Tufts Labor Coalition hosted an event on Monday in partnership with the Justice Arts Coalition where students wrote letters to support incarcerated artists.
Sophomore TLC member Hunter Payne organized the event along with other JAC volunteers. Payne worked with the JAC this previous summer in Takoma Park, Md. In a message to the Daily, Payne wrote that similar events were also being set up at other colleges by the organization.
“I was inspired by their dedication to supporting and uplifting people affected by the prison system, and this annual event is something that can really bring a sense of personal connection and care into an environment where that is systematically limited,” Payne wrote.
The goal of this event, according to Payne, was to “offer whatever small bits of connections we can.”
“JAC believes deeply in the ability of art to connect people, and the power of our artists’ work to create joy and light within the system. We’re just trying to send a little bit of light back to them! It’s kind of the least we can do,” Payne wrote.
Payne also hopes to inspire more activism around criminal justice reform with this project.
“I think after the surge of participation in BLM organizing in 2020, people have gotten a little quieter about prison justice and prison abolition,” Payne wrote. “We definitely need to keep up the pressure and carry on that momentum.”
Students that attended the event also shared similar feedback and feelings toward the letters being written to incarcerated artists.
“I honestly just heard about it today, but it just sounded like something that would be really nice, and important,” sophomore Samari Vann said. “I think it’s important when you can take the time out of your day to do something helpful towards the community.”
Vann described the challenges of writing letters for incarcerated individuals with uncertain futures.
“It felt a little sad sometimes because I felt like I wanted to wish the person a really healthy and happy holiday season but I know that the prison system doesn’t guarantee that,” she said. “I think it’s really important to build compassion and empathy in a community, to spread information about the prison system and also to help spread sentiment that the people in the prison system are human and just like us and are really talented. … We should celebrate that.”
Sophomore Betsy Watters described the experience as “eye opening,” especially after learning about the individuals facing death sentences.
“I’ve been really passionate about the criminal justice system,” Watters said. “I’ve made it my goal to learn more about incarceration and what we can do to help people on the inside, and I think these types of events allow you to find that shared humanity.”
Payne highlighted the impact events like this can have on connecting people and making activism personal.
“I hope people feel invigorated to get involved in prison justice, and get to really think about people in the system as people, not just statistics,” he wrote. “Writing personal letters to specific artists has really made me feel more connected to the cause, and I’ve even received some really sweet letters back.”