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Presented by BFA Visual & Critical Studies

Correspondence: The Installation

An exhibition by artist and activist Sophia Dawson
August 4 - September 10, 2021
Portrait of a man, in profile, on the far left with a background made of red, yellow and white text.

Portrait of Jalil Muntaqim, by Sophia Dawson.

Credit: Sophia Dawson

SVA BFA Visual & Critical Studies is pleased to present “Correspondence: The Installation” on view from Wednesday, August 4 – Friday, September 10, in the SVA Flatiron Project Space, 133/141 West 21st Street, ground floor.

Born from the acclaimed art series “To Be Free,” artist, activist and faculty member Sophia Dawson’s (BFA 2010 Fine Arts) Correspondence (Maria Editions, 2021) is a collection of letters and ephemera from incarcerated members of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Movement. The “To Be Free” series explores, through portraiture, the stories of the 20+ remaining U.S.-held political prisoners who were jailed for their activism in the black liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s. The project utilizes art to call attention to their continued imprisonment and to advocate for their freedom.


The book Correspondence sheds light on Dawson’s journey that inspired her large-scale portraits, videos, sound pieces and performances. In 2010, Dawson started working on the “To Be Free” project. It captures, through art, the life stories and experiences of political activists imprisoned in the 1960s. In her work, she attempts to humanize social justice issues through personal stories, raise each political prisoner’s profile in the mainstream, inspire, educate, inform and direct audiences to support political prisoners’ release in the United States. Since the project began in 2010, 11 political prisoners have been released, including the seven remaining members of the MOVE 9.


Featured activists include Sundiata Acoli, Zolo Azania, Herman Bell, Veronza Bowers, Grailing Kojo Brown, Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald, David Gilbert, Robert Seth Hayes, Mumia Abu Jamal, Mohamman G. Koti, Mondo We Langa, Ruchell Magee, Abdullah Majid, Thomas Manning, MOVE 9 (Debbie Sims Africa, Eddie Africa, Janet Holloway Africa, Janine Phillips Africa and Michael Davis Africa), Virgin Island Five (Warren Ballentine [Abdul Azeez] and Meral [Malik] Smith), Jalil Muntaqim, Sekou Odinga, Ed Poindexter, Dr. Mutulu Shakur, Russell Maroon Shoats, Reverend Joy Powell, Kamau Sadiki, Maliki Latine Shakur and Kenny Zulu Whitmore. 

Curated in conjunction with The Bishop Gallery, “Correspondence: The Installation” will feature select works from the “To Be Free” series that directly inspire the first volume of Sophia Dawson’s groundbreaking book Correspondence. The multi-medium installation will also feature an original film created and produced by Sophia Dawson.

Read more about Dawson’s book Correspondence in our feature story from earlier this year.

  • About Sophia Dawson

  • About The Bishop Gallery

Free and open to the public