In April, the Center for Public Integrity released a report f
In April, the Center for Public Integrity released a report from a 2011-2012 study and found that Virginia sends about 16 in 1000 children to law enforcement, more than any other state.
The national average is about six in 1000 students. Art180 in partnership with Performing Statistics, as a part of 1708 Gallery’s 10×10 program, is working with the greater Richmond Community to discuss issues like this in its week-long exhibition, “From Cradle to Prison: Using Art to disrupt the Criminal Justice System.”
The exhibit will connect youth and incarcerated adults to artists, activists and allies through workshops, an open mic, a fashion show, a open forum and other events throughout the week. Trey Hartt is the producer of the program, which runs June 16-June 19.
The program is timely considering the national outcry about the relationship that law enforcement has with communities. Art180 is in a unique position to bring the national conversation to Richmond. The organization works closely with marginalized youth and is able to bridge the gap between young people and law enforcement.
“For a lot of our young people, it’s not a positive image that they have of law enforcement…we have to break that down,” said Hartt. “The ultimate goal is to be proactive, as opposed to reactive. I think that we’re really lucky in Richmond to have a police chief who is reaching out about that.”
Hartt spoke of the forum featuring Police Chief Alfred Durham that will be apart of the week-long event.
“We didn’t seek him out, some of his officers came to one of the First Friday openings,” Hartt said. “All of a sudden we hear that Police Chief Durham wants to come talk to us about how we can do a forum.” He’s really interested in having this conversation. We can do that so we can be proactive and hopefully build that trust between police and young people in our community.”
The forum will allow youth to have their voices heard. The goal is to provide a space where they can feel validated and speak about the feelings and perspectives that they have about the police here in Richmond. Young people are not often given a forum to speak about these issues, and Hartt feels that it is incredibly important to foster a community that gives young people a voice.
“Our education system is failing them,” he said. “It is not happening in that way, they do not have that space [to talk about these issues] in school.” The rest of the community needs to step up and say, ‘We value young people. We need to hear from you and make changes based on how you’re experiencing the world because we recognize that you have a valid voice.”
The creation of spaces within community to allow young people to be heard is becoming increasingly important. Hartt spoke about the recent video released showing a police officer from McKinney, Texas using excessive force on a 14-year-old Black girl at a pool party.
“We are seeing how law enforcement is just completely disregarding the human rights of young people,” Hartt said. “I’m sure that Richmond has its fair share of it, its just no one’s video taping it.” Given events like the recent one in Texas, it is imperative that a relationship between the community and law enforcement is formed. Some politicians are campaigning for prison reform, but Hartt emphasizes that community organizing is the key.
“There are people in power who have money, who have influence, that can affect policy and laws that dictate how we exist in the word,” he said. “There is a collaboration that needs to happen, but community organizing is so important.”
This week is the first step. Performing Statistics is a project that has the power to effect change locally. It’s purpose is to build momentum through symposiums, exhibitions, press conferences, etc. and advocate for reform of the Juvenile Justice system, leading up to the General Assembly session.
Over the summer, Art180 will also work with the Juvenile Detention Center to bring teens to their space in Jackson Ward to discuss issues and help them think about the situation that they’re in. This summer project along with the exhibition at 1708, directly aligns with the mission and goals of Art180.
“Art is one of those things that is an intervention method unto itself,” Hartt said. “When you provide space for a young person to talk about what matters to them most, you validate their experiences. You show them that there are adults who care about what they feel…it allows them to understand themselves in a better way so that they can make healthier choices.”