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Liza Jessie Peterson

Author 'All Day: A Year of Love and Survival Teaching Incarcerated Kids at Rikers Island'

Liza Jessie Peterson is a renowned actress, poet, playwright, educator and activist who has been steadfast in her commitment to incarcerated populations both professionally and artistically, but specifically with adolescent boys and girls detained at Rikers Island for eighteen years. She has worked as a program counselor for the Department of Corrections, a reentry specialist, a teaching artist (with poetry and theater), GED instructor for the Board of Education at Rikers Island, and a life skills workshop facilitator. She was recently featured in Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th (Netflix) and was a consultant on Bill Moyers documentary RIKERS (PBS).

She has written several plays, including The Peculiar Patriot, which she performed excerpts of in over 35 penitentiaries across the country, and opened for Angela Davis at Columbia University’s conference on mass incarceration. 

Also known for her exceptional poetic skills, Liza began her poetry career at the Nuyorican Poets Café and was a vital member of the enclave of notable poets who were part of the “underground slam poetry” movement. It was this electric group of artists that inspired Russell Simmons to bring “spoken word” to HBO where Liza appeared on two episodes of Def Poetry.

As an actress Liza appeared in several feature films: Love the Hard Way (costarring with Pam Grier and Adrien Brody), Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, K. Shalini’s A Drop of Life, and Jamie Catto’s What About Me.

Liza’s first book, ALL DAY; A Year of Love and Survival Teaching Incarcerated Kids, was released in Spring 2017.