Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Online Extra: Sampler: 'Sentence Unseen' in Oakland includes LGBTQ youth


A photo of Jazee Ridley is part of the "Sentence Unseen: Celebrating Resilience" exhibit in Oakland. Photo: Courtesy Project WHAT.
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A new exhibit in Oakland aims to draw attention to people who are incarcerated, some of whom have children who are LGBTQ.

"Sentence Unseen: Celebrating Resilience" uses photographs, video diaries, stories, and multimedia art. The exhibit opened November 5 and runs through January 25 at the African American Museum and Library, 659 14th Street.

One of the photos is of Jazee Ridley, 18, who identifies as LGBTQ, and bears a quote from her: "Even though his mistakes have made me stronger, it is hard not having my real father in my life. I want him to be in the stands cheering me on at basketball games, seeing me graduate, and knowing that I want to succeed at everything I do. My father did the crime, do I have to do the time? I am not my father's choices. I am at a point in my life where I can be whoever I want to be. My life is worth living and I want to live it."

The young people, who helped curate the show, are involved with Project WHAT (We're Here and Talking) and some of them have work featured in the exhibit.

WHAT staffers Jamie Gerber and Zoe Willmott, who both identify as queer, said in an email that the criminal justice system disproportionately targets youth, African American and Latino people, and LGBTQs.

"Celebrating Resilience is about acknowledging common struggles faced by these young people to inspire the general public to think about the far reaching impacts of incarceration, and how strong and powerful youth are given their struggles," Gerber and Willmott said. "The exhibit pushes the public to think outside of the normal narrative around crime and punishment, to think about how having an incarcerated father or mother impacts a young person as they are struggling to develop their identity as an LGBTQ youth without their parent around for support, or how having a parent incarcerated and coming out as LGBTQ can be unjustly silencing and stigmatizing when people are not educated, aware, and empathetic."

Jazz musician and activist Marcus Shelby, who performed at the opening, has been visiting San Francisco's Juvenile Justice Center monthly for the past two years.

"In order to turn the tide on mass incarceration we must address the root causes and unpack the fact that the majority of men and women locked away in U.S. prisons are black, brown, and poor," Shelby said in a news release. "Art and music have an important role to play in unifying and inspiring the movement to end mass incarceration, just as they did during earlier social movements such as the fight to end segregation."

Project WHAT is a program of Community Works, which produced the exhibit. The show, which also includes work from parents who are in prison, is meant to encourage support for incarceration alternatives, such as Restorative Community Conferencing. Through that program, a partnership with the Alameda County District Attorney's office, youth may be diverted from the juvenile justice system.

Community Works calls it "a promising alternative to the punitive approach of the U.S. criminal justice system and prevents the separation and trauma that incarceration inflicts on families and the community." The program also saves money, supporters say.

Celebrating Resilience features work by photographer Ruth Morgan and visual artist Dee Morizono, and was first shown on Alcatraz.

"Thousands of visitors, locally, nationally, and internationally experienced this exhibit and left comments expressing how inspired and motivated they felt to confront our nation's obsession with mass incarceration," Morgan said.

For more information, visit


CounterPulse announces new offerings

CounterPulse, the San Francisco arts center that often features work by LGBT artists, recently announced back-to-back weekends of new shows from its fall artist-in-residency program.

"This Year Is Different: A Self-Help Musical" from Liz Tenuto/Dance and a Half uses what the center calls Tenuto's "maximalist surreal style" to examine "how and why people change themselves."

The show runs November 13-15 at Gray Area, 2665 Mission Street.

Then, November 20-22, "Russian Play," which is based on Chekhov's Three Sisters, rearranges "the conventions of realist theater" into "abstract, choreographic logic, producing something more like a dance," according to CounterPulse. The location of the performance hasn't been determined.

The center, which recently moved from its longtime space in the Mission neighborhood to the Tenderloin district, is experiencing construction delays, so shows are being held in different spaces.

General tickets for the shows are $24.99.

For more information, including show times, visit


Sampler is an online column highlighting LGBT performances, exhibits, and other entertainment in the San Francisco Bay Area. It typically runs every Tuesday. Contact reporter Seth Hemmelgarn at or (415) 875-9986 to suggest column items.


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