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The original item was published from 9/4/2020 3:04:00 PM to 9/27/2020 12:00:01 AM.

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Posted on: September 4, 2020

[ARCHIVED] CJRD and Arts Commission Announce Our Lens, Our Voice for justice-impacted youth


The Orange County Criminal Justice Resource Department in partnership with the Orange County Arts Commission announce Our Lens, Our Voice, a photography and poetry project that reframes and refocuses narratives of justice-impacted youth ages 14-17.

Photographer Emily Baxter and poet Soteria Shepperson will guide up to ten participants in self-expression through imagery and written word, culminating with a public exhibit at the Orange County Courthouse in Hillsborough. All cameras and supplies are included.

The project will begin Oct.1, 2020, and will include three virtual or in-person sessions with the artists throughout October. Eligible applicants include youth ages 14 to 17 impacted by the justice system, including, but not limited to, being charged in the juvenile or adult criminal justice systems or having a parent or guardian incarcerated. Applicants must be Orange County residents and must have parent or guardian consent to participate. Applicants must fill out a referral form at before 5 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 25.

Soteria Shepperson is a poet, educator, performer and advocate.  Through her work in prisons, homeless shelters, and local community colleges, she helps marginalized individuals find their voice through words and self-expression.  As a reentry specialist, she assisted former incarcerated individuals adjust to society, connecting them with resources such as housing and job support and using creative expression to help them redefine their story. Soteria has performed at venues including the International Civil Rights Museum, the Carolina Theatre, Red Hat Amphitheater and the Raleigh Convention Center. She was a featured performer at the 2019 and 2020 Women’s March in Raleigh, NC. She is co-founder of Grow Your World, a nonprofit organization focused on youth-driven community engagement, grounded in the belief that equity and access create a win-win-win for people, community, and the planet.

In January of 2019, Soteria launched I AM SOTERIA & FRIENDS, which seeks to elevate suppressed creative voices of the world and contribute to the movement of equity, hope, and justice for all. Since its launch, the series has featured five events focused on the themes of Unity & Justice, Juneteenth, and Hip Hop and how they relate to the world as a whole.

Emily Baxter is the founder and director of We Are All Criminals (WAAC), a photo and story-based catalyst for conversations about race, class, privilege, and punishment. Prior to this, Emily served as the director of advocacy and public policy at the Council on Crime and Justice and as an assistant public defender representing members of the Leech Lake and White Earth Bands of Ojibwe. She is an activist and photographer, working with families, community groups, and national organizations to highlight injustices and amplify the voices and stories of people most impacted by our criminal legal system. Emily lives in Durham where, in addition to her work with WAAC, she serves as the director of the North Carolina Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, in recognition that our legal system will never be just so long as death is on the table.

This project is presented by the Orange County Arts Commission and Criminal Justice Resource Department, in collaboration with Soteria Shepperson and Emily Baxter, with support from the Fund for Southern Communities.


Created in 1985 as the official government agency on the arts by a Resolution of the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), the Orange County Arts Commission (OCAC) serves as a clearinghouse for arts information, facilitator of arts programs and advisor to the Orange County Board of County Commissioners regarding the arts. As the Designated County Partner of the North Carolina Arts Council in Orange County since 1985, the OCAC is responsible for sub-granting state and county funds to arts organizations, schools and artists throughout the county.  Our mission is to promote and strengthen the artistic and cultural development of Orange County, North Carolina. 


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