By Stephanie Younger •
Art 180 is an RVA-based organization that allows marginalized young people to create change by expressing themselves through music, poetry, dance, and more. On Friday, October 5th, they opened “Lift Us Up! Don’t Push Us Out!” a mixed-reality exhibit that raises awareness about the school-to-prison pipeline, the youth and their families affected by this issue. Every year, Art 180 partners with Performing Statistics, “a project that connects incarcerated teens with artists and advocates to transform the juvenile justice system.” Every summer, Performing Statistics holds an art intensive with youth from the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center, where incarcerated youth work with artists and advocates to “radically re-imagine Virginia’s juvenile justice system.”
This year’s art exhibition shed light on how the school system funnels teenagers into the school-to-prison pipeline. “It’s important for everyone know about school push-out so they can have a way to dismantle an issue that affects youth in schools,” said Sydni Ham-Myers, the communications director of Art 180. “A lot of issues stem from zero-tolerance policies that are biased towards students of color.”
Incarcerated youth share their experiences through various forms of art such as virtual reality, spoken-word, rap, interactive audio and more. Their artwork travels across the state and the country in partnership with RISE For Youth, “a non-partisan campaign in support of re-investing in supportive environments for youth.” On November 3rd, the art will be showcased at the annual “Juvenile Justice Parade” which celebrates and uplifts the voices of incarcerated youth — especially incarcerated Black youth. “The story of the young folks who created artwork and tell their stories in such powerful ways is exactly what our community needs,” said Valerie Slater, the executive director of RISE For Youth.
Stephanie Younger is a 16-year-old student activist, organizer and writer who advocates for womanism, diversity in S.T.E.A.M, the abolition of youth prisons and gun violence prevention.