Prison Renaissance was formed in 2015 by Emile DeWeaver, Rahsaan Thomas, and
Juan Meza. Founded while the
members were incarcerated (and still currently active in the Bay Area), Prison
Renaissance provides a platform for incarcerated
artists and authors and supports artistic and personal growth. The aim is to center the voices
incarcerated people within ongoing conversations about criminal justice reform and celebrate their
insights in activist and creative circles.
When we think “prisoner,” we think poor person, we think minority, we think oppression. Why don’t we
journalist, economist, legal scholar? …Why don’t we think pregnant woman?... I think we’re blinded by
spectacle of [incarcerated peoples’] struggle, the spectacle of their poverty, the spectacle of their
oppression, and that’s blinding us to the actual people who are inside. We are as creative as you, we
diverse as you, we dream like you. We are you.
~Emile DeWeaver, Prison Renaissance co-founder
Prison Renaissance is an abolitionist organization that fosters the leadership, healing, and creativity
incarcerated individuals. The title of their collaborative sound installation, Metropolis, draws attention
the fact that, if gathered together in one location, the more than 2.2 million people incarcerated in
prison system would comprise the fourth-largest city in the nation. In this audio installation, a small
of the people that exist within this immense, if dispersed, city discuss their areas of creative expertise, drawing
attention to their identities as artists, writers, and poets. Out of sight, the voices
the incarcerated echo within the architecture of the museum.
Emile DeWeaver became a published writer, community organizer, and co-founder of prisonrenaissance.org
while serving a 67 year-to-life sentence. California Governor Jerry Brown granted him clemency in 2017. DeWeaver is interested
in internalized systems of oppression and how they prevent us from building and
models of justice. He guest lectures at social justice venues and universities about his written
work, what he calls "liberation models and "the lying fiction of criminality."
He has written over 50 published articles, essays, short stories, poems, plays,
curricula. His community organizing includes education and communication campaigns to pass
bills and Proposition 57. His
organization is the first nonprofit founded and run by incarcerated
people. Their aim is to take prison administration out of prison programs as a step toward prison
Gibran, Kahlil. 1954. Sand and Foam ; a Book of Aphorisms. New York: Knopf.