Wednesday, December 26, 2007

What Does Art Mean to Me: K. Kabasha Griffin-El

What does art mean to me?
If I had my way, Art would be a proper noun
It's much more than a person, place, or thing
Art is universal
Much more than even a global thing
With Art I can travel through the cosmos
And even become a star
I can travel through time
I can even be reborn
I can make a mistake
And create a new slate
I can Cre-ate
With Art I can be the big "G" o d
If it's to be
It's up to me
With Art I can create my own vitality
Art is an expression of my thoughts, my emotions, my desires
An extension of my all, in all, of the All
Art is my forefathers, my ancestors, my descendants, my progeny
Art is the sperm that swam an acidic sea
Art is that ovum, 50%of me
Art is the earth, the sky, and the sea
The rabbit, the birds, the bees
Art is every perfect imprefection that my flesh eyes have yet to see
Art is everything
That's what Art means to me
(c) K. Kabasha Griffin-El

Monday, December 10, 2007

Poem: WAR Poet: Chuck Zehring

(for Line and Sami)

(read in the manner of the spoken word)

There's been a war raging for the past 400 years
the goal of which has been money and privilege for some
at the expense of other's life, limb, and tears.

There's been a war raging for the past 400 years
against the people who look like you by people who look like me;
all just grease for the slave machine's gears.

There's been a war raging for the past 400 years,
there are only two sides;
as John Brown, Malcolm, and others have made clear;
standing, fighting, in the light or hiding in racism's shadowy fears.

There's been a war raging for the past 400 years,
the tab has been running for far too long,
it's time the account gets closed--stamped in arrears.

(c) Chuck Zehring 11/4/06

Friday, November 16, 2007

Prison Life Stories




Termite TV Collective is group of video artists who create a series of videos called “Life Stories”. In our latest Life Story Project, we want to explore the world of Philadelphia Prisons and collect the stories that surround them. These are the stories that are often invisible and that we rarely get to hear. We want to record the stories of past and present inmates, parents, relatives and friends of inmates.

We hope that this project will challenge perceptions of what kind of people are in prison today and why. On a larger scale we hope that by listening to these stories audiences will see how incarceration not only affects those that are directly involved but entire families and communities.

We want to hear people tell their own experiences and feelings, conflicts and challenges, hopes and dreams... So come tell us YOUR life story in 5 minutes!



Centro Pedro Claver

627 W. Erie Avenue (between Rising Sun and Marshall)

Philadelphia, PA 19140 215 227-7111

For More Information, please contact Termite TV -,

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Graterford Art Exhibit

Come and join us for the Juvenile Lifers exhibition at Centro Pedro Claver November 7, 2007 5:30pm-8:00pm.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Real Rap: How to avoid the trap Part II

If you are a leader you should use the influence you have over your peers/homies to start a club or youth group. Your group can be for recreation, study group, or a support group where everyone helps each other with their problems.
  • Choose constructive outlets for your talents/skills
    Can you draw? How about play music? Maybe you're a rapper or poet. If not, what would you like to do? Take time to discover and sharpen your talents. Find places where you can express your abilities-If you are an artist you can check out the Art Institute of Philadelphia and Mural Arts Program of Philadelphia. Rappers and poets should check out the back of magazines such as: XXL®, Vibe®, Source®, or Rolling Stone®. You can possibly start a business with your talents and make some money.
  • Volunteer with a group performing services in your community.
    Get involved with the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organizations. You could be an assistant coach in a league, if you like sports. Maybe you could serve food at a shelter.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Real Rap: How to avoid the trap Part I

Secrets of the game....
Here are things you can begin to do to reduce your chances of becoming a juvenile lifer.
  • Beware of who you hang out with

Are you around people who really care about your future? If your homies aren't encouraging you to achieve your goals in a positive way, then they aren't your homies. If your friends aren't trying to go where you're going, then how can you walk together? To find out who you really are, you need to get out of your boys shadow.

  • Get help through counseling or mentoring for your issues such as anger, depression, family problems, and violence, etc.

The only way to get help for your anger is to recognize that it is a problem. (Read James's story on how anger affected his life.) Find someone you can talk to and really open up with them about your problems. It might even be a psychologist.

  • Find alternatives to violence.

Try to talk with people to resolve your "beefs." You may find out that you have a lot in common with your so-called enemies.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Balloon reads: Man, I got so many issues I don't know what to do. HELP

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

How to Play the Game booklet

For anyone who requested copies of the booklet: there is no cost for the booklet. Please send us your contact information. Thank you.

Friday, September 28, 2007

How I Became a Lifer( Luis's Story)

When I was 16 years old, I thought I knew it all and nobody could tell me anything. My mother tried to talk to me many times, warning me about what could happen if I didn't live right. I didn't listen and I had to learn the hard way: by losing my freedom for life. I know how it is to be in your shoes, when you feel like giving up and taking short cuts, but is it really worth it? Would it make your family love you more? Would it be a good example for your lil' bro' or sis' who looks up to you? Is it really what you want? Think about that for a long time and be honest with yourself.
In prison I have no control over my life. Someone tells me when I can eat; what I can eat; when to go to bed; and when I can go outside. I'm always told to go back in my cell. You have a choice to avoid this life by making something of yourself. How do you do that? It starts with education-meaning-school. You may not like school, but if you break the law and get sent to prison you will wish you were back in school. Also, you have to think before you act. Don't do anything that may ruin your life by not thinking things through. When you do something wrong and think about it later you end up regretting it, but you can't change it. You may think to yourself this is lame, but I'm telling you I have been where you are; from sellng drugs to doing drugs, and from being in a gang, to running a gang. I was fighting my entire life until I got here to prison and discovered I was only destroying myself.
My brothers and sisters, I can tell you from the bottom of my heart, stay in school. Educate yourself and pursue your dreams. You can be whatever you want in life no matter what other people think of you. Be a leader not a follower. Respect yourself and your parents. Stay away from drugs and guns. Violence will only take you two places: To prison and to death. Don't wait until you are in prison to think what you could've done. Be real with yourself and start making it happen now.

Stay in school and stop the violence.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Monday, September 24, 2007

"How to Play the Game" booklet

How to Play the Game is a collaboration of work by Juvenile Lifers in Graterford Prison. All stories and artwork are copyrighted. The distribution of the books is dependent on the copyright owner, whom we are waiting for a response from concerning the numerous request for the books.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"How to Play the Game" booklet

If you are interested in getting copies of "How to Play the Game" booklet please contact Thanks.

Monday, September 17, 2007

How I became a Juvenile Lifer - James' Story

I am currently in prison for the rest of my life. When I was 17 years old I was arrested for shooting a man three times. This man died of those gunshot wounds and here I am now 32 years old serving a life sentence. When I was a teenager, I was very angry because my life growing up was rough. I lived in a home where drugs were abused and fighting was normal. My hood was just a larger version of my home and I began to imitate the negative behaviour I saw others do. I was a follower and didn't even peep it. I wanted to get money, but instead of using my skills as an artist, I tried selling heroin, crack, and then sticking up people and places. Like a fool I thought I was doing something "slick," but all I ended up doing is becoming a weedhead, alcoholic, and thug with nothing positive to show for all my stupidity. I do have a life sentence though. I couldn't listen to THE TRUTH when people who were concerned about me spoiled my high. They told me to go back to scholol and get my life together. I was too hard headed. Now, after being stuck with no chance of getting out, I wish I would've listened. People probably try to encourage you, do you listen?
Why did I write this short piece of real talk? I wrote this because this will be the realest thing you ever read. So you can realize that you're not the only young brother or sister who's had it hard. You can still turn your life around. There are things you can start doing to avoid becoming a juvenile lifer. I've had my chance, now its yours. What will you do with your life?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

What is a Juvenile Lifer?(excerpt from "How to Play the Game")

You are sixteen(16) years old; you probably hate being told what to do by anyone. You hang with your homies; you might blow an "L", you might even carry heat(a gun). People probably hate on you and that might lead to drama here and there. You know like I do that sometimes things can get hectic in the streets, so you might end up using that "heat" in a beef.
In this case you busted your gun and think everthing's cool. WRONG! You get arrested and now the homicide detectives wanna talk to you. You're a soldier though(maybe somebody schooled you about your rights{Miranda}, so you ain't saying nothing to the cops). So you think you're ready for this. Next move, they charge you with criminal tell the police, " I want a lawyer." You're given one you can afford...a Public Defender who might not even know your name. He thinks you should plead guilty. You know nothing about the law in Pennsylvania or the system so you think, " I might beat this...I'm not an adult." Hold up though. The Court has decided to allow the District Attorney to put you on trial as an adult, which means you get punished like an adult, if you're convicted of this homicide. Somebody told you the other day you might get life, bu you told him he was crazy and you're not scared. You should be scared! After a quick trial(maybe 3 or 4 days) and cats you thought were "real" and "thorough" testify against you; you are found guilty of first-degree murder. First -degree murder in Pennsylvania means you're not gonna see the streets again; and its not even gonna hit you yet. This happens so fast that it doesn't seem real. Heart-broken and confused, you are cuffed-up and escorted out of the courtroom. You are sixteen, maybe seventeen now, no friends, no freedom, and on your way to a maximum security prison for the rest of your life. What is a juvenile lifer? You!

"How to Play the Game" information booklet

This informative booklet is intened to serve as an educational tool for "at risk" youth. Inside is a section titled"Discussion Points" This section can be used as a guide to engage in a more in-depth dialogue with children. We're hoping that with our collective knowledge, insight, and experiences, today's youth can be empowered to make positive lifestyle choices and thereby avoid the destructive behavior that inevitably leads to a lifetime of addiction, incarceration, and death.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Introduction image to How to Play the "Game" booklet

Balloon reads: Forget school! I'm cuttin' to hang out with my homies. HA HA!

Juvenile Lifers -Educational tool for at risk youth

Juvenile Lifers for Justice is a collective of prisoners who were arrested as juveniles(under 18 years old) for criminal homicide and are currently serving life sentences without parole in Pennsylvania.
There are over 33o juvenile lifers both male and female in Pennsylvania serving life sentences without parole. Some children were as young as fourteen when they were arrested and some have been incarcerated for more than 30 years.
Many of us have transformed our lives since our imprisonment by continuing our education, completing treatment programs, and renouncing negative behaviors that led to our imprisonment.

This informative booklet is intended to serve as an educational tool for at-risk youth.

This is the first in a series of work from the How to Play the "Game" booklet. More drawings, stories, and "avoiding the trap" insight from this booklet coming soon.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Upcoming exhibit

Centro Pedro Claver, in line with the Hispanic Festival will host an exhibition of art from inmates in Graterford Prison. The works will vary with paintings, drawings, pastels, charcoals, and writings. The exhibition will take place in October. Be sure to check back for the date. You may also check Centro's for updates on LACEO exhibition and our own events as well.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


L.A.C.E.O(Latin American Cultural Exchange Organization) is an organization created within Graterford Prison. They have a large multitalented group who express their views through painting, drawing, writing, etc.