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‘From the Inside Out’: Artists and the ACLU join forces to fight mass incarceration

Artists and the ACLU join forces to fight mass incarceration

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
‘From the Inside Out’: Artists and the ACLU join forces to fight mass incarceration
Photographer Eroc Arroyo-Montano greets Tina Williams in front of her portrait. (Photo: Carlton Williams)

“United yes we can, divided is a funeral, we got work to do,” sang out Foundation Movement members Ernesto “Eroc” Arroyo-Montano, Optimus Browne and Jonathan Gramling at last Friday’s “From the Inside Out: Reflections After Incarceration” event at Black Market in Roxbury. Foundation Movement sang to a packed house amid cheers from the audience. Organized by Arroyo-Montano and the ACLU of Massachusetts, the night was an unforgettable celebration of community and artistic spirit.

Author: Carlton WilliamsJahari Toure Ortiz with a photo of his father, Kazi Toure.

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To see and share photos and stories from the event, search for “From the Inside Out: Reflections on Incarceration” on Facebook or visit:…

Black and white portraits by Arroyo-Montano and printed by Hakim Raquib lined the walls of the space, featuring influential community members. In his portrait of former political prisoner and activist Kazi Toure, Arroyo-Montano, director of Cultural Organizing at United for a Fair Economy, photographs the social justice titan from below, giving him presence and gravity that nicely balance his playful smile and the “Set Captives Free” poster behind him.

The evening also included performances by Pedro Picasso, youth arts coordinator at IBA – Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción, local poet Amber Aliyah Rasool and musician Toussaint the Liberator, among many others. Tina Williams read a poem by Massachusetts politician and community organizer Mel King.

Toure attended and spoke at the event, as did many others included in the exhibit. Among the guests and speakers were Andrea James, founder of Families for Justice and Healing; William Morales, commissioner of Boston Centers for Youth and Family; Rahsaan Hall, director of the ACLU racial justice program; and Carl Williams, an ACLU attorney.

The speeches centered on how to reform the justice system to end mass incarceration. According to the ACLU website, Massachusetts displays a wider disparity in the number of incarcerated people of color than the national average. An equally troubling problem is the lack of preparation for life after confinement. The ACLU reports 98 percent of incarcerated people will return home, but there are very few resources available to help them readjust, or to help rebuild the communities impacted by mass incarceration.

Though the subject matter was heavy, the event was uplifting, targeting solutions and positive change rather than a list of grievances. Looking out over the crowd, as people from all areas of the city connected over art, music and local Jamaican food, ACLU attorney Carl Williams said, “This is what Boston looks like.”

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