A Revolution of the Mind

When Middle of Nowhere premiered on October 12th it was only available in 6 theaters in 5 cities.  The film, the story of a woman (Ruby) who is enduring her husband’s 8-year prison sentence, portrays this conundrum with complicated nuance and sensibility.  Middle of Nowhere is refreshing in its elevation of stories and characters typically not afforded the platform of the big screen.  Its brilliance alone is not a recipe for success unless accompanied by an audience that supports its vision.

The film’s distribution company, the African American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AaFFRM), believes it is cultivating “dynamic audiences for filmmakers of color to share their stories their way.”  They’ve pushed back on the typical route for independent films by demanding that their movies get placed in mainstream theaters believing that there is an audience that will fill those seats. 

Now only two short weeks later, the film that began with 6 theaters has expanded to 30.  Like Middle of Nowhere, the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice is telling an “untold story”.   The story of families who deserve better than to have to pay companies like Global Tel Link $14 for a 15 minute phone call.   Or the story of women like Mrs. Martha Wright, who’ve been waiting for close to 10 years for the Federal Communications Commission to make these phone calls more affordable.  

Here are some of the highlights from the Campaign in the month of October:

10/5: Steven Renderos presents on the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice on a panel with Ava DuVernay, Jamal Joseph, Michaela Angela Davis and Liz Gayle during Harlem’s Art Advocacy Week.

10/6: amalia deloney interviewed on WRFU-Urbana Radio

10/8: Alex Friedman of Prison Legal News and Steven Renderos interviewed about the Campaign on HuffPost Live.

10/8: Prison Legal News files a response on Global Tel Links presentation to the FCC

10/9: Steven Renderos presents on Campaign for Prison Phone Justice at a discussion in Brooklyn, NY on arts and revolution with panelists Esther Armah, Terence Nance, Lumumba Kembele, and Nana Camille Yarbrough. 

10/10: Campaign announces plans to host a rally on November 15th in front of the FCC. 

10/12: The Campaign for Prison Phone Justice gives out tickets for opening weekend of Middle of Nowhere.

10/16: Campaign for Prison Phone Justice interviewed on the Wake Up Call WBAI Radio in New York.

10/23: Human Rights Defense Center submits a letter to the FCC on behalf of 60 criminal justice and legal organizations.

10/25: Campaign for Prison Phone Justice interviewed on Global Movements Urban Struggles on WBAI Radio.

10/31: Campaign launches new website.

Also like Middle of Nowhere, the Campaign started out small but over the last few months our voice has gotten stronger.  The FCC has received over 600 postcards, 500 phone calls, and over 170 hand-written letters from families of prisoners.  More than 150 social, racial and criminal justice organizations have signed letters urging the FCC to take action.  And online over 30,000 people have signed petitions asking for passage of the Wright Petition including a petition set up by Middle of Nowhere through Participant Media.  

Yet the cost of the phone calls are still high.  Families are still paying a premium to stay connected.  And the FCC has yet to act.  We must keep the pressure up, which is why on November 15th we’re hosting a rally outside the FCC to elevate the stories and characters that are typically absent in the halls of power.  Won't you join us?


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