LBCC Justice Scholars lift up students who need it most

Story and Photos by Kevin Chittum

students put their artwork on display
students put their artwork on display

The LBCC Justice Scholars aimed to change perceptions and break social barriers with their “Art Exhibit Fundraiser” gallery Monday, March 18 in room GG238 at the PCC, showcasing art by formerly incarcerated and systems-impacted students.

Psychology major Darla David said, “I can finally be in my kid’s life and  I want her to know, even with everything we’ve been through, the sky’s still the limit and she can take her talent and do something with it. I think it’s important to let people know that when people mess up in life it doesn’t mean that they’re a waste.”

Among the pieces displayed were paintings by David’s 12-year-old daughter, Shayna. David was formerly incarcerated for 27 months and recently graduated from rehab. She hopes that this event can inspire those with similar experiences to her.

“People deserve a second chance. There’s still something beautiful that you can create and something beautiful inside you,” David said.

The LBCC Justice Scholars is a club on campus that represents formerly incarcerated and systems-impacted students, seeking to increase their visibility and break stigmas associated with them.

Club advisor Professor Annahita Mahdavi elaborated why she feels these stigmas are invalid. “A lot of the injustices in our criminal justice system make people to be incarcerated,” Mahdavi said, “they are brilliant, talented and smart students, and this is an exhibition to show their talents and brilliance.”

Although the art at the event was for sale to raise money for t-shirts, it was clear the event meant much more to those involved.

Linus Lianalem, 43, a drug and alcohol studies major and the club’s president wants formerly incarcerated students to feel like they belong amongst other students.

Lianalem said, “Everybody that goes to jail is not a bad person. Everybody deserves a second chance. We need to be integrated back into mainstream society without ‘felony’ dragging us down and making us prone to commit more crimes or to give up on ourselves.”

Lianalem says that at LBCC, one of the biggest challenges faced by formerly incarcerated students is their inability to apply for the Federal Work Study program that allows students to work on campus.

“It used to be financial aid, but we got that straightened out,” Lianalem said.

The LBCC Justice Scholars meet Mondays from 4 p.m.-5:30 p.m. in room QQ 105 at the PCC.