Empowerment Avenue is a nonprofit collective 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. Our approach includes building inside-outside partnerships based on distinct themes and support services. We currently have three active tracks. Writing for Liberation supports journalists, writers and poets. Visual Arts for Liberation supports visual artists. Film for Liberation, our newest track, creates documentaries in collaboration with currently and formerly incarcerated people and is capitalizing off the success of Rahsaan's film Friendly Signs, and What These Walls Won’t Hold, by filmmaker Adamu Chan.
Rahsaan works with Emily to oversee Writing for Liberation, and De'jon Joy, our assistant director, and Christine Lashaw, 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.