Flip the Script, Recenter the Dialogue

April 26, 2017

April has seen some incredible moments for social justice progress as well as significant setbacks. Here in New York City, many of our criminal justice advocates and activists celebrated Mayor Bill de Blasio’s commitment to close Rikers Island within 10 years, while still demanding that the city close the prison complex even sooner. But on the national level, pressure is rising to push back against harmful narratives and policies that threaten the rights of people of color, immigrants, women, and those struggling with poverty across the country. Our partners are already on it, speaking to national media outlets, writing powerful op-eds, and sharing pivotal works of art that flip these damaging scripts and re-center the national dialogue on American values.

Photo of Communications Institute 2015 Fellow Johnny Perez

Communications Institute Fellow Johnny Perez (CI ’15) had a startling op-ed in the New York Daily News, detailing his time at Riker’s Island and highlighting the urgent need for criminal justice reform in the nation’s prisons. “I commend Mayor de Blasio’s commitment to close Rikers in 10 years, based on the recommendations of an independent panel. But people living and working there cannot wait a decade for the city to mitigate the violent nightmare within its walls,” he wrote.

The Advocate, a New Orleans-based newspaper, published a letter to the editor by Gina Womack (CI ’15) calling for the end of a House bill that would criminalize children carrying toy guns. “Bringing a toy gun to school would be punishable by up to six months in jail and a $250 fine for a first offense. As the bill is written, there are no exceptions or considerations for age or other circumstances,” she wrote. “Think about that for a minute.” Gina is executive director of Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children (FFLIC).

Astrid Dominguez (CI ’16), Immigrants' Rights Policy Strategist for ACLU Texas, was quoted in a story about the ACLU calling for local sheriffs to back out of programs targeting immigrants in the community. “People who have been victims of crime don’t come out of the shadows and that’s a concern,” she said. “That doesn’t make our community safer.”

Christian Ramirez, director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition, had a letter to the editor in USA Today calling for increased safety against Border Patrol raids and abuse of government authority.

“As a long-time resident of the borderlands, I know how important security is to my community and our homeland,” he wrote. “But Border Patrol agents — operating with little to no oversight — regularly trample the rights and dignity of border residents.”

Photo of a person standing in front of burning tires in the documentary Water Warriors

Filmmaker duo and Creative Changers Rachel Falcone and Michael Primo (CC ’12, ‘14) have their second film premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival this weekend. Water Warriors is the story of a community’s successful resistance against the oil and natural gas industry. When an energy company begins searching for natural gas in New Brunswick, Canada, indigenous and white families unite to drive out the company in a campaign to protect their water and way of life. The film will be showing on Fri. April 28 and Sat. April 29 at Cinépolis Chelsea in New York City. Buy tickets here.

Taskforce, led by Creative Changer Josi Sergant (CC ’10, ’11), has partnered with Wondros and GetLit.org to produce an ongoing youth poetry response to the week’s news.  Each week, youth poets within the network get together, process the week’s news, write collaboratively, and then perform a poem in response to the news. Many of the poems reflect youth perspectives on President Trump’s policies and dialogue. Watch and listen to the poets here.

Creative Change alum, writer, and artist Dan S. Wang’s (CC ’12) latest work, “No-Watt Radio Tower,” is being shown at Compound Yellow in Oak Park, IL. The 99.9 WENO “no-watt” transmission tower is a no-tech broadcast system, just under seven feet tall minus its no-watt antenna, and three feet wide at the base. “The power of transmission reaches an exclusively local audience; one really has to be standing within arm’s length to get the broadcast clearly,” the artist writes. “The three sides of the tower are Today’s Cast, Tomorrow’s Cast, and a Re-Broadcast.” The exhibition runs through May 6. More info here.