Misc. VDS Events
Taking back my dignity! Empowerment through wood and self-portrait.
Freedom Arts Hands-On Workshop
Bobbi Negrón grew up Puerto Rican living the diaspora as a youth in Newark, New Jersey. Worked in meat packing and slaughter houses helping to organize workers in the work place and in union drive efforts in Newark, NJ, St. Paul, MN, and Hunts Point NY. She returned to school, graduating from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI with a bachelors in Art and English. She is currently teaching elementary and middle school Visual Arts at St. Bernard Academy, teaching the elements and techniques in art with a cross-curriculum flare of social justice to PreK-8th age students. She also co-founded Freedom Arts~ Arte de Libertad, which started Fall of 2014 as a response to the movement and grassroots base building in Nashville TN from, Black Lives Matter, Not1More campaign, Women’s rights and stop the rape culture, labor rights campaigns, and other communities. Freedom Arts was created to empower all oppressed people with a safe community to express their journey of survival and struggle for social justice using all mediums of art through accessible classes, workshops, and art exhibitions.
Ndume Olatushani was wrongly convicted for first-degree murder in 1985 and spent twenty-eight years in maximum-security prison. Twenty years were spent on death row that was later overturned and sentenced to life in prison. His life's story is one of human resilience and most importantly, it shows how art changed his life.
Ndume is the seventh of eleven children from St. Louis Missouri. He was a high school dropout and dabbled in petty crime before his arrest for murder at the age of 26 in 1984. In the 1980's he changed his name from Erskine Johnson to Ndume Olatushani, which is Swahili for masculinity and unifier. He took control of his life rather than letting the experience control him.
it wasn't until he had reached rock bottom after hearing that his mother, Florence, and an eight-year-old niece were killed in a car accident that Ndume stared to draw and paint, two years into his imprisonment. He taught himself to paint. Art allowed him to exist in a state of harmony and tranquility although physically locked up.
Ndume also became an avid reader while in prison. He completed his GED, took some college courses and coursework in paralegal where he worked while in prison.
He met someone who believed in his innocence and assisted with is release. Attorney Anne Marie Moyes, who later became his wife, contacted a New York firm to work on his pro bono to get Ndume his freedom. His death sentence was overturned in 1998, but it took six years before Ndume finally walked of death row a day before Thanksgivings 2004. He was released June 1, 2012 from the Memphis Shelby County Jail.
From the time Ndume was released he has worked tirelessly trying to level the playing field for those most affected by the system of mass incarceration. He works for the Children's Defense Fund. Their motto truly is: "Leave No Child Behind."
Jairo Robles is a DACAmented student activist, artist and one of the founders of JUMP and Freedom Arts. Originally from Guatemala, he's lived in Nashville for fourteen years. Currently he is a psychology major at Trevecca Nazarene University with hopes of becoming an art therapist.
Spirit/Place: Imagining a Creative Community of Art, Advocacy and Action is co-sponsored by: Vanderbilt Divinity School, Carpenter Program in Religion, Gender and Sexuality, Religion in the Arts and Contemporary Culture, Scarritt Bennett Center, Metro Arts, The Curb Center and The Cal Turner Program for Moral Leadership in the Professions.