School and Club Programming
During daylight hours Bring Down The Walls operated as a school for radical thought and political exchange featuring conversations, workshops, and convenings led by people directly impacted by the prison system and those working to change it. The curriculum represented the broad spectrum of perspectives and voices in the struggle for justice, offering new ways to build deeper knowledge around mass incarceration and prison abolition. Throughout the day, discussions exploring the history of house music were threaded into the dialogue. Direct services were also available for free counseling on civil, legal, and housing issues.
When the sun went down, Bring Down The Walls turned into a dance club, inspired by the ethos of early house music venues, which often functioned as hubs of political engagement as much as spaces of personal liberation and collective transcendence. Programmed in collaboration with Nowadays, a gathering place and party space, each Saturday was hosted by different NYC collectives that celebrate the history and present-day role of nightlife as a haven of relief and transformation in which divisions of race, class, gender, and sexuality are often crossed in unexpected ways.
See the lineup for each Saturday below.
Saturday, May 26th and Sunday, May 27th
On our final weekend, the conversation at Bring Down The Walls turned toward the future, inviting participants to imagine a society without prisons or jails. Speakers proposed visionary ways of evolving beyond punitive injustice, and considered the most forward thinking approaches to achieving real change.
Papi Juice, an art collective composed of DJ/producers Oscar Nñ and Adam Rhodes, and illustrator Mohammed Fayaz, that aims to celebrate the lives of queer and trans people of color closed out Bring Down The Walls with an all night bash. Structured around curated events, Papi Juice lives at the intersection of art, music, and nightlife. For the past five years, the collective has been changing the face of nightlife in New York City and beyond with intentional platforms for artists of color including panels, artist residencies, performances, and, of course, fabled DJ sets and parties.
The final morning of Bring Down The Walls was a closing celebration.
Saturday, May 19th
Week 3 at Bring Down The Walls considered the radial impact of social violence and how vulnerable communities are impacted by the injustice system. We unpacked the ways in which the effects of the prison industrial complex extend into our everyday lives, targeting and bringing pervasive harm in particular to women, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and people living with mental health challenges.
Brujas, “a radical collective of activists, skaters, musicians, healers, and hustlers” convened a night of local hosts, performers, and DJs for the third Saturday of Bring Down The Walls. Brujas is an urban, free-form, creative, and autonomous organization of born-and-bred New Yorkers seeking to build radical political coalition through youth culture, and expressing community through skateboarding, art, and political organizing. The night’s lineup was inspired by their spring collection Seize Bellevue that calls for a compassionate and radical reconception of one of our more insidious carceral institutions – the pharmaceutical industry and mental health crisis system.
Saturday, May 12th
THE CARCERAL CONTINUUM
The second Saturday of Bring Down The Walls examined the expansion of punitive and carceral practices, and the ways they have been codified to extend beyond prison walls – through policies on immigration, surveillance, drug laws, and bail. We introduced some of the campaigns and organizations focused on dismantling these practices.
HOUSE OF VOGUE
House of Vogue is a monthly ball in Brooklyn dedicated to underground ballroom culture and the vogue-house communities of New York City, hosted by one of the leading figures of the scene, DJ and producer MikeQ. The second Saturday of Bring Down The Walls was a House of Vogue takeover, featuring a ballroom competition with cash prizes, MCs, special guest performances, plus music courtesy of MikeQ and members of his label, Qween Beat Records, plus special guest Justin Strauss.
Saturday, May 5th
ORIGINS OF CONTROL
Setting the stage for Bring Down The Walls, this first week we looked at the origins of the prison industrial complex, inviting global, historical and personal perspectives that questioned how and why our current culture of systemic control and punishment exists. Conversations introduced the abolitionist position, as well as explored the intrinsic links between the current prison system and America’s history of racial exploitation, economic discrimination, and other oppressive social practices.
10 PM – 6 AM / All spaces
Vibes by Soul Summit Music w. special guest DJ Kim Lightfoot!
The Bring Down The Walls nightclub opened with The Soul Summit Music DJs. Soul Summit Music is a New York institution, known for “throwing one of the best house music jams in the city,” with their free summer dance parties in Fort Greene Park. The Soul Summit Music Festival combines dance, food, and family, and has developed a loyal following over the years, making it one of the most anticipated events of the summer. The festival highlights artists from various backgrounds including DJs, dancers, filmmakers, and photographers. Soul Summit Music brought their high-energy soulful house experience to this rare indoor occasion.
Photographs by César Martinez, Creative Time’s Leonhardt Cassullo Video Fellow; Akintola Hanif; and Peter Koloff.