sxc7k.

Film Description: The title of my movie is “The Reflection of Sound,” and it was written by me. In 2009, while I was being held in the Security Housing Unit of the jail, I was given a diagnosis of depression. I had been fighting this illness for a long time, and eventually, I was successful in overcoming it. Not long after that, I wrote an essay about my experience with depression. The Sound of Reflection was divided into three sections for its presentation. a) A state of depression; b) Conversations with myself, both internal and external, which produce all sound; c) A process of metamorphosis. If you want to learn more about what happened, I highly recommend checking out my channel on YouTube.

Ra Avis

Ra Avis is an award-winning blogger, and the author of Sack Nasty: Prison Poetry (2016), Dinosaur-Hearted (2018), and Flowers and Stars (2018). She is a formerly-incarcerated person, a reluctantly-optimistic widow, and a generational storyteller. Ra works in incarceration awareness and education, and writes regularly at Rarasaur.com.

Film Description: “The Table” is a short film built around a poem. It considers the personal and cultural ramifications of being away from the family table because of incarceration, and how the return is often a slow journey of grief and unlearning and joy.

Nakárori ZacEnTlána (“Rarámuri”) Colimaitl

Nakarori’s a Two-Spirit (We/he/She) Raramuri. She honors Your and his Ancestors, and Ancestors of lands where we stand. He survived many socio-economic and environmental injustices. We is not a victim. Her indigeneity and Ancestral Shamanism permeate his “arting,” coaching, healings, and Global Indigenous Climate Justice advocating.  We personally witnessed Intersectionality of Climate Injustice in over half the planet’s countries; he wants to alchemize this. Prior to Executive Directing the Autochthonous Biosphere Coalitions, We was a federal public servant, +10 years on all continents except Antarctica (tested proficiency) in 10 languages). She led transdisciplinary International teams in multi-national/multi-million dollar programs (e.g., medical, migration, fisheries, crisis). Nakarori’s portfolios included Foreign Policy, Congressional Affairs, United Nations, and African Union

Linkedin: click here

Asia Johnson

Asia Johnson is a writer, storyteller, and filmmaker who has worked with several organizations in the criminal justice reform space, including The Bail Project, cut50, Shakespeare in Prison, Prison Creative Arts Program, Hamtramck Free School, and the Michigan Prison Doula Initiative. Asia is a 2019 Right of Return Fellow, 2019 Room Project Fellow, and 2021 Brennan Center for Justice Fellow. Her Chapbook, An Exorcism, was released in 2018 and her upcoming directorial debut, Out of Place, will be released in 2022.

Asia is a student at University of Michigan-Dearborn where she studies Criminal Justice and Film and is the Senior Associate of Storytelling and Local Organizing at Zealous. When Asia isn’t helping to uplift the stories of those impacted by the criminal legal system and making her dream of a world without cages come true, she is writing poetry in sunny Los Angeles where she lives.

Instagram: @iamasiajohnson

Our Partner, Unchained Stories:

Unchained Stories was founded as a social impact production company in deep
collaboration with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people over the past 5 years. Founder Kristin Adair is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and multimedia artist, an attorney with experience in non-profit advocacy and a teaching artist who has developed a justice-centered curriculum to teach multimedia storytelling. The Unchained Stories team has expertise in storytelling and advocacy, and an understanding of the system from the inside and outside. They are building a diverse community of creatives who are passionate about their work and skilled in their fields, from cinematography to producing and editing as well as teaching and skill sharing.