This performance was created for Artful Souls + Liberated Voices, a virtual exhibit by Ohio Artists for Pretrial Justice—curated by PJI, with generous support from the Art for Justice Fund. See the full virtual gallery at https://liberatedvoices.art.
Grace, a neo-speak track combining spoken word, dance, and singing, embodies the feelings, emotions, and experiences that came up for me after witnessing my brother’s struggle before being sentenced to six years in prison.
After spending four years overseas in the Iraqi war, life became very difficult for him due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Unfortunately, PTSD led him to harm himself and others. This experience showed me that instead of being locked away in a cage far from home, my brother needed care that is holistic, compassionate, kind and filled with grace, the unmerited favor God bestows on all of us each day. This track calls on the name and essence of grace and love, both of which are absent from the government. We should be leading with our hearts, but instead the criminal justice system and those operating it lead from a place of soul loss, with less focus on humanity and more on profit. If the criminal justice system looked at humans who have caused harm as wounded children, then we could collectively move from a space of dehumanizing punishment into a place of healing, higher consciousness, and greater spiritual growth. I added a childhood photograph of my brother reading to me when I was a baby, as a reminder to me, him, and the world of who we truly are. — Mariah Johnson
*The artwork in the Liberated Voices exhibition belongs solely to the artists — and we are grateful they chose to share it with us and our audience. The viewpoints, opinions and solutions expressed in this artwork do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of PJI.