Detroit Justice Center Announces 2024 Artist in Residence

The Detroit Justice Center (DJC), a legal nonprofit working alongside communities to create economic opportunities, transform the justice system, and promote equitable and just cities, hosts a one-of-a-kind artist residency program, founded in 2020. Each year, applicants from Wayne County, MI are asked to submit proposals that answer the prompt: “Imagine a world without policing or incarceration.”  Inspired by Detroit’s long history of arts and activism, and thanks to generous donations from the Michigan Arts and Culture Council administered by CULTURESOURCE and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the residency lasts one year and awards one artist $10,000 to deliver on their project proposal. This year’s selection panel consisted of DJC’s Casey Rocheteau and Claudia Colin-Grimes, as well as Saylem Celeste, DJC’s 2022-23 Artist in Residence. This year’s Artist in Residence will be Cherise Morris, whose proposal “Abolition is an Ancestral Wisdom,” wowed the judges with its innovation, impact, and artistic merit.

Morris’ selection marks the first time a writer has been selected for this residency. According to the proposal, “This multi-pronged and interdisciplinary project…dismantles the fallacy that humans are incapable of living in societies without police and prisons by centralizing the ways abolitionist thought, theory and practices have been integral to the ways our ancestors lived through an exploration of African and Afrodiasporic cosmologies and ontologies that align with the theories and philosophies of prison and police abolition.” The project will include the completion of an essay that will be released as a chapbook, as well as an abolitionist children’s book culminating in a “unique healing ritual-performance that will be based on writings in the book.”

DJC founded this residency with the belief that artists are at the forefront of narrative shifting work. The organization’s day to day work strives to bring forward ways of creatively imagining new worlds where just cities are the standard. Supporting artists through this process is a crucial part of DJC’s “dreaming” approach, where it seeks transformative visions of the future. Previous DJC Artist in Residence projects have included Lauren Williams’ “Making Room for Abolition”, a fabricated space which featured a number of objects representing a future without policing or incarceration and Saylem Celeste’s “Midnight Care Collective” which hosted three community events rooted in shelter, water and nourishment.

DJC’s previous artists in residence have gone on to build upon the body of work they created while part of this residency. While it is not a requirement of the residency, DJC hopes to provide a space for artists to dream big and create lasting bodies of work that they can continue to pull from beyond the year of the residency.

Detroit Justice Center is a legal nonprofit based in Detroit,MI. A 2024 Yield Giving award recipient, DJC has been featured in various national and local publications, including Glamour, Yes! Magazine, the Detroit Free Press, USA TodayThe Boston Review, Bridge Detroit, and ABC News.

Cherise Morris is a writer, interdisciplinary artist, ritualist, and spirit worker from rural Virginia and living in Detroit. Her work has been recognized by the Santa Fe Art Institute, the Knight Foundation, Poets & Writers, and the Foundation for Contemporary Art among others. Her writing has appeared in The Iowa Review, Longreads, Black Warrior Review, Truthout and twice been recognized as notable works of literary nonfiction in The Best American Essays Series 2018 and 2019. Morris’ work creates spaces of transcendence that invite communities to explore, imagine, and continue the infinite work of individual healing and collective liberation by merging experimental writing, poetry, and prayer with performance, movement, sound, and ritual practices.