Beyond the Bars | photo by Yoni Kroll for WXPN
Lewis Prize for Music names Philly’s Beyond the Bars as award finalist
For the past several years, Philly’s Beyond the Bars has provided youth who have been displaced by violence or incarceration with the ability to express themselves through music. Last week, the organization’s Directors — Matthew Kerr and Christopher Thornton — were named as finalists for the Lewis Prize for Music, along with seven other important organizations throughout the country who similarly aim to combat inequitable systems through music and the arts.
The Lewis Prize for Music, founded by Daniel R. Lewis, aims to recognize and support “leaders in diverse and vibrant communities who invest in young people by providing access to safe, inclusive spaces where they can build powerful relationships through music.” Lewis also acknowledges the disproportionate effect that COVID-19 has had on marginalized communities; the 2021 finalists were also praised for “nimbly [adapting] as an obligation to both COVID-19 and the racial justice movement.” The prize includes $500,000 of funding, and is awarded to three of the eight finalists.
Beyond the Bars operates in North, West, and Northeast Philadelphia. It offers two programs — the Student Driven Music Academy and the Practical Producers Program — to help interrupt cycles of violence and incarceration, especially with regards to the school-to-prison pipeline.
According to Co-Executive Director Christopher Thornton, “Philadelphia is one of the only cities to have more school police than guidance counselors in our schools. There’s a lot of trauma and hurt in the community and music and art are great ways for students to express themselves, build community, and create a sense of control over their lives.”