Honey on the Blade: The Artivism of Liza Jessie Peterson

Liza Jessie Peterson by Yoshinori Hashimoto
By Sharon Pendana 

Liza Jessie Peterson is an "artivist," her art and her activism conjoined. With a deep sense of justice, it is her Libran calling to balance its scales. "I’m an artist, but my advocacy is channeled through my art," she says. "Everything I write about, everything I perform is through that lens." Her decades-long entrenchment in the carceral system spans from making the trek upstate from her Brooklyn home to visit her jailed former lover to teaching incarcerated youths at New York City's notorious Rikers Island Correctional Facility.

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Never Give Up. What This Mom Did When Her Son Was Wrongly Imprisoned.

LaVerne Knighten & Son Willie Knighten
By Erickka Sy Savané

African Americans are only 13% of the American population but make up the majority of innocent defendants wrongfully convicted of crimes and later exonerated, according to a study conducted by the National Registry of Exonerations on race and wrongful convictions. Blacks constitute 47% of the 1,900 exonerations listed in the Registry (as of October 2016), and the great majority of more than 1,800 additional innocent defendants who were framed and convicted of crimes in 15 large scale police scandals and later cleared in “group exonerations.” This racial disparity exist for all major crime categories, but the report focused on the three types of crimes producing the largest numbers of exonerations in the Registry: murder, sexual assault, and drug crimes.

This, however, was not on Laverne Knighten's mind in 1996, when her oldest son, Willie Knighten, was issed a life sentence in connection with a drive-by murder in Toledo, Ohio. For any mom this would be devastating news, but what made it even worse was the she knew deep in her heart that her son was innocent.
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