Thursday, Feb 25, 2021

Spring 2021 Sciame Series: Liza Jessie Peterson, Raphael Sperry, and Elias Beltran

The Prison Industrial Complex and Beyond


Thursday, Feb 25, 2021

5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Online - Zoom meeting


Please join us for the new SCIAME Lecture Series, titled And/Or. This lecture will feature Liza Jessie Peterson and Raphael Sperry, introduced by Elias Beltran, for a discussion of art and architecture.

Free and open to the public - Please register for this Zoom event here.

In this online series, curators Viren Brahmbhatt, Ali C. Höcek, and Martin Stigsgaard argue that the traditional format of a single lecturer speaking to an audience sets up a binary opposite all of its own -- speaker/listener, which simply reinforces the power structure between those who "possess" knowledge and those who "consume" it. In its place, the &/Or Online Dialogues will present two speakers in conversation with each other, moderated by a third. The series features prominent artists, activists, and architects from across the globe who will discuss their work and the unique political and environmental challenges they confront.

Raphael Sperry is an architect, sustainable building consultant, and human rights advocate. As President of Architects / Designers / Planners for Social Responsibility from 2004-2020 he led ADPSR's national campaign to ban the design of spaces that violate human rights. He promotes restorative alternatives to incarceration as a board member of Designing Justice + Designing Spaces. He is an Associate at Arup, where he consults on net positive design for buildings that regenerate energy, water and natural systems and helps shape Arup’s efforts to incorporate human rights and the UN Sustainable Development Goals into corporate policies and building projects.

Liza Jessie Peterson is an artivist; an actress, playwright, poet, author and youth advocate who has been steadfast in her commitment to incarcerated populations both professionally and artistically for over two decades. Her critically acclaimed one woman show, The Peculiar Patriot, was featured at the 2020 Democratic National Convention, and was recently recorded for Audible. Her play was also featured at The Pulitzer Center’s fall 2020 program and a documentary is in production about her performance at the notorious Angola Penitentiary where she performed the play in front of 700 inmates and was live streamed throughout the entire prison. The Peculiar Patriot premiered at the National Black Theater in Harlem, followed by Arts Emerson (Boston) and Woolly Mammoth (D.C.) and was nominated for a Drama Desk award in 2019. The Peculiar Patriot received a generous grant from Agnes Gund’s prestigious Art for Justice Fund. During the early years of this play’s uncanny trajectory and true to her artivist nature, Liza performed The Peculiar Patriot in over 35 penitentiaries across the country in a self-funded prison tour spanning the course of four years.

Liza is author of ALL DAY; A Year of Love and Survival Teaching Incarcerated Kids at Rikers Island (Hachette publishing). She was featured in Ava DuVernay’s Emmy award winning documentary, The 13th , and was a consultant on Bill Moyers documentary Rikers (PBS).

Also known for her exceptional poetic skills, Liza began her poetry career at the Nuyorican Poets Café and was a vital member of the enclave of notable poets that inspired Russell Simmons to bring spoken word to HBO where Liza appeared on two episodes of Def Poetry.

In addition to The Peculiar Patriot Liza has written several other plays that received development support from The Lark, Syracuse Stage, The McCarter Theater, Manhattan Theater Club, New York Theater Workshop, and The Atlantic Theater Company.

As an actress Liza appeared in several feature films: Love the Hard Way (co-starring with Pam Grier and Adrien Brody), Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, K. Shalini’s A Drop of Life and Jamie Catto’s What About Me. She can be seen in an upcoming webseries, A Luv Tale, directed by Kay Oyegun (This is Us, Blackish).

Liza is currently writing a television series based on her book ALL DAY, about her teaching experience at Rikers Island, as well as another series based on her stage play SistahGurls and the Squirrel that tackles state sanctioned violence against Black bodies and the second amendment right to bear arms.

Elias Beltran was a case manager at the Center for Community Alternatives, where he worked with justice-involved youth, former Director of an HIV/AIDS awareness program, and certified Peer Counselor. Elias graduated with a BA in Literature and the Humanities in 2017 from the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI). At Bard, his Senior Project looked at trauma, dispossession and reclamation in the work of Junot Díaz, Amy Tan and Khaled Hosseini. Interested in Caribbean literature, Chinese migration to the Caribbean, postcolonialism and empire, he continues to study Mandarin Chinese and is now in the second year of a PhD in Comparative Literature at Cornell University where he is also a Spanish Language Instructor. At 16, Elías was sentenced to a term of 30-years-to-Life in prison. He served 29½ years of that term.

Lecture series sponsored by Sciame . . . Where Building Is an Art

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