A free tour that pairs hip-hop and R&B performances with information highlighting education over incarceration and empowering youth in activism and voting is making its way across the Golden State.
The 2016 #SchoolsNotPrisons Arts & Music Tour will touchdown in Fresno on Sept. 24 and in Coachella on Sept. 30. Both tour stops will feature various musical acts—commanding the stage by spitting lyrics, dropping beats, and showing off dance moves.
Mary Lou Fulton, Director of The California Endowment, one of the tour’s sponsors, said the tour’s goal is to promote the importance of investing more in education and health over prisons, among California’s youth.
“There is a false idea out there that spending on prisons and punishment is what keeps us safe,” she said. “That is just not true. If we want safer communities we need to invest more in education, health and our young people.”
During the tour’s first two stops last month in Sacramento and San Bernardino, nearly 2,000 audience members saw well-known rap performers Ty Dolla $ign, Diggy Simmons, Audio Push and others hit the stage with local musical acts and spoken word performers.
The concerts featured surrounding events such as art shows and forums that community partners of the tour themed around bringing more positive discipline into schools.
Similar activities will happen at tour stops this month.
The Fresno stop will feature performances by Audio Push, Dulce Upfront, Fashawn, La Santa Cecilia, Low Leaf, Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles and Fresno-bred acts. Fulton said there will be a forum highlighting alternative ways to thinking about justice the day before the concert.
“Talk about what happened, who was harmed, why it happened, mending relationships,” she said. When you think about the punishment system it doesn’t allow you to really take responsibility and make it right with the people you harmed.”
The show in Coachella will feature performers such as Kimya Dawson, Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles, Los Rakas and artists from Coachella. The event will be a community forum of art and music focused on reimaging justice in the Coachella Valley.
To supplement the jams, art and food at the concerts, workers at the events will pass out voter pledge cards to attendees—which once filled out, tour organizers will mail back to attendees as a reminder to vote in November.
“Youth arrests outnumbered youth votes in the 2014 election,” Fulton said. “A lot of young people are disconnected from the systems. They don’t believe voting matters. It really matters when it concerns issues surrounding schools not prisons because that is how we hold our government accountable for making decisions that we believe in and think are the right thing to do with our community.”
Surrounding the musical event in San Bernardino were two days of activities.
There was a community roundtable with school and city officials regarding how the Inland city can reallocate public spending from punishment to prevention in schools and the community. The next day, a youth-driven arts exhibition that combined art and activism provided youth the chance to visually express ideas on how to create safe and healthy communities.
La’Nae Norwood, Executive Director and Founder of United Nations of Consciousness and a #SchoolsNotPrisons partner, said the San Bernardino stop gave the community a chance to share its vision of real safety with elected leaders.
“Young people must be part of the decision-making process, and when youth vote, we see the power of their voices,” she said.
The tour will land in Oxnard, San Diego, and Corona before its last stop in Stockton on Oct. 28. The tour will also make stops at three correctional institutions before closing. Fulton said the visits to the prisons will be held on family visitation days in remembrance and support of families and their jailed loved ones.
She expressed that the tour’s message is education and health above incarceration, adding that most people aren’t aware of the tremendous spending level on prisons and punishment in California.
“In California we spend more than $11 billon on our state prisons,” Fulton said. “We spend about $700,000 a year to incarcerate someone in a state prison, but only about $11,000 a year on each child in the k thru 12 school system.”
“#SchoolsNotPrisons” is a popular hashtag on Twitter started by the tour. Recently, it has been shared by child actor and “Black-ish” cast member Miles Brown, singer Liane V, rapper Diggy Simmons and his father, Russell Simmons.
Fulton said spreading the hashtag on social media is important.
“If I say, ‘It’s really important to vote, people say, ‘Uh huh whatever,’ but if Ty Dolla $ign says, ‘You need to vote. You need to get woke. You need to vote.’ Young people hear that in a different way,” she claimed.
The health foundation head said #SchoolsNotPrisons is more than a tour or hashtag though.
“It’s a movement,” Fulton said. “It’s not going to go away. Its growing in strength as more and more people understand the importance of education and health over punishment.”