Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Murals and a Great Divide

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Murals and a Great Divide

Article excerpt

MURALS AND A GREAT DIVIDE Concrete, Steel, and Paint, directed by Cindy Burstein and Tony Heriza. New Day Films.

Reviewed by Anne Marie Roderick

THOSE OF US who are pa sionate about prison reform could talk at length about the inju ' tice of the penal system, but pri on activists and concerned citizens sometimes glo 5 over the internal conflicts of prison ers in their daily lives as well as the pain and fear of crin1e victims in local commwlitie . The docunlentary Concrete, Steel, and Paint raises some essential questions about hope, forgiveness, and reconciliation through the moving story of unlikely partners- tllOse incarcerated for committing violent crimes and those affected by violent crimes-who come together to create a mural in their community.

The film begins at Graterford Prison near Philadelphia, a maximum- ecurity in titution where men are serving long sentences for violent crimes, including homicide. The men interviewed for the film seem thirsty for opportll11ities for healing. One of the first prisoners we meet, Tom, says: "When you do wrong that you can't correct, it's horri ble." Another inmate, ZafiI, teLLs the camera: "1 don't want my legacy to be that I was a murderer."

The energy for a mural project came from fane Golden, the executive director of the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, who believes in the power of art, and murals in particular, "to shiftthe consciousness of a community:' Golden began working with prisoners in Graterford in the early 2000s. The men in her workshops eventually came up with the idea to reacb out to the community. "I thought it was an interesting idea;' Golden says, "but I told them the only way thi can possibly work i if we can get the commw1ity involved,"

After a Significant amount of pushback from community members, Golden suggests making two separate mural walls to convey the different journeys of offenders and victims. …

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