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Watch: MMC’s 2022 Stand Up, Speak Out Festival

MMC hosted its annual Stand Up, Speak Out Arts and Social Justice Festival on December 7, showcasing a range of powerful work that sprung from a collaboration between students in its Bedford Hills College Program and at the 71st Street campus.

The festival is part of a series of events designed to amplify and support justice-involved students in MMC’s prison education programs and connect them with their 71st Street peers. The College operates degree-granting programs at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility and the Taconic Correctional Facility.

View Stand up, Speak Out creations

This year’s festival was centered around the Bedford Hills academic course Writing About Art; its students wrote analyses about classic works that were used as the inspiration for monologues, dance, video, fine art, and 2-D animation created by 71st Street students. Participating 71st Street classes include the Stand Up, Speak Out Collaborative Workshop, The Arts and Social Change, Embodied Africanist Aesthetics, 2-D Animation, and Curating the City.

For the project, students in both locations adopted pen names, which made the work more freeing and unifying, said Erin Greenwell, an associate Communication and Media Arts professor and the College’s Ferraro Fellow in Prison Education.

In addition to screening video of the projects and performances, the festival included a presentation on MMC’s Bedford Hills College Program Club by DeSyre Collier, a junior double majoring in Politics and Human Rights and Public Relations and Strategic Communications. Collier, the club’s co-president, said the group plans to visit Bedford Hills in the spring and, among other things, will support Bedford Hills students, who do not have internet access, on research projects. 

Writing About Art instructor Duston Spear, who has taught in the Bedford Hills College Program for nearly 20 years, also participated in a Q&A with audience members. Though Bedford Hills students were not able to attend or live stream the event because of Department of Corrections rules, they will be able to view the video recording. 

In the lead-up to the event, several of the Bedford Hills students said that the festival made them feel seen and valued. “It feels good knowing [students at 71st Street] see us as their academic equals—as students who, like them, are striving to get a college education,” said Tami, a Bedford student. “Through this forum, we feel like we are part of an academic family. It is humbling.”

Published: December 19, 2022