Poetic Justice, the Carolina Justice Policy Center’s inaugural annual fundraiser held last month, was not only educational, it was also a profoundly moving experience for both the audience and speakers. This powerful event paired spoken word artists with criminal justice advocates to tell true stories from the criminal justice system. Topics explored by poets and advocates ranged from the death penalty to juvenile justice to bail reform to racial injustice.

One of our many powerful speakers was Elizabeth Hambourger, an attorney at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation. She was paired with spoken word artist Blaize the Poet, who performed beautifully about Hambourger’s work. Both are pictured above, during a warm embrace following Blaize the Poet’s performance.

Speaking about the death penalty, Hambourger reflected, “The more I know about the death penalty, the more problems I see with it. But what seems most pressing to me now is that the death penalty increases pain. Its like a machine that takes this terribly painful human event, and it takes that pain and replicates it and sends it spewing out in all directions. Even before the murder there is pain. Murders are born of pain. I have now gotten to know a lot of people who have committed murder. And, in a lot of ways, they’re a lot like the people you and I meet out here every day. But almost uniformly, every single person on death row experienced childhood trauma. And it’s one thing to hear the word ‘trauma’ or ‘child abuse’ or even ‘sexual abuse’ and it’s another to know the things I now know about what happens to some children in their own homes while they’re growing up.”

The need for healing from such trauma is not only limited to clients on death row. It also extends to those who get second-hand exposure to this trauma through working with families and others whose lives are transformed through the death penalty. Art has long been a recognized method of healing, and spoken word poetry clearly has this capacity to heal.

The Carolina Justice Center was honored to bring the healing power of Poetic Justice to the community. We look forward to seeing you at next year’s event.

Voices of Justice Speaker Series

If you have a small group, church, club, or other group that would like to hear personal stories and learn more about topics including the death penalty, mass incarceration, police accountability, juvenile justice, and other justice-related issues in North Carolina, please visit our Voices of Justice page, where you can request a speaker today.