Faces We Wear:
Youth Perspectives on Justice & Freedom - 2011

Our third exhibition on Alcatraz presented youth perspectives on our Alcatraz themes by sharing workshop exercises and displaying writing and art that was created during We Players’ spring workshops with incarcerated youth at the San Francisco Juvenile Justice Center.

On Display in the Alcatraz Cell House Gallery, June 11 – August 13, 2011

– Descriptions of the incarcerated teen’s ideal “room of one’s own,” next to a list of the limited possessions allowed in their rooms
– A collage of letters to unknown ancestors, written on mirror paper
– Masks and select photos of students posing while wearing their masks
– Audio loop of students reading from personal narratives, letters to ancestors, & commenting on their masks


We Players facilitated a number of exercises at the JJC this spring, all intended to help the youth connect with their emotions and understand the direct connections between emotions, how we inhabit our bodies, and our actions in the world.  We emphasized a distinction between the authentic self and the various faces we wear throughout our lives, reinforcing that one criminal act or a period of time defined by certain patterns of behavior do not, cannot, define the full scope of a person. We Players offered meditation & visualization, poetry, movement exercises, awareness games, writing prompts, and mask making, and the youth shared their stories on incarceration, family, home, justice, past and future identity.


Many thanks to Megan Mercurio for inviting We Players to work with her classes and to Sean Neil, Maria Anguiano Ferrer, Dennis Mackenzie, Charley Brooks, Kim Emilianowicz, Constance Walker, Theresa Hayward, Paul Choppi, and many others for offering their inspiration and classroom support. Deep gratitude to all the youth who found the courage to connect with and share their emotions, and let their authentic selves shine through all these faces we wear.

Youth Conference on Justice & Freedom, Saturday July 23, 2011, 1pm-6pm

The conference brought together over 30 teenagers with varying experience interacting with the prison system – including participants from a WritersCorps program at Downtown High School, previously incarcerated youth from the San Francisco Juvenile Justice Center, youth participants in Community Works’ Project WHAT! program, as well as home-school students who participate in a local nature awareness program. Through engagement activities and facilitated discussion, the youth shared their perspectives on justice and freedom as well as conversations about identity – where we come from and where we are going.

Our teen afternoon on The Rock included an island-wide site exploration and treasure hunt, guided viewing of the current gallery exhibit displaying youth perspectives on the Alcatraz themes, food and drink, group conversation, and a collective art project, which joined the art created in the SF JJC and remained on the island for public viewing in the cell house gallery through mid-August.

Thanks to Judith Tannenbaum and Carrie Love, representatives from WritersCorps, who created and facilitated this conference with Lauren and Ava.