On July 8, 2017, the Alumni Ex-Offenders Association (AEA) gathered with members of the Nicetown/Tioga community to dedicate the Memorial to Loss: Freedom in a Carceral State. The program was the culmination of a series of planning meetings between AEA and Philadelphia Assembled (PHLA). The event featured a collective walk through a labyrinth designed by PHLA collaborator, artist, and educator, Jared Wood and inspired by traditional African design. This labyrinth aimed to represent the difficult path individuals from our communities are forced to travel as an effect of mass incarceration and the war on drugs. When walked together, it offered the opportunity for community members to not only meditate on these effects but also support each other through a collective experience of healing.
The event began with a speaking program featuring Jared Wood (Artist/Educator), William Goldsby (AEA Chair), Mike Lee (Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity) and Mona Washington (Playwright/PHLA Reconstructions collaborator). Conversation topics included the impact of incarceration and criminal records on the community and allowed for open discussion among attendees. Storyteller, Denise Valentine ended the program by leading attendees in a group procession through the labyrinth where individuals carried pots filled with seed pods which were placed at the center of the labyrinth. These seed pods were created from the pulped criminal records and documents of individuals who attended the AEA expungement clinic two weeks prior.
AEA would like to thank everyone who attended, and invites you to learn more about this event and their upcoming work with Philadelphia Assembled on our website. A very big thank you, also, to PhillyCam for capturing the event on film!