HARLEM, Manhattan (WABC) -- A play that takes a look at incarceration in America through the eyes of the people left on the outside is back by popular demand at the National Black Theatre in Harlem.
The Peculiar Patriot tells the story of a woman visiting her best friend in jail, and it is the brainchild of Liza Jessie Peterson. She spent nearly 20 years helping adolescent prisoners held at Rikers Island, and those experiences turned into a play she both wrote and stars in.
"It started out, I was just writing in my journal, and it came out as a monologue," she said. "And I didn't know it was going to morph into this mammoth of a production, The Peculiar Patriot. But I knew I had to say something."
The Peculiar Patriot, directed by Talvin Wilks, offers a poignant look inside what Peterson calls the "prison industrial complex."
"Seeing kids who are sitting at Rikers Island because they can't afford bail, seeing kids who are sitting at Rikers Island over an issue at school that could've been handled in the dean's office, so the systemic issues seem to be so entrenched," she said.
There are more than 2.2 million people behind bars in the United States, and the production examines the human impact while attempting to shine a light on racial disparities.
"I knew that my art was bigger than just me," she said. "My art was a vehicle to bring forth voices of the voiceless."
The play runs through July 29.
"People can feel and see and humanize the experience of being incarcerated, but also what it means to visit people who are incarcerated," Peterson said. "I think the story helps to liberate the heart chakras of our community to really look at the oppressive narratives we are seeing on a day-to-day basis."
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'The Peculiar Patriot' puts America's prison system under the microscope