Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

The Paterson Performing Arts Development Council to Present WE ARE STILL HUMAN


The solo show explores through narrative storytelling, poetry, and monologues the marginalized voices of incarcerated women.

The Paterson Performing Arts Development Council to Present WE ARE STILL HUMAN

The Paterson Performing Arts Development Council will present "We Are Still Human," written and performed by award-winning actress, poet, playwright and Rutgers University Doctor of Social Work, Dr. Helena D. Lewis.

The solo show explores through narrative storytelling, poetry, and monologues the marginalized voices of incarcerated women and the long-term impact of physical incarceration on women, their families, and communities. This free event will take place virtually on January 22, 2022, at 7PM EST, joining other NJ Arts Events celebrating The National Day of Racial Healing.

A nationwide program coordinated by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, The National Day of Racial Healing-first launched in 2017-takes place on January 18, 2022. It is observed on the Tuesday following the national holiday honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

NJ Arts Events focused on the theme of "Racial Healing in Action" will occur between January 16 and February 11, 2022, in south, central, and northern New Jersey. Events include both in-person and virtual visual art exhibitions, theatre, dance, and music performances, community workshops, panel discussions, and film screenings.

The stories told by Lewis in "We Are Still Human" draw from the experiences of real women struggling with the trauma and long-term psychological impact of incarceration-what it is like to be denied the expression of human feeling. The characters in the show are inspired by people that Lewis encountered in her work as a Doctor of Social Work and Licensed Certified Addictions Counselor.

"Sometimes the hardest thing to do is listen and not be afraid to ask, Why?," says Lewis, noting what saddens her about all of this is that "the majority of the ladies I work with have histories of complex trauma that goes unaddressed and puts them on the pathway to drug addiction." Studies show women are more likely to enter incarceration with a history of sexual and/or physical abuse, substance use and mental health conditions. Lewis points out "everything about the correctional system leads to many women coming out of prison worse off than when they went in."

According to The Sentencing Project, women have become the fastest-growing segment of the incarcerated population. In the last four decades, the number of women incarcerated has increased by 700%. This increase can be attributed to untreated mental illness, substance abuse, social and economic disparities, and tougher sentencing laws for women's drug offenses.

Not only are more women being incarcerated, but many women also leave incarceration with fewer resources. The absence of mental health services to help incarcerated women deal with the trauma of grief and loss-separation from their families and the outside world-combined with the realities of the prison industrial complex, make reentry and recovery extremely difficult.

"The greater the length of time these women spend in incarceration, the harder it is for them to navigate the real world and reintegrate into society," Lewis explains. "Prison life has a way of psychologically compressing people, causing them to lose the ability to make some of the simplest day-to-day choices."

The performance of "We Are Still Human" will be followed by a panel discussion with the playwright and an esteemed subject experts that include Priscilla Carmona, co-owner of SCORES Reentry; Tonya Tucker, a Medical Social Worker for the City of Newark's Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery; and Emily Tully, a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor. The panel will discuss the themes of the play and what we can and should do to balance justice and equality for women at risk.

This event is offered in connection with The National Day of Racial Healing, part of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation's Truth, Racial, Healing & Transformation efforts, and is supported by the Creating Change Network in partnership with the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Center at Rutgers University - Newark. The Creating Change Network is a program hosted by New Jersey Theatre Alliance and ArtPride New Jersey that aims to build a more equitable, just, and anti-racist arts community. The activities of the Creating Change Network are made possible by the generous support of the Grunin Foundation.

"We are excited to be included in the prestigious lineup of arts events in recognition of the 2022 National Day of Racial Healing as an Affiliate Member of the New Jersey Theater Alliance," says Denise E. Womack, Board President of the Paterson Performing Arts Development Council. "This partnership represents a mutual commitment to establish an equitable, just, and anti-racist arts community throughout the state of New Jersey. We are proud to provide a forum to the tremendous talent of Dr. Lewis and this critical messaging around incarceration and re-entry."

For more information or to reserve free tickets for "We Are Still Human" please visit: The Paterson Performing Arts Development Council (PPADC) is a 501C3 nonprofit organization based in Paterson, NJ. To learn more, go to or email info@ppadc.og.To see a full schedule of NJ arts events for The National Day of Racial Healing please visit

Related Articles View More New Jersey Stories

Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes & More

More Hot Stories For You