Dayton creatives present films about injustices in penal system

Credit: Leroy Bean

Credit: Leroy Bean

Four local creatives will be debuting a series of short films about the Black experience in America’s modern criminal justice system.

Leroy Bean, Mariah Johnson, Dionte Allen and Brie Hope each created a short film that will be presented in a series called “Healing Thru Freedom.” The series of short films will be premiering at The Neon in downtown Dayton on Sunday, July 18, with screenings at 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Credit: Leroy Bean

Credit: Leroy Bean

Bean, Johnson, Allen and Hope received individual grants from the Pretrial Justice Institute. The national organization promotes safe, fair and effective juvenile and adult pretrial justice practices that protect every citizen. The four Daytonians who received the grant to create art on behalf of the Pretrial Justice Institute’s mission decided to pool their resources to create “Healing Thru Freedom.”

“(The Pretrial Justice Institute) was really interested in building relationships with artists to help move the culture forward to ask what we believe in our community and how that impacts the kind of political decisions that we make,” Bean said. “We had the choice to take a stance of either kind of educating people on the history and where we’re at now with it or reimagining what it could look like, such as alternatives to police and things like that.”

Bean, a local poet and co-founder of Baldwin Cafe, filmed an abstract reenactment of Kalief Browder’s story with spoken word over music. Browder was a Black man who was held at Rikers Island jail without a trial between 2010 and 2013 for allegedly stealing a backpack containing valuables. Two years later, Browder committed suicide.

Credit: Brie Hope

Credit: Brie Hope

Hope created an animated short film called “Alternatives to Police” which reimagined the justice system. Allen created a satirical analysis based off the word “semantics” and how that word was often used to criminalize black people throughout history. Johnson called upon her family’s experience with the justice system to create her short film.

After viewing the “Healing Thru Freedom” shorts film series, Bean hopes that viewers can have more empathy for their fellow human beings.

“I want them to really walk away with how they authentically feel,” Bean said. “I really want people to be present enough to receive all of the things they might feel that come with this project, whether it be from a personal experience, or just really being opened up to something new to understand that we are all human. I feel like we’re in a phase of rehabilitating humanity and getting down to the real value of what life looks like. It is such a collective struggle, and it has to do with all of us. The films really highlight the highlights and reveal the issues of what our society really looks like, how we operate and how deep the disparities are in this system.”

Though the four creators hope to create more content and raise more awareness around the issues presented in the film shorts series, there are only tentative plans to show the films at area colleges and universities.

Credit: Dionte Allen

Credit: Dionte Allen

Tickets to the premiere event at The Neon are $25 per person and can be purchased by visiting

There will be a free reception prior to the screening of “Healing Thru Freedom” at the Edward A. Dixon Gallery, located at 133 North Ludlow Street in Dayton, at 3 p.m. on Sunday, July 18. Attendees of the reception will be able to view “We’re Doing It All Wrong,” an exhibit that confronts the climate crisis, racism, police brutality, debt and political polarization of the country. An after-party will be hosted at The Idea Collective’s loft.


What: “Healing Thru Freedom” Premiere

Where: The Neon, 130 E. Fifth St., Dayton

When: Sunday, July 18. Showtimes at 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Cost: $25 per person

More info: Website | Facebook

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