Art Behind Bars | Volume 1

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Art Behind Bars Volume I | Male Inmates in a San Francisco County Jail

Led by former prosecutor Emory Christian, 16 male inmates participated in a Social Justice Sewing Academy workshop in a San Francisco County Jail. The workshop environment became a sacred space, alive with comradery, community, accomplishment and pride for the participants. Before beginning the sewing project, participants watched documentaries - "Common Threads," about the AIDS Memorial Quilt "How To Make An American Quilt" and "Quiltmakers of Gee's Bend" - and engaged in discussions of creativity and the inequities of racism, sexism and homophobia. Christian said, "After loading the students' minds with fresh concepts of social justice, they sketched their ideas onto paper and transferred their concepts onto cloth." Some squares expressed peace, love and kindness while others included images of trees and calls for justice. Ultimately, their blocks are a window into social justice as seen from the perspective of the incarcerated.  

**This workshop was powerful as members of the incarcerated population often lack opportunities to express themselves. This artistic activity provided them with a therapeutic form of dialogue and expression. In the future, SJSA plans to continue to grant marginalized and often silenced populations opportunities to be heard and seen through their artwork.