On March 1st, 2017, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, along with its partners My Brother’s Keeper-Newark , Youth Justice New Jersey, and Yendor Arts, will join #Cut50 in celebrating the Day of Empathy, a national day of action devoted to creating empathy for those incarcerated in hopes that this empathy will help reform the Criminal Justice System. #Cut50, founded by CNN commentator Van Jones, is an initiative of The Dream Corps, a national bipartisan effort to smartly and safely reduce America’s incarcerated population by 50 percent over the next 10 years.
To recognize this day, New Jersey organizations will host an arts workshop for youth on March 1 led by Master Teaching Artist Rodney Gilbert. Workshop participants will create art that expresses their feelings about the juvenile justice system.
“Our mission is to engage young people in art and advocacy to visually depict their ideas for transforming the juvenile justice system,” said Retha Onitiri, PMP, Youth Decarceration Campaign Manager with the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “Youth, particularly youth of color in New Jersey, are most directly impacted by our juvenile justice system. It is essential that the movement to transform this system is led by their voices and vision.”
Participating in the workshops will be youth, some with juvenile justice involvement, from several organizations, such as YouthBuild Newark, Youth Advocate Programs, Inc., the Newark Leadership Academy, and UPLIFT Academy.
“Today’s event builds on Newark’s rich history of using the arts to initiate social change,” said William Simpson, Director of My Brother’s Keeper-Newark, “We know that detention and confinement create negative outcomes for young people, especially boys and young men of color. Using art as a vehicle to ignite the creativity in our youth is a great first step for them to lead the way as communities all over our country re-imagine how our juvenile justice system operates. ”
From 10:00 am to noon, half of the youth participants will participate in a workshop on mural creation while the other half participate in a workshop on performing arts. Then from 1:00 to 3:00 pm the students will switch classes.
“Yendor is excited to be partnering on this event. It aligns itself with the core values of our mission. The state of African American young men and incarceration is an injustice and embarrassment for our country,” said Rodney Gilbert, founder and CEO of Yendor Productions, a Newark-based firm that consults, develops, and produces arts education programming and events. “This work is step in the right direction for us to collectively make change.”
Even as the number of confined youth in New Jersey has decreased by more than half, extreme racial inequalities persist within the juvenile justice system. Black youth comprise nearly 75% of those committed to state juvenile facilities, according to a report released by the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, Bring Our Children Home: Ain’t I A Child.
“Noting the current political landscape, creating opportunities to highlight the role justice-involved youth have in advancing communities is especially critical,” said Robert Clark, Founder and Executive Director of YouthBuild Newark. “YouthBuild Newark is eager to partner with the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice on this timely event to change the narrative on juvenile justice and showcase the resiliency, creativity, and skills of our young people.”
The event will occur at Express Newark, Rutgers-Newark, located in the Hayne’s Building at 54 Halsey St. in Newark.
Reporters wishing to cover the event should RSVP to Elizabeth to discuss guidelines for protecting the youth participants’ privacy.
About the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice
The Institute’s mission is to empower urban residents to realize and achieve their full potential. Established in 1999 by Alan V. and Amy Lowenstein, the Institute’s dynamic and independent advocacy is aimed at toppling load-bearing walls of structural inequality to create just, vibrant, and healthy urban communities. We employ a broad range of advocacy tools to advance our ambitious urban agenda, including research, analysis and writing, public education, grassroots organizing, communications, the development of pilot programs, legislative strategies, and litigation.
Using a holistic approach to addressing the unique and critical issues facing New Jersey’s urban communities, the Institute advocates for systematic reform that is at once transformative, achievable in the state, and replicable in communities across the nation.
#cut50, an initiative of The Dream Corps, is a national bipartisan effort to smartly and safely reduce America’s incarcerated population by 50 percent over the next 10 years. The Dream Corps helps cutting-edge initiatives grow big enough to impact millions of lives. We support economic, environmental and criminal justice innovators – all under one roof. Our shared platform helps leaders create synergies, leapfrog obstacles and maximize impact.