In a powerful display of solidarity and creative expression, participants from Right/Write to Heal New York traveled to Portland, Maine, to participate in the second annual “Abolition Night” at the STRAND THEATRE in Rockland, Maine.

 The Right/Write to Heal Initiative
The Right/Write to Heal Initiative is a joint project of the Columbia Center for Justice and V-Day’s Beyond Incarceration Project. Through Right/Write to Heal, women share how they cope with the consequences of incarceration on themselves, their families and communities, with the goal of changing how people understand the impact of criminalization on women. Writing and storytelling are therapeutic interventions for people who have experienced loss and trauma, and can lead to healing, redemption, and intimacy when shared collectively and with others who have been impacted. The goal is to humanize the unique individual and collective experiences of women, particularly women of color, who from early in their lives face racism, violence, and structural barriers that lead to punishment and imprisonment.

This event brought together a diverse group of individuals, including our group of women from both Maine and New York, who created a spoken word piece entitled “Why I Write” that left audiences inspired and moved. Together, we embarked on a collaborative journey, weaving our stories, experiences, and emotions into a powerful spoken word piece.

We flew from New York and embarked on a 2-day stay in Portland, Maine, to visit our sisters inside the prisons. Upon arriving at Portland airport, Erica King, along with her colleague Keilah Joyner picked us up in a minivan and drove us to the Strand Theater. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, and you could smell the salty ocean breeze; it felt rejuvenating. Erica was her bubbly, gregarious self; she hugged and kissed everyone and expressed how excited she was that we were there, creating a vibrant and diverse collective. This was our first time meeting Keilah, and she fit right in. Our writing group consists of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women fueled by a shared passion for social justice and an understanding of the importance of storytelling as a means of activism to bring about change and create a sense of empowerment through the healing power of words. These women are talented poets, writers, artists, and more.

We stopped at the local sandwich shop (we were hungry after the flight) on our way to the Re-entry Center and enjoyed the beautiful scenery as we sang songs on the radio, joked with one another, and laughed the whole way there. It was lovely being together, and we were excited because on our first visit, only three women could attend, but this time six of us made it.

Upon arriving at the prison, Michelle McLauchlan (the Superintendent), Skye Donovan, who teaches trauma-informed yoga weekly to the Southern Maine Re-entry Center women ( Maine Voices: Incarcerated students are living proof of the value of parole), and Brandon Brown (– Directories of Opportunity Scholars – Place Matters ) greeted us with a car loaded with breakfast foods for our sister inside. We gathered the muffins, fresh fruit, and breakfast sandwiches and entered the prison. For some of us, this was the first time returning to prison, and we had to push through our anxiety for this event to break bread and be in the community with our sisters. We know all too well what it feels like when you are acknowledged while incarcerated. We toured the grounds, and Michelle shared some history about the facility and her expectations for the women to have programs to encourage leadership and growth for the women. As we sat down to eat breakfast, we engaged in an open discussion about the impact of the writing group on our lives. The correctional staff was invited and shared stories of the transformation they witnessed. It was very emotional as we went around the circle and shared stories of healing and success. After we visited the prison, Erica had a surprise for us at a wellness center for self-care, including facials, reiki, meditation walks, and massages. On our last night, we celebrated Cheryl’s birthday, bringing a wonderful visit to a close.

We had a fantastic stay and look forward to doing this annually.

"Right/Write to Heal" New York Joins Abolition Night in Portland, Maine

The Performance: Abolition Night at the Strand Theater provided the perfect stage for the participants to share their collective creations with a captivated audience. The theater buzzed with anticipation as the spoken word piece unfolded, highlighting the fight for freedom and the ongoing struggle for equality that incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women face. The performance was an electrifying display of raw emotion and resilience. Each word spoken resonated deeply with the audience, who were taken on a poignant journey through the experiences and perspectives of these talented individuals. The piece embodied the pain, strength, hope, and determination of those women whose voices have been silenced and misunderstood.

The Impact: The spoken word collaboration showcased the transformative power of storytelling and the cathartic nature of creative expression. By sharing their narratives, the participants found healing and empowerment and opened the hearts and minds of those in attendance.

For those unable to attend the event in person, a live stream of Abolition Night is available at This stream allowed individuals to witness the performance, experience its emotional impact, and gain a deeper understanding of the ongoing fight for freedom and justice.

At the strand- front row: Cheryl, Roz, Edna; back row, Teronia, Judy, Greer, Yolanda

At the strand- front row: Cheryl, Roz, Edna;  back row, Teronia, Judy, Greer, Yolanda

The collaboration between Right/Write to Heal New York/ Maine at Abolition Night in Portland, Maine, was a testament to the transformative power of spoken word and storytelling. These brave women illuminated the struggles, triumphs, and ongoing quest for equality through this collaborative piece. Their performance is a powerful reminder of the importance of raising our voices, sharing our stories, and standing united in pursuing a more just and equitable society and creating pathways to healing and liberation through the arts, education, and community.

My journey since release nearly five years ago has been remarkable. The last time we visited Maine, I had just gotten off parole after 3 years. My work with V-Day as the Beyond Incarceration Project Manager has been gratifying. I found an incredible platform for my artistic and creative endeavors, using writing to foster healing, love, and a community among incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women.

It has become the highlight of my life, bringing me joy, igniting the fire of passion in my soul, and providing me with an outlet to express myself authentically, share my experiences, and connect with other women who have gone through similar struggles. Through my writing, I found solace and a sense of purpose, using this opportunity to heal myself, uplift and inspire others, and change the narrative about women impacted by the justice system.

We have built a sisterhood with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women, fostering a supportive and empowering community where we can share our stories, advocate for change, and celebrate our resilience and triumphs. Through workshops, performances, and collaborative projects, we have created a space where our voices are amplified and our experiences are validated.

In my reentry journey, I have discovered the transformative power of art and the ability of words to break down barriers, challenge perceptions, and build bridges. I have found my voice and become an advocate for the voices of countless women whom the criminal justice system has silenced.

My dedication to the work at V-Day is a testament to its immense impact on my life. It has given me a renewed sense of purpose, allowing me to channel my creativity and passion into something meaningful and empowering. As I continue to uplift others through writing, I want to inspire all those navigating the complex journey of incarceration and reentry for anyone who believes in the power of art to effect positive change.

My involvement with V-Day has given me a unique platform to express myself creatively, foster healing, build a sisterhood, and advocate for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women. It has been the most rewarding aspect of my reentry journey, allowing me to find solace, purpose, and a profound sense of community.

Right/Write to Heal aims to inspire others and contribute to the ongoing fight for justice and equality.

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READ more in Dispatches From Beyond Incarceration


Brandon - sharing a song he wrote

Brandon – sharing a song he wrote

Megan and Edna

Megan and Edna

Erica King and Edna Sams

Erica King and Edna Sams

Celebrating Cheryl’s birthday-Brandon, Greer, Natalie, and Cheryl

Celebrating Cheryl’s birthday-Brandon, Greer, Natalie, and Cheryl

Cheryl, Brandon, and Judy

Cheryl, Brandon, and Judy

Partners responsible for this performance:






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