During the summer of 2017, I interned at Just Leadership USA, a criminal justice reform organization in Harlem that aims to halve the prison population by 2030. Part of their mission statement is that “the people closest to the problem are closest to the solution.”
Giving voice to the disenfranchised is vital to the mission of dismantling systemic inequality.
Present and future generations cannot afford to be complacent in destructive public policy decisions that perpetuate institutional racism and oppression. To stay silent in face of unparalleled injustice is to be complicit in those injustices. Those with the political and socio-economic resources have a responsibility to stand up against domination and to lift others around them.
True change happens only when we empower the voices of those who experience the detriments of this broken criminal justice system firsthand. My goals as an advocate for social justice are to educate the public, mobilize underserved populations to become politically participative, and empower youths through education and community engagement.
One way in which we can achieve these goals is through theatre. Theatre as a method to educate, empower, and break barriers is very powerful and universal in its impact. I aim to engage underprivileged youths through theatre and the arts, to not only amplify their voices through a universal medium, but also demonstrate to them that their voices are equally valued, which is something that society has taught them otherwise.
The arts have the ability to foster empathy among people of all backgrounds and experiences, which is something we desperately need in order to make substantive change in the political and social realms.