By Grace Dille
The Prison Resistance Project hosted a Summit on Restorative Justice and Alternatives to Prisons in the Stamp Student Union on April 7 and 8, in which they invited students, activist groups, professors, staff and experts on the prison system to share their vision of a world with freedom.
Amidst lectures, panels and discussions, the two-day event — which took place April 7 and 8 — included a performance and workshop from Truthworker Theatre Company, a hip-hop group with a twist.
The company is comprised of young writers and performers in Brooklyn, New York, who use “rhyme, hip-hop theatre, dance, multimedia, cutting edge technology, and personal testimony to interrupt and transform the criminalizing and violent systems that permeate our communities,” according to their website.
During the performance, the group’s altar — set up to honor the life of 2nd Lt. Richard Collins III, who was murdered on campus in May — was vandalized.
The altar was set up with sticky notes, meant for people to write visions of change and healing, according to Samara Gaev, the company’s founder and artistic director. She said the stickies were reconfigured in a profane way, and that some of the company’s merchandise was stolen as well.
“We even experience violence on campus in the midst of performing, so that makes this work even more important,” Gaev said. “It just tells me that there’s a need for it.”
Gaev described the dialogue following the performance as “one of the most powerful post-performance discussions I’ve ever had.”
“There were just so many powerful, poignant, emotional, tearful stories,” Gaev said. “And there was just so much vulnerability there, which I feel so grateful for, because what it affirms is that art can be a mechanism for healing and opening people.”
Adam Karbeling, the president of Prison Resistance Project, said his favorite part of the summit was the keynote speaker, Dr. Johonna Turner, an assisant profsesor of restorative justice and peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding.
“She really grounded the lecture in the grassroots organizations that work toward implementing restorative justice practices in different institutions, and I thought that was really interesting,” said Karbeling, a junior government and politics and English double major. “Rather than punishment, it’s a way of looking at justice in a way that uplifts everybody involved.”
Hannah Munson, a freshman French and criminology and criminal justice double major, said she especially enjoyed the workshop on self-healing, which focused on meditation and affirmations for attendees.
“We need to be more mindful of the people that we’re prosecuting and their needs,” Munson said. “Yes, they might have done something wrong, but we still need to treat them like human beings.”