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CLAIMING SPACE: Stories We Carry

A live virtual storytelling event on March 31, 2021

This creative and dynamic storytelling showcase featured unique stories of complexity and staying alive in the era of mass incarceration. A collaboration between HBC, The Returning Artists Guild and Dr. Kevin Cordi, and supported by the Ohio Arts Council and the Arts For Justice Fund, here's the story behind the storytelling of CLAIMING SPACE.

In November 2020, Healing Broken Circles brought together a diverse group of artists and thinkers connected by one issue - prison. Some of us have served time, others worked inside, still others just passionate about advocacy and ending mass incarceration. We gathered with master storyteller and teacher Kevin Cordi, who then engaged us every week in exercises to get us out of our shells and into that dynamic space he calls the land of story—not just telling stories, but leaning into and living through each other’s truths.

Like learning anything new, it was awkward for some of us at first. We started with silly short stories and strange exercises to develop our voices, but before long we were diving into the realness of our individual stories. Sometimes our sessions ran over because someone struck gold. Other times, it was hard to find the urge to tell because of the weight of the stories. Ultimately, we engaged in a process of deep listening to one another and providing feedback, and the culmination of this process of distillation and refinement has led to CLAIMING SPACE: Stories We Carry.

One way of understanding prisons is that their purpose is to be invisible - we're not meant to pay attention to prisons, to the people inside whether they are incarcerated or work there, and we certainly don't hear much truth-telling directly from the inside. The entertainment industry has a way of fictionalizing and sensationalizing prison, and we set out to do the opposite of that. These stories are juiced up by authenticity rather than shock value, these stories don't always have a happy or funny ending, our aim is to speak what it means for us to survive in the era of mass incarceration.

We thanks the 101 guests who joined us, and the many more who joined through the livestream. Together, we created a community of listeners and tellers, who turned a grid of Zoom rectangles into an intimate, shared space. Please watch...

Made possible by generous support from the Ohio Arts Council and The Art For Justice Fund


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