Project 2050 more than one prison
From 1979-2009, the New WORLD Theater worked at the intersection of artistic practice, community engagement, scholarship, and activism toward a vision of a 'new world' - one that broke the confines of multiculturalism and was an artistic harbinger of America’s shifting demographics. From a geographic 'outpost' in New England, New WORLD Theater evolved from a community organizing project and the Northeast point on a theater touring compass, to a protective studio to hone new work, a site of international intersections from South Africa to the South Bronx, and the home of inspired and rigorous collaborations with Western Massachusetts youth. New performance work development at New WORLD defied the conventional theater play lab as ghetto for artists of color; artists were met where they wanted to be in the imagining of new approaches, methods, and production. One of New WORLD Theater's artistic legacies is Project 2050, a multi-year youth arts initiative built on the demographic projection that people of color would become the majority in the United States by 2050. The program brought together professional artists, youth communities from Massachusetts, scholars, and community activists to engage civic dialogue and create original performances based on themes that addressed young performers' dreams and concerns. Performances were created from workshops that included playwriting, poetry, breakdancing, drumming, beatboxing, lyricism, singing, songwriting, stepping, and visual art.
This is a video documentation of one of the first events created by Project 2050, 'More Than One Prison,' where young performers discuss the relationships between youth of color and the prison industrial complex. Performers integrate movement and rhyme, stomp style, to discuss the politics of prisons. They reflect upon prison as an omnipresent institution that affects individual lives, making people social prisoners. If imprisonment pervades so many aspects of life, then they ask: 'how do you know you are free?' Through spoken word and verses created by them, these young performers share with the audience their thoughts about what means being a woman, being a person of color, and being marginalized in a society that lacks opportunities. They make clear that incarceration is not the only way of being in prison, and that social change is necessary to be free of both symbolic and violent forms of oppression.