Scholars, artists, curators, activists, local historians and members of the public will convene at Syracuse University Oct. 6-7 to discuss the rightful place of monuments in our society and the increasing complexity they represent today in terms of their cultural,…
Stories of Healing From Those Impacted by Incarceration
Creative expression and community collaboration are at the heart of successful engaged humanities initiatives. Over the past year, Patrick W. Berry, associate professor of writing and rhetoric in the College of Arts and Sciences, has been working with justice-impacted people in Central New York and across the United States on the development of “Mend,” a journal that celebrates their lives and creative work. The national online and print publication emphasizes the crisis of mass incarceration based on the personal narratives of people who have been directly affected. The stories in “Mend” serve to educate the public about the incarceration system and help incarcerated people and their families develop new facets of their identities.
On July 20, 2023, authors and editors of “Mend” came together virtually and in person at the Central Library in Syracuse to launch the inaugural issue. The event featured readings and recognition of this year’s cohort, celebrating the group’s collaborative work over the past year.
“Supporting those impacted by the criminal legal system remains a pressing concern in our country,” says Berry. “This initiative aims to create a space where those impacted can engage with humanities programming through a paid apprenticeship while learning practical skills in publishing and editing.”
Among the authors who spoke at the event was Brian T. Shaw. Shaw met Berry while he was living in Freedom Commons. He now works at the Center for Community Alternatives, an organization that provides support for people affected by mass incarceration, criminalization and community disinvestment. Shaw, who attended Syracuse University for a time before he was sentenced to 21 years in prison, earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree during his incarceration. Since being released in September 2022, he has been working with “Mend” and gaining valuable computer, editing and design skills.
“Being able to be part of this project and not be stigmatized has been so impactful. It’s been invaluable to me to truly be seen,” Shaw said in an A&S news article earlier this year. This fall, he will attend the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University to pursue a master’s degree in public health.
While Project Mend just completed its pilot phase, Berry intends for it to become an annual program. Project Mend was made possible through collaboration with the Center for Community Alternatives and through a Humanities New York Post-Incarceration Humanities Partnership, which is generously supported by the Mellon Foundation. The project has also been supported by the Engaged Humanities Network, the Humanities Center, the SOURCE, the Department of Writing Studies, Rhetoric and Composition and a CUSE Research Grant.
View this year’s edition of “Mend.”