Saturday, February 22, 2020
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Proximity Greenhouse Exposes Flaws in Criminal Justice System Through Art and Connection
By Amanda Scurlock, Staff Writer
Published February 6, 2020

Damon Davis created “The Boy and the Horse” for Proximity (Amanda Scurlock/L.A. Sentinel)

If you drove down Martin Luther King boulevard towards the Baldwin Hills Mall, you might have noticed a greenhouse was erected in the lot in front of the Kaiser Permanente.

The greenhouse structure was called Proximity, which was created in partnership with the organizations Trap Heals and Represent Justice. Proximity is an activation that promotes criminal justice reform, built to encourage people to see the movie “Just Mercy” in theatres.

The events planned at Proximity were meant to galvanize attendees and the greater Los Angeles community. Panels on immigration, the cannabis industry, ownership, yoga sessions and pop-up concerts where some of the many events that took place.

They partnered with Brunch 2 Bomb 90’s R&B Brunch party for a Martin Luther King Parade Afterparty, music group Las Cafeteras performed later on that week. Coldplay also stopped by to visit. Panelist include Prophet Walker of Treehouse Co-Living, Emmy nominated choreographer Chloe Arnold, L.A. Department of Cannabis Regulation executive director Cat Packer, Johnathan Franklin of L.A. Rams community affairs, and DJ QwessCoast.

“My desire as a cultural architect is to put everybody in the same place together,” said Damon Turner, the founder and CEO of Trap Heals. “It’s been a lot of really dope programming.”

Proximity featured the stories of four people who are incarcerated (Amanda Scurlock/L.A. Sentinel)

Turner is also one of the original members of the Black Lives Matter organization.

Vines, leaves and flowers adorned the greenhouse along with art pieces by Damon Davis, the co-host of Damon + Damon: a Podcast.

One piece of his artwork was called “The Boy and the Horse,” which is part of his collection called “Darker Gods.” Davis created deities for minorities with a hope that it will help improve their views on themselves.

“I think mythology and stories tell us a lot about what we think of ourselves,” he said. “If you can change the narrative around, the ways somebody thinks about themselves and think about the world, you can change the world.”

In honor of the movie “Just Mercy” Davis profiled four people who are incarcerated through his artwork.

Damon Davis (left) and Damon Turner (right) hosted panels on Equity and Cannabis (Amanda Scurlock/L.A. Sentinel)

Each portrait was patched together in black and white and in color with parts of them painted in gold, they were surrounded in moss and flowers inside an ornate gold picture frame. The gold paint symbolized worth and the moss represents growth. Black and white portrait reminds Davis of mug shots.

“That mug shot is a signifier of what they did, but not who they are,” Davis said. “So, I wanted to take them apart and show the layers underneath, that color and that vibrance that makes them whole human beings.”

Along with the portraits were pay phones provided the Leimert Phone Company; on the phones, people could hear the story of the incarcerated individual and messages from their loved ones. They also heard about methods to connect to the individuals. Co-founder of Initiate Justice Richard ‘Reseda’ Edmond-Vargas, connected the four incarcerated people toTurner and others who helped create the Proximity greenhouse.

The concept of the four people sharing their stories came from the theme of reaching out to people who are incarcerated from the movie “Just Mercy,” according to Turner.

“We wanted to recreate the visitation experience, when you go to prison, but humanize the visitation experience,” Turner said. “When you have the bench in front of the portrait, we want you to sit down and look at this person eye-to-eye and hold the phone to your ear and hear them talk to you.”

To learn more about the Proximity activation and four individuals featured in the artwork, visit https://proximityis.care/

Categories: Crenshaw & Around | Local
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