Collapsing the House: The Art of Prison Reform

“All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole story; to vomit the anguish up. Artists are here to disturb the peace.” - James Baldwin, The Harlem Ghetto

The Prison Reform Initiative (PRI) aligns the far reach of today’s artists with the urgency and scale of America’s mass incarceration epidemic. The panel will discuss the fundamental inequity of cash bail, racial disparities, and lack of reentry services, as well as strategize ways that artists and others can better “disturb the peace.”

Art, specifically music, often echoes the politics of the times. It has been a form of resistance and tool for activism since its creation; from spoken word to the blues, jazz and hip-hop. Music and artists, who refuse to be defined have connected people from all walks of life around important social justice causes. From slavery, to the 13th Amendment, to Jim Crow, to the Prison Industrial Complex as we know it today, the system of incarceration has twisted and controlled the lives of target groups for centuries in this country. The panel will consider these two truths in relation to one another: the large-scale denial that has taken place across much of America and how to best move forward through policy change, civic engagement and art.

Both the prison system and the entertainment industry are massive money-makers, which implicates everyday consumers. The panel will examine the responsibility of the audience, legislators and artists, who range from bystanders to active participants. The talk will further examine the unfair burden placed on a select number of artists to “disturb the peace” and what happens to them when those expectations are filled or shattered. Please join this conversation centered around art and the power of expression; a relevant topic given today's social and political climate.

Programming descriptions are generated by participants and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of SXSW.

photo of Patrisse Cullors
Patrisse Cullors

Black Lives Matter

photo of Pages Matam
Pages Matam

C-LineFilms LLC

photo of Madison O'Leary
Madison O'Leary

Prison Reform Initiatie

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Artist Wristband
Secondary Access
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