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Dear MSL Community, we need your support

Dear MSL Community, we need your support

Dear Mass Story Lab Supporters

Do you believe stories can create justice?

Just 10 months ago, Mass Story Lab was still an untested idea but we were ready to stake a big claim on the power of community storytelling to create cultural change. So in June 2016, we partnered with JustleadershipUSA’s #CLOSERikers campaign to help shut down New York City’s most notorious jail complex. Less than a year later, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his support for the closure of Rikers Island. It took months and thousands of supporters to make it happen, but it was catalyzed by the stories of people who have lived the trauma of Rikers. That is how stories create justice.

Mass Story Lab has since traveled to Austin, Greensboro, and Miami. In each city, we’ve heard stories calling out the intersections of mass incarceration and mass immigrant detention, revealed the pitfalls in the pathways of prison re-entry, and witnessed communities collaborate in our labs to identify ways to support the most vulnerable targets of this administration’s policies.

Mass Story Lab restores connection and community where once there was isolation, stigma, and shame and we are ready to expand to reach even more communities. Our goal is to raise $25,000 over the next two months. The great news is a generous supporter of Mass Story Lab has already promised a matching donation of $5,000 once we’ve raised an initial $5000. So your donation will have double the impact. Speaking of impact…

When you donate to our #MSLSpring25 Fundraising Drive you’ll help us realize our vision for a world beyond prisons.

With your support, in 2017 we will be able to:

·      Train THREE new MSL facilitators-people with a personal connection to incarceration.  They will travel the country in 2018 facilitating labs to catalyze local action.

·      Focus future labs on three core issue areas: 1) The incarceration of women and girls. 2) Wellness and Re-Entry 3) Designing Safe Communities

·      Build strategic partnerships to connect our local community partners with the right resources and support to advance the solutions generated in their story labs.

This past year we’ve been supported exclusively by partners and donors like you. You are the power behind the stories. THANK YOU in advance for your support.

Here’s how to make a donation:

Write a check payable to our fiscal sponsor, “Fractured Atlas” in the memo line: Mass Story Lab. Mail to:

Create Forward

P.O Box 1070 New York, NY 10037

Mass Story Lab is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of Mass Story Lab must be made payable to Fractured Atlas only and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.


Piper Anderson, Founding Guide

Mass Story Lab


In Texas, A Daughter Tells the Painful Story of Her Father's Detainment

In Texas, A Daughter Tells the Painful Story of Her Father's Detainment

Not two weeks since Donald Trump’s inauguration and the damage has already begun. Via executive order, he issued an immigration ban causing chaos and protests worldwide. This order bans roughly 218 million people from entering the United States and halts admission of refugees. In addition to this ban, Trump has future plans to triple the number of ICE officers, detain and deport all immigrants, and build the infamous wall, among many other horrifying promises that will have devastating effects on immigrants and inevitably the prevalence of immigration detention.

Silvia Zuvietta-Rodriguez, Mass Story: The Texas Incarceration Maze

Silvia Zuvietta-Rodriguez, Mass Story: The Texas Incarceration Maze

In October of 2016, we traveled to Austin, TX to explore the intersections of mass incarceration and mass detention. Immigration detention is the fastest growing form of incarceration in the United States, referring to the incarceration of immigrants while they await a determination of their immigration status or potential deportation. Texas is at the center of the expansion, as well as where for-profit detention centers got their start. Home to at least thirty privately operated facilities, it was a prime location to host a Mass Story Lab. Six storytellers recounted their experiences of how they were affected by incarceration and immigration detention in Spanish and English. Separation from family and harsh conditions was a common theme in their stories, revealing inhumanity and corrupt motives within the immigration detention system.

Seventeen-year-old Silvia Zuvieta-Rodriguez shared the story of her father’s detainment and eventual deportation. She spoke of the man behind his offence; how hard he worked, his crooked smile, and the way he would comfort her when she cried. Among her words of tribute, she emphasizes that she doesn’t even remember what he did. He was always her father first, never a criminal to her.

"It doesn't matter what was on [my father's] record,” she states. “That does not matter. We don't see the people behind… this thing that…. And I hate using the word criminal… we just see that title. We don't see the person behind it. The beauty. It doesn't matter what they did. We don't see the family. This man was an amazing man." -Silvia Zuvietta-Rodriguez 

Silvia recounts that her father’s detainment pushed her into a severe depression, eventual suicide attempt, and psychiatric hospitalization. Once she was released from the hospital, she discovered that her father had been deported, and she didn’t get that chance to say goodbye. She expresses that ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) tore her family apart.

Sadly, stories like Silvia’s are all too common. Many immigrants are ripped from their homes and placed in detention facilities. Families are broken, many of them without the ability to see their loved ones while detained. If families are able to visit, they find themselves on two sides of glass, unable to touch. Wait time can be years, and it is very rare that immigrants inside holding centers are not deported.

Among her powerful story, she shares some wise words: "I'm not defined by the best thing I've ever done. I'm not defined by the worst thing. So how come the only people that are, are the people with a criminal record? Most of us, whether we want to admit it or not, have done something that has been against the law. But we don't get punished in the way immigrants do. They're separated from their families. We don't see that. We don't think of that. We don't think that immigrants have something to lose." –Silvia Zuvieta-Rodriguez

In light of the recent inauguration of Donald Trump, action is more important now than ever. We urge you to donate to our Austin, TX partners Grassroots Leadership, continue to protest, and contact your elected officials. We can create justice for families like Silvia’s.

On Feb 4th, Mass Story Lab travels to Miami, Florida to continue amplifying the stories of people surviving at the intersections of incarceration and immigrant detention.

Visit to find out how you can help us bring Mass Story Labs to 10 communities in 2017.

By Claire Zager, Mass Story Lab Intern


Mass Story Lab @ Facing Race 2016

by Marissa Johnson, Mass Story Coordinator

Last week, I had the amazing opportunity to present on behalf of Mass Story Lab at the Facing Race conference in Atlanta, GA. Facing Race is a national conference on racial justice put on by Race Forward that brings together academics, advocates, community organizers, artists, policy-makers, and more, for the cause of working together to end racism and work towards equality and justice. The honesty and vision from speakers such as Michelle Alexander, Roxane Gay, and Jose Antonio Vargas was impactful and centering. With well over 2,000 people in attendance from all over the U.S., the power in every room was palpable and undeniable, though the tone was heavy and full of uncertainty, sorrow, and fear in reaction to the recent election results. Attendees and speakers alike shared in their emotions and collective imagination of a United States free of oppression.

Despite the differences we share, be it of race, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, religion, citizenship status, ability, age, class, etc., the message emanating through and through Facing Race was that through a newfound, serious commitment to solidarity, we shall all overcome. It could be seen in the sharing of ideas, strategies, and resources, the intentional community spaces and forums for all voices, the deep listening, curiosity, and learning that happened, and more, in the countless sessions and presentations at the conference.

In our own session for Mass Story Lab, our goal was to spread the vision of the project, as well as to garner interest in potential partnerships with like-minded organizations to bring MSL to communities around the country. Co-facilitated by myself and Sharda Sekaran, Mass Story Advisor, the session moved beyond an informational presentation about the problem of mass incarceration, to a focused conversation on organizing and action. All participants shared in discussion groups about how incarceration has impacted their lives. We also brainstormed ways in which the power of storytelling could be harnessed in our respective roles and organizations to help end the prison industrial complex in our own communities. It was invigorating and rewarding to see the connections that were made and the genuine interest in partnership to bring MSL to more cities in the coming years.

All throughout the weekend, between plenaries, meals, speakers, and breakout sessions, one woman on stage repeatedly sang three simple lines over and over again:

What is your dream today?

What is my dream today?

Joy, for the suffering people.

As I return and adjust back to reality with renewed urgency and commitment, these lines keep repeating in my head, over and over.