Dances for Solidarity – Patrycja Humienik

Patrycja has created a Denver chapter of Dances for Solidarity. A project connecting with incarcerated people in solitary confinement through letter writing and dance. DFS-Denver is modeled off of DFS out of New York.

From the six by nine foot cell, smaller than the average parking space, where he is confined 22 to 24 hours a day, A.H. writes, “I would add a scream. A soul-searching, gut-wrenching, and purifying cry.” The letter’s stamp reads, “Forever USA,” where, according to the Prison Policy Institute, approximately 1 in 100 adults are incarcerated.

The scream is an addition to the list of movements that my pen pal received from Dances for Solidarity-Denver. I host meetings for the local chapter of Dances for Solidarity, a national initiative sharing dance through letter writing with people in solitary confinement. The written list, which begins by inviting the recipient to close their eyes, is comprised of a ten-step movement sequence open to interpretation. The collaborative project invites pen pals to expand upon, and share their reactions to, the dance list. A.H. writes that, after the scream he adds between steps 9 and 10, “The entire unit goes silent.” Read More….

Dances for Solidarity-Denver Updates:
  • Thanks to recent donations, we were able to send Flikshop postcards with photos out to many of our pen pals (Flikshop is an app that allows families & friends to send photos & messages from their phones to prison).
  • We are going to ramp up fundraising efforts; be on the look out for two fundraising events if you’re in Colorado, at least one of which will involve dancing.:) We plan to raise money for ongoing needs (basics like stamps & envelopes), as well as for our spring 2018 performance project, for which we are committed to paying our collaborators including artists on the inside. We intend to involve & pay some formerly incarcerated artists in the Denver area. Stay tuned! And please contact me if you are interested in helping to make this happen!
  • Our first exciting step in this regard, re: $upporting or penpals, was to pay Patrice a small thank-you for his generosity in giving us permission to share and use any of his writings for any purpose. THANK YOU SO MUCH TO THE PEOPLE WHO DONATED TO MAKE THIS POSSIBLE!! DFS-Denver uses Patrice’s writings to promote our project, and the least we can do is get money to his commissary account. I have attached one of Patrice’s poems here. Feel free to share any reactions so we can pass them on to Patrice.:) You can also check out our FB page for excerpts of writings from pen pals.
A Few Requests:
  • Please follow us on our FB page, invite friends to like our page, and like our posts! It sounds trivial, but this helps us boost visibility. Consider bringing a friend to the next meeting. 🙂 We hope to bring on more letter writers so we can reach more people in solitary.
  • If you are interested in being a part of the performance project efforts, get in touch with me.
  • If you know anyone who might be willing to fiscally support our efforts, please share our DFS-Denver Fractured Atlas page, where folks can make tax-deductible donations. A breakdown/ some language re how $ helps us out:
do you want to support the Dances for Solidarity-Denver project? $1 helps.
a $1 donation = 1 flikshop postcard with a photo to a pen pal!:)
$10 = a booklet of 20 stamps
$16 = 20 Flikshop postcards to pen pals
$20 = a huge box of envelopes
$100 = cards for our next holiday cards to solitary event
$500+= getting closer to our dream of collaborating with our penpals on a performance project & paying currently and formerly incarcerated artists for their contributions
$1 helps. thank you.
we hope to see you at the next letter writing meeting.
Dances for Solidarity at-large updates:
  • Sarah Dahnke, who started the project, is in New Orleans right now where DFS has a show– literally right this very moment!– with choreography by pen pals on the inside performed by women who have experienced incarceration. If you have friends in New Orleans, they can also see the show tomorrow. A note: DFS is committed to paying artists and collaborators, including our pen pals on the inside, for their work; we look forward to raising more funds to making this happen on the Denver chapter side.:)
  • Sarah D & I Skyped into Laurel Butler’s Arts in Corrections class at UCLA; students tried out movement from the inside, including Dushaan (one of the NY pen pals in solitary)’s choreography, and sent pen pals few letters. We hope an LA chapter will be springing up this year…! The more chapters, the more folks we can connect with in solitary confinement.
  • In June, DFS will be Skyping into Janice Ross’ class on Dance & Prisons at Stanford, and hope to engage students in the project there in a meaningful way– we hope we’ll be able to get a Stanford chapter going as well…

Family Reunification Event – Sarah Sunderlin

On March 10, 2017  I—along with assistance from fellow Puksta Scholar, Patrycja Humienik—hosted a special reunification event at the Colorado Correctional Center (CCC) in Golden, Colorado. For the past two years, Patrycja and I have been volunteer co-facilitators with an organization called Democratic Communication Workshop. This program brings communication-based education to institutionalized men, women, and youth across five facilities in Colorado. While the needs and goals of our students all differ, we all share one goal—to use communication to connect, encourage, and facilitate safe and open discussion. At CCC, what this looks like is consistent creative writing development, practical public speaking skills, and the development of critical thinking skills through both creative and academic readings.

Teaching in a prison facility requires an awareness of the realities of institutionalized life; this includes the overwhelming and chronic isolation from loved ones. Family involvement during incarceration can be transformative and is a consistent theme that comes up during in class discussions and individual writing. However, some feedback we consistently get from our students is that routine visitation limits their ability to have quality family interaction. Therefore, my goal in organizing a family reunification event for my Puksta Fellowship project was to give our students the platform to practice practical communication skills that we work on in class while also being able to interact with their loved ones in a fun, relaxed, and welcoming environment. This full day event focused on celebrating the creative work produced by the men in our class and giving them the opportunity to share it with their loved ones.

On the day of the event, we had family from across Colorado arrive at CCC to share a catered lunch, play yard games, and to hear letters, poems, skits, and short stories prepared especially for them. There are not enough words to describe the significance of this day for our students and their families. As the wife of one of our students said, “this day made us feel like a regular family again”. I want to warmly thank each of the family members in attendance for their commitment, strength, vulnerability, and support of both their loved one and of our program. We were honored to be a part of your family for a day.

Sarah Sunderlin

Puksta Fellow, 2017

University of Colorado Denver

Attention Puksta Almuni!

Attention Puksta Alumni!!! Please Help the Puksta Foundation and fill out our Alumni Survey – Promise it won’t take more than a few minutes!

As the Puksta Foundation has grown, so have our Puksta Alumni!

We want to bring life to our NEW website with the work you have done and continue to do! Also we will be hosting a variety of events over the summer and beyond – So we need to know how to contact you!!

Our goal now is to try to connect you all to one another, to inspire, and be a resource to each other. We know you all are out there making an incredible mark on this world and we want to celebrate it!

Thank you! Alumni Survey!!

Congratulations Celeste on your Award for New Student Organization of the Year!!!

Each year, over 35 individuals and groups are recognized for their efforts in creating community at MSU Denver through the Student Involvement & Leadership Awards. The New Student Organization of the Year Award is presented to an organization in its first year of existence. The organization should bring something unique to campus life, demonstrate healthy risk-taking opportunities, and make a positive impact on the campus community.

Celeste Pegues’s organization, Sister to Sister (which is also her Puksta Project) won the New Student Organization of the Year award at the annual Student Involvement and Leadership Awards ceremony on April 13th of this year.

“Sister to Sister is a student organization that strives to assist minority women as MSU Denver with scholarship, college retention, mind and body wellness and community service. We tailor our workshops and services to the intersectionality that women of color face every day in their community and personal life. We provide a safe place for self-actualization, self-care and self-empowerment for minority women on their journey through their college experience.”

Aria Dellepiane tackles the issue of sexual assault on the CU Boulder Campus

Puksta Scholar, Aria Dellepiane’s Puksta Project tackles the issue of sexual assault in the Boulder community.

This is a movement created with the idea that sexual assault can happen to anyone anywhere and anyone anywhere can take a stand. Check out the interactive reporting tool that maps out incidents of sexual assault in Boulder, CO. You can also view official police reports of sexual assault since 2005. Make a report or get connected to resources whether you are a survivor or someone who wants to take action and educate yourself and others! We hope to empower those who stand against sexual assault and aim to create a positive impact by giving survivors a voice and creating transparency about the prevalence of sexual assault in our community. Ultimately, our goal is to end rape culture by validating survivors’ experiences in order to stop the normalization of sexual assault in everyday language!

Into the Light – April 21st!!!

Ciera Blehm DU Puksta Scholar is hosting an event to shed light on sexual assault on campus.

Schedule of Events:
Dinner, 5-7PM at Carnegie Green
Speaker and Walk, 6:30PM to Driscoll Green
Green Light Go facilitated by Zeta Beta Tau, 7:30PM

Into the Light is an innovative approach to change campus culture around sexual assault. With FREE food, an amazing guest speaker, giveaways and consent games we plan to get the entire DU community involved in order to end sexual assault on our campus. We hope to see you there!

Visit the FB Page

Puksta Winter Retreat Recap – By Aaqil Anwar, Junior Puksta Scholar

January 21st proved to be an eye-opening experience for various communities throughout the United States due to the Women’s March. One such community that participated in the Women’s March on Denver was the DU Puksta Scholars Program as a result of the annual Puksta Foundation Intercollegiate Retreat taking place that weekend. Scholars from DU and four other universities marched in support of various communities that have been marginalized following events that have taken place over the last couple of months. For many scholars, the Women’s March was their first community action. “It was amazing to be able to see so many people take the time out of their day to come together and express their opposition to the marginalization of various communities,” said Larcy Brooks a fourth -year Puksta Scholar. While for many scholars the Women’s March on Denver proved to be the highlight of the weekend, there was still an entire retreat to attend.

Following the Women’s March, Puksta Scholars from every university came back to the Wells Fargo building on Lincoln Street to partake in various seminars in order to build skills and develop closer relationships with their counterparts from different schools. Roudy Hildreth, the Puksta coordinator for the University of Colorado (CU), officially kicked off the retreat with a seminar challenging every scholar to focus on the story of themselves, their Puksta project and attempting to frame the story in a community perspective. Furthermore, CCESL’s very own Ryan Hanschen introduced scholars to the concept of a One2One and encouraged scholars to engage with their roommates in an attempt to better get to know each other. Finally, Katharine Worms of Colorado State University led scholars in an activity highlighting identity and the idea of socialization throughout one’s own life.

The characteristic that makes Puksta different from other scholarship foundations is the sense of family and belonging. This was demonstrated on Saturday night through the alumni panel which included three DU and one CU alumni who provided current scholars with their insights into “life after Puksta.” This proved to be a useful experience for many first-years, including Oscar Saenz who said, “I am truly grateful and humbled to be a Puksta Scholar after seeing what previous scholars have gone on to do from a community organizing perspective. Puksta really is a lifestyle.” Following dinner, all of the DU Puksta Scholars went to Lucky Strike to play various arcade games, compliments of the Puksta Foundation. Sunday morning had a more somber and relaxed tone due to the fact that various scholars realized that the retreat was coming to an end. A presentation provided of self-care and mental awareness was led by Cody Wiggs, another DU Puksta alumni. This presentation provided helpful insight into how scholars can take care of themselves and channel all of their energy into focusing on the things in front of them rather than getting caught up on things in the future.

Following the presentation of self-care and awareness, Puksta Foundation President John Mulstay addressed the scholars with words of wisdom about the retreat along with the history that was made the previous day at the Women’s March on Denver. Scholars rejoiced and celebrated what was arguably the most successful Intercollegiate Puksta Retreat to date.

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