CfJ Participates in the 2nd Annual Arts In Action Festival

September 21, 2023

Hosted by Broadway Advocacy Coalition, the Arts in Action Festival is the premier space for organizations and individuals working at the intersections of arts and advocacy to come together to showcase their work, explore opportunities for collaboration, celebrate the resilience of the justice-impacted community, and focus the city’s attention on the many ways the “justice” system is failing to actually create justice for so many inhabitants of NYC.

On September 10-11, Center for Justice staff and participants took part in the 2nd Annual Arts in Action Festival, hosted by the Broadway Advocacy Coalition.

On Sunday, September 10, CfJ's Policy and Communications Manager Melissa Tanis spoke on the panel Liberating And Healing Communities Through the Arts, about her dad's experience with the in-prison program Shakespeare Behind Bars while he was incarcerated and how the program and the documentary made about it led her to reconnect with him. Melissa also spoke about her own creative outlet through aerial dance and how that has helped her heal after her father passed away. 

Asia Johnson, Pam Neely, Melissa Tanis, and Adam Stevens in a group picture

Melissa was joined by the amazing Pam Neely, who is a Women Transcending Collective Leadership Institute alum, and formerly incarcerated leader who spoke with passion about her own journey of incarceration. They were joined also by Asia Johnson, a filmmaker and formerly incarcerated woman from California, and moderator Adam Stevens, a Registered Drama Therapist working with BIPOC Queer and Transgender Youth. 

On Monday, September 11, at the culminating festival performance, our Right/Write to Heal group participated in two ways. First, our co-founder and co-director Cheryl Wilkins performed a theatre piece with Right/Write to Heal members Edna Sam, Selina Fulford, and Yolanda Johnson-Peterkin. 

Watch their performance below.

Three women on stage, two with fists in the air, and one speaking at a mic
Watch the Right/Write to Heal performance

Next, Right/Write to Heal program manager Roz Smith wrote a spoken word for the event which our Policy and Communications Manager Melissa Tanis then interpreted live through aerial dance. 

Watch the performance below.

A woman on a stage in an aerial hammock

Thank you to all who made the Arts in Action Festival possible and we look forward to participating again next year!

Photos by Chris Sorensen