Who We Are

Empowerment Avenue is a fiscally sponsored project of Empowerment Works, a 501(3)(c) non-profit. Our collective was founded by Rahsaan “New York” Thomas and freelance writer Emily Nonko while Rahsaan was incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison in Marin County, California. Rahsaan paroled in February of 2023 and now leads this program from the outside.
“Additionally, capitalizing off the success of Friendly Signs, and What These Walls Won’t Hold, we are expanding Empowerment Avenue into films, creating documentaries in collaboration with currently and formerly incarcerated people.”
Our approach includes building different inside-outside partnerships based on distinct themes and services. We currently have two active tracks: a Writing for Liberation track, which supports journalists, writers and poets, and our Visual Arts for Liberation track, which supports visual artists.
Rahsaan works with Emily to oversee Writing for Liberation, and Christine Lashaw, was  a senior museum professional, to oversee Visual Arts for Liberation.
**We do not have an open application process. We recruit artists and writers who have already begun their professional and creative careers. We realize these people hit many barriers due to the prison system. That’s where we come in — we recruit artists and writers, ask them what kind of support they need to continue their careers from inside prison, and do our best to meet those needs.

Our Funders

Our Partners

Flyaway Productions
Museum of African Diaspora
Atthowe Fine Arts and Shipping
Designing Creative Futures
Harvard Divinity School
Scalawag Magazine
Apogee Journal
Type Investigations
The Appeal
San Quentin News
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
Artwork Detail: Courageous, Kelvin Ross, 2022