We are seeking collaborators for Let’s Get Free’s next fundraiser. Letters and Liberation will show in July 2018 at Boom Concepts in Pittsburgh. We are seeking artists of any ilk to throw down for our cause. Last year’s Contrabandfundraiser was SO SUCCESSFUL! We sold over 100 pieces of art!!
Last year we raised $5,000. With that money we have:
launched a new program called Operation Break Bread. This program connects people in Pittsburgh with women and trans prisoners incarcerated at Cambridge Springs Prison. Cambridge Springs is 2 hours north of Pittsburgh. Since our first visit last June we linked 24 Pittsburghers with different people serving time. We try to go up at least once a month. You can read some of the visiting chronicles on our instagram page. Scroll down to see the visit pics most have a reddish background. The gas for these trips came from the Contraband Art Show! Thank you art buyers and auction participants!!
been able to attend the Coalition to Abolish Death by Incarceration’s statewide rallies, meetings with lawmakers, the juvenile lifer day at Muncy prison, hearings for ghani and saleem – two of our friends – ghani is home and saleem will be home SOON!! AND some us are heading to the statewide strategy meeting on Feb.3 in Philadelphia. That is a lot of gas, van rentals and tolls!! Thank you artists, especially Todd “Hyung-Rae” Tarselli and Justseeds!!
let’s get free was a primary contributor to CADBI West’s recent panel at the Summit Against Racism. 4 of the participants, Paulette Carrington, Yusef Jones, Troy David and Sharif Boyd all received substantial speakers’ fees and meals throughout the weekend. All because of our last fundraiser! Thanks Boom Concepts for being such a gracious host!! You can see a video of the panel HERE
You can see we use your energy, creative expressions and financial gifts wisely. We have tried in the past for grants and never been successful. We don’t need a lot. Just a little to really boost our work. So the ask:
Deadline for Submissions: April 1, 2018
Mail artwork to: Letters and Liberation c/o Lets Get Free, 460 Melwood Ave. #300 Pittsburgh, PA 15213- Please include title of piece and how you want to be recognized.
Format: Any medium welcome. Painting, Sculpture, Knitting, Cross stitch, paper mache, drawing, poem, collage, origami, your medium of choice. Be encouraged to re- purpose letters that were sent to or from prison. Use an old letter as the base for a painting or drawing. Use letters to make paper mache. Use letters to make a paper cut or stencil. OR DON’T. Make what you make. It can be inspired by the theme or not. Also we would love any old artwork donations even if it doesn’t fit the theme.
Theme or Concept: If you need some inspiration consider this: Can your artwork answer the sentence? Liberation is….
Do you want to collaborate with us? We are up for it!
We have sent the call to over 100 people in PA prisons. If you know any incarcerated artists send their name DOC # and address and we will send them the details. If you are not incarcerated and would like some letters to work with contact etta – 443-603-6964
Artists who want letters: i am going out of town from March 5th to May 18. If you want letters before then please connect with me in February. I have thought about confidentiality of the letter writers. We can talk about that if you are interested in participating.
Thank you so much!!
Lets Get Free (if you are interested in volunteering we always need help)
There are more than 2,000 people in prisons around the country who were convicted of murder as juveniles and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. But recent Supreme Court decisions have found these sentences unconstitutional and set in motion a process for re-evaluating these “juvenile lifers.”
To close out the first season of The FRONTLINE Dispatch, we have three stories about juvenile lifers. This first is the story of a violent crime committed by a juvenile lifer whose second chance went horribly wrong. It is an intensely personal documentary, but it carries far-reaching implications that extend into public life and into the heart of our political and correctional systems.
This piece was produced by Samantha Broun and Jay Allison. It was originally made in 2016 for the public radio website, Transom.org. Listen to that version of the story here. We are presenting an update to a version that aired later that year on This American Life.
At 15, after committing a brutal murder, Kempis Songster was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. But now he has a chance to be free, thanks to a series of recent Supreme Court rulings that found the sentences of thousands of inmates who, like Songster, committed their crimes as juveniles, to be unconstitutional. Listen Here
We ❤ you Ghani, and hope to celebrate your freedom this September! There are so many behind bars who deserve a second chance at parole and commutation. Even after decades of incarceration, people are dreaming of contributing back to society and helping make things right. Support House Bill 135 in the Judiciary Committee so we can see more folks like Ghani get a second chance at parole! Read more here
Below are pictures from Ghani’s Community Resentencing which happened on Sunday July 23 in Philadelphia organized by Coalition to Abolish Death by Incarceration (CADBI) and pictures of us the next day, Monday July 24th outside the JV court house during Ghani’s actual appeal hearing.
Wispy on the mic and Theresa in the back
The Community guidelines for resentencing
Outside JV Courthouse
Outside JV Courthouse
Flyer we handed out about ghani
Inside the community resentencing
On way to JV courthouse
Hanging outside Juvinile Court during Ghani’s hearing
Outside JV Courthouse
Sharon Shoatz and Russell Shoatz
etta and yvonne
Russell Shoats III and Theresa Shoats
Old comrades pose for a pic – Andy, etta and Theresa.
outside JV court night before hearing reading the community’s ideas for resentencing ghani
Mama Patricia Vickers talking about Hope is as Weapon!
C O N T R A B A N D: Art Show and Fundraiser for Prison Justice
Opening Event: Friday April 7, 2017
6 – 10pm – Art Auction – Over 30 Framed Pieces
7pm Curator Talk, Campaign Overview, Singing and Speakers
Boom Gallery Open Hours in April – Tuesdays 5-9pm Fridays 12-6pm
Contraband is the name of a series of paintings on leaves created by Todd “Hyung – Rae” Tarselli. Leaves are considered contraband or forbidden possessions in prisons across Pennsylvania. This show will feature 6 of these delicate leaf paintings illustrating detailed images of animals and nature. Incarcerated as a teenager, Hyung-Rae has served 25 years of a life sentence.
Fawn by Hyung- Rae
Budda by Hyung-Rae
Racoon by Hung-Rae
Wolf by Hyung-Rae
Self Portrait 2003 – Todd Hyung-Rae
Schematics of Solitary cell by Hyung-Rae
Sands of Solitary by Hyung -Rae
At 7pm on Friday April 7th there will be speakers and songs including family members of people serving life, survivors of violence who support the campaign, readings from the writings of those sentenced to life as juveniles, and information on the Campaign to End Death by Incarceration.
The exhibit will showcase artists from both sides of the prison walls including Mary Dewitt’s profoundly moving portraits of women serving life in PA. Illustrations describing prison conditions and self portraits by incarcerated artists from The Prison Poster Project (PPP) will also be displayed. The PPP was a collaboration between artists across the razor wire to create a teaching tool about the prison industrial complex. There is a special portrait of Ce Ce McDonald painted by political prisoner Marius Mason. Now released, CeCe gained national attention for defending herself from a racist and transphobic attack and was sentenced to 4 years.
Portrait of Brenda by Mary Dewitt
Portrait of Ce Ce McDonald by Marius Mason
Education not Incarceration by Merideth Stern
Pencil Illustration by Maurice Scott
Mental Health Care in prison by Michael Mendoza
Death Penalty by Duane Motney
A life-size solitary confinement cell will also stand in the gallery, the walls of which are made from letters written from people incarcerated to Book ‘Em, Pittsburgh’s books to prisoner program. Projected on the walls of the cell will be a slideshow of women serving life presented by the Women Lifers Resume Project. There are approximately 200 women serving life; some were sentenced as teenagers and some were commuted from death and many are in their 4th decade of imprisonment.
There are over 30 brilliant framed pieces of art for sale and still more unframed pieces. Outside artists include: Ginger Brooks Takahashi, Merideth Stern, Jim Kidd, Alisha Wormsley, Bec Young, Leslie Stem, Ellen Melchiondo, Josh Macphee, Shaun Slifer, KT Tierney and Vanessa Adams. These are just a few of the many brilliant artists that have donated pieces. Justseeds donated hundreds of dollars of lino cuts and screen prints by artists including: Jesus Barraza, Fernando Martí, Kristine Virsis, Favianna Rodriguez, Mary Tremonte, Melanie Cervantes, Melanie Cervantes.
Save the date of Saturday April 22nd – 2pm, for an interfaith panel exploring how local religious institutions have influenced the transformation of society throughout history until the present, from the movement to abolish slavery through prison justice. Marcus Rediker will share stories from his latest book about the Quaker abolitionist Benjamin Lay, who in the early eighteenth century saw the destructive connections among slavery, race, incarceration, and capital punishment. Other panelists are still being confirmed.
The last weekend of January was full of activity across the nation and in Philly. Trump had just announced the travel ban that Friday evening, and people all over the country were flocking to airports to speak up, sit in, and support Muslim travelers from the seven named countries who were being detained. Philadelphia was no different. Several of the 50 attendees of the state-wide strategy meeting of the Coalition to Abolish Death by Incarceration (CADBI) cut out at lunch to legal observe and participate in the resilient and spirited uprising. This energy infused our meeting space; several signs were hung declaring solidarity with Muslim people and denouncing deportations.
The bulk of the eight-hour strategy meeting was spent divided into break-out groups developing goals for the year. The Membership group strategized around sustaining, supporting, and recruiting new members. Ideas generated from this session included creating a resource sharing tool kit for family members, developing a formal orientation, and having parties to bring people together. A dinner honoring family members of lifers is already on the calendar for March 25th.
The Media group talked tactics on messaging, writing op-ed’s, developing workshops, and creating one-page talking points that would be supportive of different audiences.
Next we had the Statewide Coalition crew and the Legislative crew. There are many overlapping ideas here centering our goal of passing HB 135—the parole expansion for lifers bill, also called the Dawkin’s bill. We talked about reaching out to the rural communities and outlying counties where our campaign is underrepresented. A power mapping initiative is already underway, and once the priorities are articulated, we can call on our incarcerated comrades to locate people and potential constituents in those regions. In other words, we need lifers from the rural regions to get their families involved so their representatives will listen to us when we say “Liberation In Our Lifetime!”
We plan to host three trips to Harrisburg to build momentum and lobby, as well as a lot of traveling around the state with community dialogues, townhalls, and meetings with lawmakers. This post was reprinted from the Global Network to Free Maroon‘s March Newsletter.
How we gonna bring our people home alive? Gonna Pass HB- 135
Looking back on this year, Let’s Get Free has done a lot of work, made solid connections, grown in community, and has been supported and built by so many amazing folks. In 2016, we officially launched our Campaign to Restore Meaningful Commutation, hosted a legislator call-in day to begin laying tracks for future commutation reform, lobbied in Harrisburg and held a press conference in support of HB2135 and commutation reform. We sent our first newsletter, organized ongoing support for Juvenile Lifer cases in PA, began fundraising in earnest to be able to realize our goals for mobilizing and organizing across the state, and lobbied again with CADBI on October 18 to end Death By Incarceration.
The last 6 months have felt big, working to ride on the crest of the wave stirred up by our rally and lobbying efforts in June and October, and the introduction of HB2135–legislation for Parole Expansion for Lifers. We have been successfully fostering and growing relationships with PA state representatives who support HB2135, and have begun working with representatives in SW PA to craft a strategic approach to statewide campaigning for this legislation. We had the opportunity to participate in a historic Lifer’s Retreat at SCI Graterford, making incredible connections and community with others in the struggle across the state, and are collaborating to expand a scholarship fund. We hosted a deeply moving listening event with Samantha Broun, who has produced a singularly important radio piece about violence, harm, healing, and commutation. Our statewide collaboration and networking with other justice groups across the state has been growing stronger, and we have successfully started to expand our working group. Building our house up so we can invite more people in to keep on in 2017!
The Campaign to Restore Meaningful Commutation has gathered a Commutation Support Kit. It includes tips from Ellen, a copy of an application that ended up winning freedom for a lifer, and sample letters to write to family and friends to help them support you in this process.