Dwayne Mack had spent 20 years collectively in state prisons when he turned his love of performing into his own play production company called Mack Productions, which led to his winning an award.
Mack wrote a play while at the Wisconsin Resource Center, a treatment center in Winnebago. He secured roles in several plays. He did so while seeking treatment in the House of Corrections. It is where Mack grew fond of performing.
“Everywhere I went I was always writing something,” Mack said. “They would just let me get involved.”
Mack had no formal training when he wrote his first play, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel r eported D ec. 1 1, 2021.
He turned his love of this art into an inspiration for others to follow; Mack Production Company puts on one-man plays and theatrical dances. His constant efforts brought him into Turner Hall, where he was recognized by criminal justice reform organizations.
Mack was one of nine formerly incarcerated people whose efforts toward community building were recognized.
The award itself is a pendant fashioned to resemble a fingerprint. It was designed and created by a formerly incarcerated person. Giving a fingerprint is usually the first thing a person does when arrested. It will now have another symbolic meaning, according to the article.
The inaugural Correcting the Narrative awards ceremony was the brainchild of Shannon Ross, who is executive director of The Community, a nonprofit organization that started out as a newsletter.
The award ceremony was created by Ross, who was previously incarcerated for 17 years. The ceremony was co-sponsored by the Milwaukee Turners and Project RETURN.
“When I was incarcerated, I always felt that we did a terrible job of how we hold up success stories,” Ross said. “We would celebrate those who are more charismatic, who have businesses or who are connected. Those are not most people.”
Ross wanted to recognize people like Dominique Gulley and Jordan Berg, who have shed light on how incarceration impacts the LGBTQ+ community, or teen advocate Brianna Nelson, who transformed a brush with the law into a youth restorative justice service, the article noted.
Nelson was 17 years old but charged as an adult for a fraud case. For someone just starting life, she found it difficult to get a job after not being able to get her record expunged.
“I had to settle for jobs that didn’t pay a lot or like under-the-table jobs and different things like that. So now I help people with those same traumas,” she said.
Nelson has worked with several community groups including MICAH and Common Ground. Her focus is re-entry services and decriminalizing mental illness. Her hope is to end the school to prison pipeline. She currently works with Sister’s Keepers, an arm of All of Us or None, said the article.
“We want to be able to hold up stories that are going to resonate with those who are inside and are encouraged, so they do not feel that they are not living their best life because they’re not getting awards,” said Ross.
Ross has worked to further recognition of the formerly incarcerated. He employed formerly incarcerated people in every part of the ceremony, including the live entertainment and servers. The food was catered by Scratch Ice Cream and Heaven’s Table BBQ. Both companies are founded by formerly incarcerated people.
“This is our Oscars for formerly incarcerated people,” said Mack. “The streets acknowledged us. The state of Wisconsin acknowledged us when we did wrong. So for us to acknowledge one another doing right, that’s a great irony. Let’s get use to going after our dreams.”