Dr Baz Dreisinger of INN To Host Global Freedom Fellowship at Robben Island

An INN program based on the cross-border relationship between social change, visionary leadership, and the legacies of incarceration is named the Global Freedom Fellowship, which is hosted by Dr. Baz Dreisinger from New York and Mtheleli Ngxeke for leaders who have served time behind bars from all over the world. The fellowship will support changemakers, develop global solidarity, challenge stigma against persons who have served time in jail, foster a shared sense of struggle and triumph, and ultimately spark creative justice work around the world.

The Freedom Fellowship is housed at INN’s hub in South Africa, a place whose history was forged on movement-organizing behind bars—where Nelson Mandela famously declared, “In my country, you go to prison first, and then you become president.” From Mandela’s long walk to freedom to Robert Sibukwe’s journey through solitary confinement, prisons of South Africa have been the unofficial universities of civil rights struggle, where the genius of a nation’s legacy was honed and nurtured. The Global Freedom Fellowship, the first of its kind, thus leverages South Africa’s legacy as a global justice pioneer to impact and champion justice-involved leaders from across the world.

Fellows will spend 13 days together touring iconic South African justice sites including Robben Island and Soweto and spending time with communities that are currently or have recently been incarcerated. They will work together with the Ubuntu Learning Community, the first in-person prison-university relationship in the nation and a project of the Prison-to-College Pipeline-South Africa. An intensive lecture on Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 27 years behind bars and with whom INN has cooperation, will last at least a full day.

The Fellowship’s full curriculum will be created by and for people with lived experience of the justice system, led by Project Leader Mthetheleli Ngxeke.

Thus, the initial group of fellows will be known as Founding Freedom Fellows, and they will collaborate to build the Fellowship’s future for years to come. They will focus on important issues such as developing trauma-informed leadership, fostering transnational solidarity, combating stigma against people who have served time in prison, advancing innovative justice globally through collaboration and shared learning, developing strong advocacy, strategic litigation, and movement-building strategies, gender dynamics and leadership, leaving no stone unturned in the struggle against structural inequality and racism and conserving inspiration and self-care—and even empathetic listening.

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