Dr. Baz Dreisinger is a professor of English at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She is also a journalist, justice worker, cultural critic, and activist. She is the founding academic director of John Jay’s Prison-to-College Pipeline program, which offers college education and reentry services to incarcerated students in select New York State prisons. She published Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice in Prisons Around the World (2016) and is the founding director of the Incarceration Nations Network. MASS Design Group designs built environments that seek to improve people’s lives, and promote justice and human dignity. They began during the design and building of the Butaro District Hospital in Rwanda, and have offices in Boston, New York, and Rwanda.
Writing on the Wall is a collaborative installation made from diagrams, essays, letters, notes, poems, and stories from incarcerated people around the world, including the United States, Australia, Brazil, Norway and Uganda. Through their grant, Baz and artist Hank Willis Thomas partnered with MASS Design Group to turn the pop-up concept into a traveling exhibiting and a collapsible booth. They have exhibited the work in public spaces across the nation and overseas and on the High Line through a partnership with grantee partner Friends of the High Line.
During the exhibits, formerly incarcerated leaders were paid to serve as hosts to engage viewers on different subjects. Each debut of “The Writing on the Wall” will be an event and ongoing campaign, coordinated in collaboration with organizations—including JustLeadershipUSA and #cut50—and led by formerly incarcerated community leaders. Along with the installation, Akashic Books will publish The Writing on the Wall: Psalms from my Cell, an anthology of poems by currently and formerly incarcerated people around the world.
Also, through the Incarceration Nations Network, Hank and Baz will continue projecting The Writing on the Wall installation in cities across America. Past installations garnered powerful press from such publications as The New York Times and The Marshall Project.