The 51st (Free) State is a project generated at Stateville Prison, between 2019-2021. The project was generated from research and discussions around the idea of a nation of incarcerated people. The prison population in the U.S. is, indeed, the size of some nation states. The struggles, pains, joys, hopes, creativity, intellect, and vision of the 2.2 million people incarcerated in the U.S. also reflect that of other nations of people. The 51st (Free) State is a body of work that includes emblems, songs, choreography, graphic narratives, and stage sets to connect the thousands of people incarcerated across the nation through a spatio-political imaginary. Far from being disposable, this community is one with a certain kind of sovereignty, and constructing a speculative state of freedom is a means to achieve a corporeal state of freedom.  

This work was displayed and performed in several iterations. See captions below.

Artists included: Aaron Barnes, Allen Johnson, Robert Curry, Ike Easley, Darrell Fair, Antoine Ford, Lamaine Jefferson, John Knight, Derrick Parks, Rayon Sampson, Carlvosier Smith, Johnny Taylor, Antwan Tyler, Kevin Walker, Carlos Ayala, Devon Terrell, Doris Sterling, Ike Easley, Rodney Love and Samuel Elam.

51st Free State at Depaul Art Museum as part of Remaking the Exceptional: Torture, Tea and Reparations, 2022.

51st Free State emblems displayed at Uri Eichen Gallery, 2021