Update: We've Reached Our Goal! Thank You! But There Are Still a Few Hours Left to Take Donations. Please Consider Helping Us Begin Fundraising for the First All-Female Ritual4Return — September 2019!
Remember This Moment...
You'll want to remember this moment. You'll want to remember the moment you decided to contribute to this campaign. Because in some years -- maybe 3, maybe 5, maybe more -- Ritual4Return, this thing you're supporting, will begin to get deeply woven into the fabric of American culture. In fact, Ritual4Return --- a 12-week rite of passage program for formerly incarcerated men and women -- will eventually become the cultural anchor that helps push the movement to end mass incarceration to its tipping point. And it will be led by the individuals who have uniquely important things to teach our culture about the true meaning of freedom: formerly incarcerated people.
You'll want to remember this, right now, so that you can look back and tell someone: "I was there. I supported the very first Ritual4Return, way back in 2019. I was in at the start. I helped build that movement. I am part of this healing."
Who We Are and What We're Asking
The R4R team is made up of formerly incarcerated and never incarcerated men and women who are committed to the liberation of all people, and who see mass incarceration in the United States as a violation of, and attack against, our shared humanity. Some of us planted the first seed of this project back in the spring of 2009, when we piloted Ritual4Return together in New York City with the support of the Osborne Association and John Jay College. Some of us are new to the project but are inspired by its unique and powerful approach to confronting incarceration and reentry, and their traumatic effects. We are all inspired by R4R's larger vision that reminds us that, ultimately, it will be the oppressed who lead the way in teaching us all how to throw off the shackles of oppression...
We are asking for your financial contribution to help us raise $15,000 to support a group of formerly incarcerated men on a real and symbolic journey. At journey's end, they will each cross a personal threshold into freedom, and manifest the person they have always known themselves to be.
Your contribution will allow us to give each formerly incarcerated participant a $500 stipend, meals at every workshop, and roundtrip MetroCards to get back and forth. We will be able to pay for (expensive) studio space in Manhattan, and for all of the theatrical materials we will need to realize our most ambitious vision for this project. We need to buy some new djembe drums (donations welcomed!), high quality yoga mats (donations welcomed!), and mask-making materials. We need to print updated R4R workbooks that the participants will use to write and draw their reflections related to weekly readings and prompts. And finally, your contribution will allow us to provide a stipend for R4R's first resident licensed social worker, Alexander Anderson, one of the founding members of this project.
What Is This All About?
You can discover everything about this project, in some serious depth, by watching our video above and by visiting our webpage at www.ritual4return.org. But here's the deal, in a nutshell:
A rite of passage is an ancient human tool. It is a specific kind of ritual and its function is to mark the occasion when a person crosses from one stage of life to another. A criminal conviction is a rite of passage in which a person's identity is transformed from "citizen" to "outcast." It is a rite of degradation -- the person is literally degraded. Unfortunately our society has forgotten that when a person is released from prison, we have a moral obligation to release them from their degraded identity. In our country, we fail each and every day to live up to that obligation. For we have no rites of passage to mark their return, to restore and elevate their civic and spiritual identities, or to embrace them again into the fabric our lives and communities.
The failure to deal with these transitions from incarceration to freedom causes great harm. Formerly incarcerated people report living with the "invisible stripes" of shame, stigma, and trauma many years after we come home. For many of us, these stripes often last for the rest of our lives. Each year, nearly 700,000 people are released from prison. Most of us, and probably all of us, return to our communities living with the traumatic effects of our experiences. The toll of this reality -- on us, on our families and communities, and on the whole of society -- is staggering to consider.
Ritual4Return is the restorative rite of passage our country needs, that we need, to mark the true end of incarceration and the beginning of freedom for formerly incarcerated people. It is a healing space where formerly incarcerated individuals, families, loved ones, community leaders, and other compassionate people come together to reclaim the humanity that has been stripped -- from all of us! -- by the devastating impact of locking up millions and millions of our fellow citizens over the past 50 years.
The R4R training invites formerly incarcerated people to undertake a 12-week journey of self-reflection and discovery. The primary vehicles we use for reflecting and discovering are creative arts, the study of rites of passage, and mindfulness training.
The project begins March 16 & 17, 2019, in Manhattan, with a weekend intensive. During these very full days, the men will learn all of the tools they'll need for their 12-week experience. Yoga, meditation, drumming, mask-making, reflective creative writing, storytelling, and the process of devising original performance to express complicated ideas, emotions, and experiences. After that, the group will meet for 3 hours, once a week, until the final, one-time-only, rite of passage on June 8, 2019.
On that night, before an invited audience of family, loved ones, project team members, and other supporters, the participants will cross the thresholds that they have devised with the guidance of trained community-based theater artists. Before a roomful of compassionate witnesses, they will tell their stories, shed old skins, and manifest the fullness of their humanity. In that moment, they will model for all of us the meaning of redemption and the promise of renewal.
Ritual4Return is the space where we all can come together to embrace the most important project: the project of our own re-humanization.
Building a Movement from the Grass Roots
Visit the website to learn in more depth how this 12-week experience translates into a movement to end mass incarceration. But let us explain here that we are seeking money right now, from private funders and foundations, to start planning our first Wounded Healer Trainings, in 2020. Wounded Healer Trainings are intensive 13-week, college-level courses of study through which graduates of the R4R program become trained to lead Ritual4Return for other formerly incarcerated people. They will become steeped in the theory, practice, and ethics of leading this work.
We are also beginning to connect with leaders in colleges, universities, and community cultural centers around the country to explore partnerships through which our R4R Wounded Healers would become Ritual4Return Justice Fellows in communities all across the United States. In these paid positions, Fellows would spend the fall semester organizing within the communities affected by incarceration. They might also co-teach a course on criminal justice or about art and social movements (or something). And then, in the spring semester they would recruit for and lead Ritual4Return in that community.
Then, these new R4R graduates can then get trained as Wounded Healers and return home with the skills to anchor the Ritual4Return process for the people closest to them. In this way -- each one teaching one, one rite of passage at a time -- individuals and communities will begin to heal. And simultaneously, they will acquire the intellectual and cultural tools, and the human connections, to think strategically together about organizing and mobilizing for justice.
This is What You Want...
Every important book about mass incarceration and prisoner reentry over the past decade will say that we need "bold" and "imaginative" new ideas to confront this overwhelming crisis. Yet few if any have articulated a vision for what this might mean... And outside of the criminal justice world, as the United States sinks deeper and deeper, year-by-year, into its own social and cultural depression, people keep asking: Have we run out of ideas? Where is the next Big Idea? Where is this generation's Moon Shot?
This is it.
Ritual4Return is the bold and imaginative new idea uniquely equipped to confront the crisis of mass incarceration and to support the New Civil Rights Movement required to end this violent, dehumanizing tool of social control.
This is the new moon shot. But it is not a journey to go "out there." Rather it is a powerful call to come "in here," deep into the heart of our own darkness, which we have tried to ignore and suppress for the whole of our existence. It's only here, confronting and witnessing the truth of who we are, and being accountable for the lives we have created, that we can begin to taste freedom, to celebrate the fullness of our humanity, and to imagine the new world we are called to build, together.
Can you bring yourself to believe that it's possible to build a social movement to end mass incarceration? Can you bring yourself to hope and to believe that it's possible for human beings to undertake a collective healing project together, and to rescue ourselves from the precipice of our own destruction?
We Believe. Join Us on This Journey.
A Final Word, About Our Awesome Rewards...
We have the best reward! We know Kickstarter supporters like their rewards and, like every other campaign, we're offering a range of great ones -- from stickers to to t-shirts to limited edition pendants -- all revolving around Route 29 Creative's powerful R4R logo design. (You're awesome, Kristian!!!)
But it feels wrong to us that the best reward should go to the people with the most money.
The people impacted most directly by mass incarceration and reentry are almost always the people with the least money. So we don't think it's right that they should be shut out from the Grand Prize.
That's why one supporter will be chosen from each of the fundraising categories -- from $1 to $500 -- and invited to attend the actual Ritual4Return on June 8, 2019, in New York City. By contributing at whatever level you're able, you earn the opportunity to join us at this once-in-a-lifetime, never to be repeated, invitation only event.
There are no tickets to the Ritual4Return and it is not open to the public. Your support, in any category, gives you a chance to be in the room, to participate in and bear witness to, the powerful culmination of our journey.
It's Your Turn.
Now it's your turn. Make the leap. Right now. Figure out what it's worth to you and then cross the threshold that will move you from being a bystander to being an accomplice and an ally in the work of our collective healing, our cultural renewal, and our journey to justice.
And please don't forget: money we raise beyond our goal will go to future Ritual4Return projects, including Wounded Healer Trainings. We have the pieces and partnerships in place to begin this new phase in September 2019 with our first-ever R4R journey designed with, by, and for women!
On behalf of the 2.2 million behind bars, and the millions more suffering from incarceration's lasting effects, we sincerely thank you for your support.
-- The R4R Team
So much gratitude and love to the designers and media artists -- all your time; still no money! ... Financial contributions beyond our $15K goal will also let us finally pay these beautiful individuals: Kristian Summerer, Route 29 Creative (R4R logo and branding); Steve Rogers, Driving Jersey (primary filming); Mark Alhadeff North 7 Media (additional filming); and Ryan Bott of ShowbyAmantus Productions (editing). Thank you so much!
Risks and challenges
The biggest risk related to this project is that a lot of deep stuff is going to come up for the participants during the course of this work. That's why we've put together a wonderful support team, including an on-site licensed social worker, who will be able to respond as people tap into powerful memories, feelings, and realizations. The other risk is that it's likely that some people, people with an interest in maintaining the status quo of social and economic relations, will begin to feel uncomfortable with the idea of "ex-cons" stepping into their own power and leadership. Our plan to deal with this risk is to keep pushing...Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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