Who We Are

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.

Our Funders

Our Partners

Flyaway Productions
Atthowe Fine Arts and Shipping
Designing Creative Futures (DCF)
Harvard Divinity School
Scalawag Magazine
Apogee Journal
Type Investigations
Everett Program
The Appeal
SC Santa Cruz
San Quentin News
PEN America
Marshall Project
Pollen Initiative
Rite of Return
Sheridan Prize for Art
Wakanda Dream Lab
ABO Comix
Berkeley Art Center
Zócalo Public Square
CA Lawyers for the Arts (CLA)
YALE
Harvard Divinity School
Muse Gallery
EFA Project Space
Museum of African Diaspora (MOAD)
NYU School of Law
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA)
Legal Services for Prisoners with Children
The Center on Race, Inequality & the Law
Artwork Detail: Courageous, Kelvin Ross, 2022