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Healing Pieces Symposium Series to Focus on Criminal Justice, Community Green Spaces, and Arts, Culture and Healing, April 6 – June 29

Three virtual talks by Ignite/Arts Dallas and Imagining Freedom Institute aim to foster community transformation

The Healing Pieces Symposium series, launched last fall by Ignite/Arts Dallas at SMU Meadows School of the Arts and the Imagining Freedom Institute, continues this spring with presentations April 6, May 11 and June 29. The series, which began in December with a conversation on arts and culture in the face of mass incarceration, will explore topics concerning co-designing green spaces, criminal legal transformation, and arts, culture and healing.


The symposium series is part of Healing Pieces: Offerings of Art, Expression and Nature, a collaborative multi-year arts and engagement initiative led by Ignite/Arts Dallas with myriad partner organizations and individuals. Healing Pieces is specifically interested in how architecture, green space, urban planning and community development can lead to transformation of the city. It seeks to illustrate how Dallas and its communities can enter conversations that encourage understanding and stimulate meaningful change across race, culture, geography, criminal and environmental justice reform and urbanism.


The upcoming virtual presentations are as follows:


Tuesday, April 6, 6:30-8 p.m. CT

Work Life and Life’s Work – Exploring Justice, Creative Breadth and Impact

A conversation with Brittany K. Barnett, attorney and social entrepreneur, and Jerry Hawkins, executive director of Dallas Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation. Barnett, a graduate of SMU’s Dedman School of Law, was named one of America’s most Outstanding Young Lawyers by the American Bar Association. She is also the daughter of a formerly incarcerated mother, and knows firsthand that the impact of mass incarceration is far reaching, devastating families and entire communities. Weaving together her clemency work, social entrepreneurism and life experiences, Barnett will share the stories of those whom she has helped to win freedom, including clients granted executive clemency by presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump. (Full speaker bios follow.) Advance registration is required; to register for the livestreaming event, click here.


Tuesday, May 11, 6:30-8 p.m. CT

A Tree Grows in Dallas

A look at green space and place-making in Dallas. From South Oak Cliff to downtown Dallas, parks and plans are everywhere. Who crafts the story of change and transformation? This conversation, led by high school and college students, will explore narrative and place-making in Dallas and beyond. Advance registration is required; the registration link will be available closer to the event at


Tuesday, June 29, 6:30-8 p.m. CT

Beyond the Pipeline Paradigm

A student-led conversation on ending the school-to-prison pipeline. Learn more about the movement and measures afoot within the Dallas Independent School District and among local and national organizers. Advance registration is required; the registration link will be available closer to the event at


About the Speakers

Brittany K. Barnett, a graduate of SMU’s Dedman School of Law, is an award-winning attorney and entrepreneur focused on social impact investing. As the daughter of a formerly incarcerated mother, Barnett knows firsthand that the impact of mass incarceration is far reaching, devastating families and entire communities. She is dedicated to transforming the criminal justice system and has won freedom for numerous people serving fundamental death sentences for federal drug offenses – including clients who received executive clemency from presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Barnett is founder of several nonprofits and social enterprises, including the Buried Alive Project, Girls Embracing Mothers, XVI Capital Partners, and Milena Reign LLC. She has earned many honors, including being named one of America’s most Outstanding Young Lawyers by the American Bar Association. She is also the author of A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom, a memoir detailing how her journey transformed her understanding of injustice in the courts, of genius languishing behind bars, and the very definition of freedom itself. A Knock at Midnight was chosen by Amazon Books editors as the #1 book of 2020.


Jerry Hawkins is the executive director of Dallas Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (DTRHT), part of a national 14-place initiative by The W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Dallas TRHT’s mission is to create a radically inclusive city by addressing race and racism through narrative change, relationship building, and equitable policies and practices. Hawkins is also a co-founder of The Imagining Freedom Institute (The IF Institute), a national research-based leadership group that helps organizations and institutions understand the historical context of contemporary issues of place, race and racism, and co-principal of Young Leaders Strong City, a program for high school students that creates teen equity summits and councils to explore their experiences and identities. He is a current 2020-21 Presidential Leadership Scholar, a recent Leadership Arts Institute Fellow with the Business Council for the Arts, a Dallas County Historical Commission member, and sits on Dallas ISD’s Trustee-appointed Racial Equity Advisory Council and The Education Trust/ERS Resource Equity Working Group for Dallas ISD, and the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas/PolicyLink/National Fund for Workforce Solutions “Pathways to Work” Workforce Equity Advisory Council. He also serves on the boards of Leadership ISD, Deep Vellum Books, AccessH2O and Teaching Trust. Among other awards, he was selected as one of the “Dallas 500 Most Powerful Business Leaders in North Texas” in 2021 by D CEO/D Magazine. His first editorial offering, A People’s History of Dallas, will be published in early 2022 by Deep Vellum Books.


About Ignite/Arts Dallas

Ignite/Arts Dallas launched at SMU Meadows School of the Arts in 2015 to integrate artistic practice and community engagement in ways that involve Meadows students, the wider SMU campus, the city of Dallas and the arts field at large. Ignite/Arts partners with artists and organizations throughout Dallas and across the country to support and develop meaningful cultural programs that benefit the local community, connect Dallas’ cultural energy to other creative communities, and introduce students to the arts’ critical role in social engagement. Its mission is to challenge the imaginations of students and citizens to create more just and vibrant communities through art. For more information, visit


About the Imagining Freedom Institute

The Imagining Freedom (IF) Institute is a Dallas-based thought leadership group that works with organizations and institutions to build their capacity for internal and external equity and social justice work. Its goal is to help organizations develop racial equity frameworks, historical analysis and a strategic action plan through customized training and ongoing consultation. For more information, visit

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