ICYMI: Mellon Foundation Announces Imagining Freedom, An Arts & Humanities Initiative Supporting Creatives and Thinkers Reenvisioning the Criminal Legal System

From the Mellon Foundation: "The Mellon Foundation today announced Imagining Freedom—a $125 million, multiyear grantmaking initiative supporting arts and humanities organizations that engage the knowledge, critical thinking, and creativity of millions of people and communities with lived experience of the US criminal legal system and its pervasive forces of dehumanization, stereotyping, and silencing. As one of the Foundation’s core Presidential Initiatives, Imagining Freedom exemplifies Mellon’s vision to create just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking."

"More than half of the nearly two million people who are currently incarcerated are Black and/or Latinx, and incarceration rates for Native people are nearly four times that of their white counterparts. This state of affairs is historically determined; the criminal legal system is inextricably linked with the history of the United States, from the earliest days of native conquest and enslavement to ongoing and entrenched structural discrimination and racial violence, and has powerfully shaped its present."

“'As artists, writers, and scholars working inside and outside of prison have long known, the arts and humanities uniquely and powerfully counter some of the most enduring, far-reaching, and least seen impacts of mass incarceration in our country and on its individuals and communities,' said Elizabeth Alexander, President of the Mellon Foundation. 'Through Imagining Freedom, we are supporting artistic, cultural, and humanistic work that centers the voices and knowledge of people directly affected by the carceral system—recognizing their full humanity, deepening our shared understanding of the system and its effects, catalyzing us to address the damage it causes, and envisioning and enacting just responses to harm. We cannot understand who we are as a country if we don’t listen to all of the voices that make up our interdependent communities.'"

"At the core of Imagining Freedom is a commitment to supporting artists, writers, thinkers, humanists, memory workers, and storytellers whose lives have been impacted by the criminal legal system, as well as those working to bridge carceral and non-carceral spaces, foster connections between people, and bring together broader intellectual and imaginative communities. Grantees range from large institutions to nascent organizations, and span geographies, generations, and disciplines."

"Through these grants and others, totaling over $41 million in funding thus far, Imagining Freedom is supporting work to ensure a broad public history and primary source record of mass incarceration and its impacts. By uplifting the often-overlooked perspectives and voices of those impacted by the criminal legal system, Imagining Freedom aims to help both individuals and communities challenge and re-envision the systems now in place, so we can all forge new paths toward justice."

Read the full announcement here.