RELEASE exhibit and program series explore gender justice and mass incarceration

Poster for the RELEASE program series

In the past year, #blacklivesmatter has brought national attention to state-sanctioned violence against people of color. However, the experiences of women and transgender people of color remain marginalized even in this dialogue. In order to amplify gendered experiences of state-sanctioned violence against people of color, Bread & Roses has partnered with Leeway Foundation to present RELEASE, an art exhibition and program series that will run from February 26 through June 30.

RELEASE explores the intersection of gender justice and mass incarceration from a variety of perspectives and artistic disciplines. The series includes two art exhibits: Lifers, a portrait series by Mary Dewitt telling the stories of women sentenced to life without parole in Pennsylvania, and No Selves to Defend, an exhibit that reflects the experiences of women incarcerated for defending themselves against abusive partners.

No Selves to Defend co-curator Rachel Caidor explains the exhibit’s aims:

We want to show through art and artifacts the long-established legacy of criminal legal systems persecuting women of color for asserting our right to be free from harm. Claims of self-defense are not available to women and trans people of color because we are not deemed human — we have no selves to defend. In light of this, we want to share the rich and ongoing history of black and brown women organizing to support each other when formal systems fail us.

Many of Bread & Roses’ grantees have signed on as community partners for the RELEASE series, including 1LoveMovement, Why Not Prosper, the Youth Art and Self-empowerment Project, the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, Books Through Bars, Girls Justice League, Sisters Returning Home (formerly Reunification Transportation Services), and Hearts on a Wire. These organizations are working to advance gender justice both within and outside the prison industrial complex.

“The main narrative of the mass incarceration system is within the context of men’s experiences,” said Mia-lia Kiernan, national organizer for 1Love Movement. 1Love Movement targets systems of removal such as deportation, detention, and incarceration. “We want to change that male-dominated narrative and make systems accountable to families and communities as a whole.”

Leeway Foundation and Bread & Roses Community Fund present RELEASE, an art exhibition and program series that explores the intersection of gender justice and mass incarceration. RELEASE provides shared spaces for women, transgender, and gender nonconforming survivors of the prison industrial complex and local artists, cultural producers, and activists to critically reflect and build power for change.

Join us for these RELEASE events:

Through June 30: Lifers and No Selves to Defend exhibits on display at Leeway Foundation

March 25: Town hall on gender justice and mass incarceration

April 22: Film screening of Out in the Night and Free CeCe

Visit for information on additional events as they are announced. As part of the RELEASE series, we invite people to schedule meetings to discuss gender justice, mass incarceration, detention, and deportation in the Leeway community room where the exhibits will be hanging through the end of June. Contact Aarati Kasturirangan at 215.731.1107 ext. 206 to discuss bringing your group into the space.