Civil Rights Corps is excited to announce the launch of our art and poetry fellowship programs. Each year, we will select a groundbreaking poet and artist whose work urgently confronts the subject matter of our civil rights work. They will be named the Civil Rights Corps Poet in Residence and Artist in Residence.
Our criminal system’s ability to accomplish mass human caging to an extent never before seen in the recorded history of the modern world depends on ignoring and erasing the stories of the human beings on whom we inflict unspeakable suffering. The Poet and Artist will produce urgent and vivid works that communicate the humanity of our clients and others like them and that sheds light on the toll that the unjust practices in the criminal system takes on the bodies and minds of the people directly impacted by it and on our communities more broadly.
The language used in police reports, court arguments, and prison budgets enables large-scale indifference; poetry and art make us understand, make us care, and make us act.
Omari Booker began his journey as an artist his senior year of high school at Montgomery Bell Academy. There he realized his gift for visual art and like most true artists, the path to developing his talent has been anything but linear. It has taken him through various disciplines and institutions including Belmont University, Middle Tennessee State University, and Tennessee State University. As he studied Mathematics and other more traditional curricula he finally focused on studio art and graphic design earning his B.S. in Graphic Design from Tennessee State University. Omari is currently the curator and artist in residence at Woodcuts Gallery and Custom Framing.
Omari’s work has been influenced by masters such as Vincent Van Gogh and Salvador Dali as well as, modern artists like Charles White and Jacob Lawrence. A consistent affinity for realism is apparent in his work, while abstractions can also be found. Oil paintings are Omari’s predominant medium, but mixed media including charcoal, ink, and found objects are essential building blocks of his work, and are used to create finished pieces.
Omari takes a process-oriented approach to his art, embracing it as a therapeutic modality through which he is able to express his passion for the freedom and independence that the creative process allows him to experience. His art is his personal therapy, and his desire is that those viewing it will have personal experiences of catharsis. The philosophy that undergirds Omari’s work is FREEDOM THROUGH ART and he aspires to create work that communicates to his audience their unique and intrinsic ability to be free.
Alana is a visual artist and public defender. She hopes to see the abolition of our current criminal legal system and in its place, a deep investment in a sustainable economy, education, health care, living wages, affordable housing and the arts. Alana works at the Legal Aid Society of New York, where she provides legal defense for people accused of crimes, currently in Manhattan and previously in the Bronx. She is represented by the Carrie Able Gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She was part of ProjectArt’s inaugural 2016-2017 artists in residence program. Alana received her J.D. from Fordham Law School in 2012, where she participated in the Criminal Defense Clinic and spent a semester working and studying in Mexico City. She has studied drawing at the New York Academy of Art, the Art Students’ League and the New York Studio School.
Reginald Dwayne Betts is a Ph. D. in Law candidate at Yale. His major research interests are administrative law, criminal law, empirical legal studies and law and literature. He holds a B.A. from the University of Maryland and a J.D. from Yale Law School, where he was awarded the Israel H. Perez Prize for best student note or comment appearing in the Yale Law Journal He spent his summers with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the District of Columbia’s Public Defender Service. He is currently a Liman Fellow working in the New Haven Public Defender’s Office.
Prior to law school, Dwayne was a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Studies and a Soros Justice Fellow. In addition, he served by appointment of former President Barack Obama as a practitioner member of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The author of three books, Betts’ latest collection of poems, Bastards of the Reagan Era, has been named the winner of the Pen New England Poetry Prize. His first collection of poems, Shahid Reads His Own Palm, won the Beatrice Hawley Award. Betts’ memoir, A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison, was the recipient of the 2010 NAACP Image Award for non-fiction.