Public Art Project Bring Down the Walls ended their four-week program surrounding mass-incarceration with a 24-hour party from Saturday to Sunday afternoon.
Bring Down the Walls invites its participants to engage in a dialogue about major issues of incarceration by looking through the lens of house music and nightlife as a medium for freedom and community.
The project consists of three parts: a house music album created by formerly incarcerated artists, the event space which acts as a school for creative thought and discussion by day, and a 21+ nightclub by night.
The 24-hour party marked the last installment to the project, and was entitled “Radical Futures.” It kicked off with lunch by Mala Project and moved into talks like “Rikers Debate Project: Face Off” and “A Post-Prison Society” before ending with live performances as the space transformed into a nightclub.
Danielle Sered, Executive Director of Common Justice, the first and only alternative to incarceration in the United States, talked alongside Cory Greene, the formerly incarcerated co-founder and Healing Justice Organizer with H.O.L.L.A on the Post-Prison Society panel. They hope to bring to light the injustices and discrimination posed by prison industrial complex in America, and what reparations can be made to better the penal system.
“If none of our experience of safety comes from police and prison, then how come when we have a conversation about public safety, we assume what we’re talking about is cops and cages?” asked Sered. “The things we know about safety exist in our relationships with each other, and the fundamental feature of mass incarceration is that it separates us from each other.”
The pair presented that the history of the American criminal system plays a large impact on those who are affected by it.
“I think this relates to the deep internal harm that the historical force of the criminalization of people like me has done,” said Cory Greene of his experience with incarceration. “I literally had conversations with myself that said it was okay for me to go to prison, …that recognized that I was seen someway as a thug and that I related to that identity, as a drug dealer, as somebody who was on track to drop out of school. I actually made decisions in my life based on that reality.”
After Saturday’s school session, Bring Down the Walls also offered free legal services by the Legal Action Center and housing services by Mutual Housing Association for those who may experience discrimination due to criminal records.
The 24-hour extravaganza continued with nightclub performances by art collective Papi Juice, which strives to commemorate people of color in the trans and queer communities, and ended with more performances and a final celebration of all the work that has been done and awareness that has been brought to issues of incarceration over the past four weeks.