Motus receives funding from NEA to support criminal justice work
In an online program last month, Motus Theater collaborated with the University of Colorado Boulder Global Affairs Conference to present two monologues given by formerly incarcerated people. A third story, written by Colorado Springs Community Vice president Juaquin mobley, was read aloud by Dean Williams, executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections.
âIt was a great opportunity for those present at the World Affairs Conference not only to learn about Mobley’s experience of the dehumanization and violence he suffered in prison, but they had the pleasure of hearing Dean Williams – who is trying to reform – take this experience up close and negotiate the heartbreak of the gap between his vision and what continues to happen to people in our prison system, âsays Motus artistic director Kirsten Wilson.
Motus recently announced that it has received a matching grant of $ 40,000 from the National Foundation for the Arts support JustUs: Stories from the Front Lines of the Criminal Justice System. As this is a matching grant, Motus will need to raise an equivalent amount to secure the money. The funding will allow Motus to cultivate new and diverse monologues through its workshop program, while bringing its programming to a wider audience for free.
Mobley, who worked in tandem with fellow monologues for seventeen weeks under Wilson’s direction, called the experience of writing his story “cathartic.” âWe grew up in a tough environment, so we were very uncomfortable letting our guard down and being essentially vulnerable,â Mobley says. The workshop and the writing, he adds, “have helped us become better men and women.”
Mobley is vice president of CommunityWorks, a Colorado-based social enterprise that helps those who are unemployed and suffer from barriers to employment with job training and placement. The program was founded as DenverWorks in 1995; Mobley followed the program and felt there were areas he could improve on, having experienced it firsthand. He was authorized to expand the operation to Colorado Springs.
âAt CommunityWorks, we have a 2.5% recidivism rate, which is considerably low. What the state offers is about 49 percent, âMobley notes. He attributes the success of the program to the fact that most of the CommunityWorks staff have been personally affected by the criminal justice system.
Although Mobley is a recognized community leader today, his monologue details how structural inequalities kept him from being successful earlier in life.
âMy monologue talks about the difficulties I had at a very young age,â he says. âWhen I was trying to change my life, I was looking for opportunities and a job – but couldn’t find a job because of my background. I looked and watched and felt hopeless. I let him put me in negative space, which prompted me to commit a crime, in which I went out to Colorado Springs to visit and was sentenced to fifteen years in prison. “
Mobley says his monologue âreally highlights the lack of resources and opportunities within our community. They say you are a product of your environment. Some of us are victims of it – and unfortunately, I chose to be a victim. “
“My monologue is about how I took my fifteen year sentence and prepared myself, and once released I almost fell flat again, just because there were still no resources,” continues Mobley. âThere are a lot of nuances in what makes a person break the law. Contrary to popular belief, we were not born that way. I don’t know anyone – and I grew up in a really tough environment – who woke up and wanted to break the law.
Mobley believes reading his monologue by key figures, such as the Denver district attorney, sparked a real conversation.
âThey are constantly trying now to find ways not to make it an issue of arresting people, but to empower these communities as a preventative measure,â he says.
Wilson is currently leading a new cohort of monologues in writing their stories. In the first JustUs group, only one person identified as a woman; this new group is made up entirely of formerly incarcerated women.
âJust as we love for people who have committed a crime to take responsibility for the harm they have caused, the intention of this project is to right the harm,â Wilson says. âWe ask the criminal justice system to sit in a circle with our monologues. , the public and the leaders, listen to these stories and hold them close, and see how we can right the wrong that is being done now in the name of justice. “
For more information on Motus and the NEA campaign, visit the organization’s website.
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