16 BARS is a feature length music documentary that offers a rare glimpse at the human stories — and songs — that are locked away in our nation’s jails and prisons. The film follows a unique rehabilitation effort in the Richmond City Justice Center that invites inmates to write and record original music. In the jail’s makeshift recording studio, 4 men collaborate on an album with a Grammy-winning recording artist, Todd “Speech” Thomas, from the iconic activist hip-hop group Arrested Development. As the creative process unfurls, each of these men must unearth painful memories from the past, which hold a key to a new chapter in their lives.
The film is set in Richmond Virginia, the former seat of the confederacy, where the legacy of systemic racism, a spiraling opioid crisis, generational poverty, and a lack of mental health services have entrapped many of its citizens in a cycle of incarceration, making the city itself a unique case study for rising recidivism rates in the U.S. at large. With the U.S. locking up more of its citizens per capita than any other nation on the planet, the music of the film serves as rare testimony to the raw and messy truth behind the criminal justice system’s revolving door.
Please join us for a screening of 16 Bars, followed by a discussion with students and community groups:
- Salma Abdelrahman (Harvard College Class of 2020), president of the Harvard Organization for Prison Education and Advocacy and core organizer with the Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign, organizations that work with communities at Harvard, in Boston, and beyond to imagine a world without prisons through direct service and advocacy
- Christopher Charles Hope, MDiv, is the co-founder and executive director of The Loop Lab, a non-profit dedicated to advancing youth and young adults to enter careers in the media arts through internships. Having received his B.A. from Tufts University, Hope became familiar with the Port community in Cambridge, MA while pursuing his Master's. Hope is also an accomplished AV professional and on-air DJ with a podcast and radio broadcast brand called "Hip-Hope Radio."
- Luis Rodrigues (from College Bound Dorchester), a College Readiness Advisor (CRA) who draws on his experiences of past gang-involvement and incarceration to be a mentor (advocate, navigator, resource, sibling, caregiver, social worker) to help currently gang-involved young people build their social emotional and academic skills to move from incarceration and/or the 'corner' to college and a career. College Bound Dorchester is a Boston nonprofit whose mission is to equip young people with the attitude, skills, and experience to graduate from college, focusing on engaging gang-involved youth to become positive leaders in their community.
- Jeff Solomon, past participant from The Loop Lab, a Cambridge-based non-profit social enterprise whose mission is to empower underrepresented groups in the media arts to develop careers in audio/video through job training and job placement
- Moderated by Kaia Stern, cofounder and director of the Prison Studies Project at Harvard University, faculty member at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Practitioner in Residence for Law, Education, and Justice at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study
Appetizers and desserts will be served.
Free and open to all who would like to attend. Please vist our event's website to register.