Measure R, LA prisons, mental illness advocacy

CNN Opinion | LA Watershed Moment for Mental Illness Advocacy

Los Angeles’ Watershed Moment for Mental Illness Advocacy

March 17, 2020. CNN Opinion. Jails have increasingly become responsible for caring for those with mental illness. The mentally ill, especially those in Black communities, should be able to seek real mental health facilities for treatment instead of cold, brutal prison walls. Kenneth Paul Rosenberg and Patrisse Cullors team up in this op-ed to talk about the recently-passed Measure R, how it now enables the LA County sheriff to safely reduce the jail population, and how California is inspiring the entire country to create change. 

Credit: Giovanni Solis

Our Prism | Prioritizing Healing Through Art During COVID-19

Prioritizing Healing Through Art During COVID-19: Q&A with Cultural Architect Damon Turner

April 30, 2020. Our Prism. Patrisse and art curator Autumn Breon Williams met with cultural architect Damon Turner for an interview on art and its impact on the pandemic (and visa versa) in Patrisse’s Prism series on conversations about the impact of COVID-19 on artists. Damon is a multi-hyphenate artist and opens up about his initial thoughts about the coronavirus, how he has reimagined the impact of his art, and how history seems to be repeating itself in terms of classism and power.

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Our Prism | New PBS Doc ‘Bedlam’ Shows Prisons’ Treatment of Mentally Ill

New PBS Documentary, ‘Bedlam,’ Spotlights How People with Mental Illness Are Funneled into Prisons

April 13, 2020. Our Prism. COVID-19 has highlighted the existence of a pandemic, and it’s not the novel coronavirus. A virus that has festered for far too long is how the prison system treats the mentally ill, and this PBS documentary could not have aired at a better time to help the country move forward into change. Patrisse Cullors and her previously incarcerated brother Monte (who has lived with schizophrenia for his adult life) are documented in this film directed by Dr. Kenneth Paul Rosenberg. 

Setor Tsikudo

Our Prism | The Role of Art and Music During a Pandemic

The Role of Art and Music During a Pandemic: Q&A with Grammy-Nominated Artist Nana Kwabena

April 29, 2020. Our Prism. Patrisse and art curator Autumn Breon Williams sat down with grammy-nominated artist Nana Kwabena to discuss how musical artists are expressing themselves during these strange times and why art in general is so essential to getting by in this current world. As part of an Our Prism series that focuses on multidisciplinary artists who approach their work in a way that focuses on movement-building, Nana speaks up about how he uses his music as a tool to unify the African continent and its worldwide dispersion of communities. He also talks about why music is more important now than ever and how it informs his ongoing activism.

incarceration, prison system

Pushing the Envelope

This solo 2013 performance piece featured Patrisse displaying enlarged copies of the envelopes and letters that she and her father exchanged while he was in prison. After a series of emotional correspondence, the last envelope she presents is addressed to the heavens. Patrisse’s father died in 2009 just months after he was released from prison. Their relationship developed within the confines of his incarceration, a situation that ultimately contributed to his death. Pushing the Envelope also served as a way for Patrisse to give more agency to herself and her father. 

“I say that him being incarcerated most of his life killed him. I say that because folks who are on the inside age and their life span is over much earlier than those who are able to live on the outside and a healthy life. This piece is dedicated to him, it’s dedicated to me, it’s kind of like an ode to our relationship and it’s about giving me more agency to say ‘goodbye father and thank you for everything you’ve given me.’ He spent most of his life behind bars, I spent most of my life writing him while he was behind bars, so it was a really powerful piece for us.”

Watch a collection of performances including a short clip of Pushing the Envelope:

law enforcement, police brutality

Where Will You Go?

This piece is looking at the impact law enforcement declaration has on Black bodies. Performed at the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica in the summer of 2018.

art, cleansing

Respite, Reprieve, and Healing: an Evening of Cleansing

“As a Black queer woman living inside a world that is constantly trying to kill me…”

“Respite, Reprieve, and Healing: An Evening of Cleansing” was Patrisse’s 2019 thesis solo show. Elements of performance, live music, sculpture, and improvisation is the artistic foundation of this piece. Patrisse states, “I’m tired, and I’ve been tired for a very long time.”

When thirteen Black performers said yes to being part of her piece, “Hair Wash”, she felt nothing but gratitude. “Black hair is sacred. We don’t let anyone touch our crowns,” says Cullors.

Brianna Mims held the kind of space and gentleness required as the hair washer. Each person was a magic portal into the world of the diaspora. They used honey and coconut milk and salt to set the intention. To hold the container. And the rope. The rope ties their Ori together. One hive mind. Healing together.

resist, Black Lives Matter, fighting jail expansion


RESIST is a 12 part docu-series coproduced by Patrisse and directed by Tani Ikeda, Mobolaji Olambiwonnu, and Nathalie Johns in partnership with digital media company blackpills.

The series follows the grassroots work of Los Angeles organizations fighting the county’s $3.5 billion jail expansion plan.

Primarily focusing on the work of Patrisse and other members of JusticeLA including Jayda Rasberry of Dignity and Power Now, Helen Jones of Dignity and Power Now and Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, Bambi Salcedo of TransLatina Coalition, and Johnathan Perez of Immigrant Youth Coalition, the series is a beautiful and inspiring look into the motivations and daily struggles of movement workers on the ground.

1992 Los Angeles Uprising, fighting oppression, building power

Remembering ‘92

In August 2017, two weeks after the attacks in Charlottesville and on the 226th anniversary of the Haitian revolution, Patrisse performed “Remembering ’92,” a moving tribute not only to lives lost and movements sparked in the 1992 Los Angeles Uprising, but also to revolutionary Black people fighting oppression and building power throughout history.


Taking place at the California African American Museum among their No Justice, No Peace: LA 1992 exhibit and with the musical accompaniment of Kimya Dawson’s “At the Seams”, Patrisse led a solemn funeral procession before using her body and a collection of protest signs to express a series of other events and emotions.


The performance was followed by a Q&A with Patrisse and the exhibit curator Tyree Boyd-Pates.