Roy Gilbert

Creator of UM prison arts project remembered for fighting mass incarceration

University of Michigan professor and creator of its Prison Creative Arts Project Buzz Alexander died Sept. 19. Alexander was a professor at UM from 1971 to 2017. ANN ARBOR, MI – The University of Michigan and its breakthrough Prison Creative Arts Project are mourning the loss of the program’s creator, Buzz Alexander. Creating a model that forged partnerships between college students and prisoners, Alexander influenced thousands of alums who have gone on to become activists, social workers, human rights workers and defense attorneys working to end mass incarceration. Alexander died Sept. 19 at his home in Ann Arbor of complications from Frontal Temporal Degeneration, friends and family said. He was 80. Born in Chicago and raised in Wilmette, Illinois, Alexander became a political activist during the Vietnam War while earning his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1967. He later moved to Ann Arbor to become an English professor at UM from 1971 to 2017. His work in human rights, peace activism and social justice inspired him to start the Prison Creative Arts Project after visiting two students who had enrolled in his guerrilla theater class from the Florence Crane prison in Coldwater. The visit yielded The Sisters Within theater group, and eventually his theater and social change class at UM. Students facilitated workshops in prisons, juvenile facilities and Detroit high schools as part of the class, with many continuing the workshops after the class ended. Those relationships ultimately created the Prison Creative Arts Project, one of the largest prison […]

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