Past Event

Scenes from Crime Against Humanity

What does it mean to be a political prisoner in the United States? Join us for a special evening featuring scenes from the new play Crime Against Humanity, followed by a discussion with the playwright, actors, and activists about Puerto Rican political prisoners and the experience of incarceration.

This event is free and open to the public. Reservations are recommended to ensure admission and can be made online, by e-mail at, or by calling 312.422.5580.

Written by poet and activist Michael Anthony Reyes Benavides and former Puerto Rican political prisoner Luis Rosa, Crime Against Humanity is based on the real-life experiences of fourteen Puerto Rican political prisoners who spent more than two decades in prisons for seditious conspiracy—two of whom are still incarcerated. Crime Against Humanity brings the audience into the U.S. prison system in a way no other play has, focusing on the politically motivated use of isolation, selective punishment, sensory deprivation and disproportionate sentences. The play is a production of the National Boricua Human Rights Network in collaboration with Batey Urbano.

After the performance, director and playwright Michael Anthony Reyes Benavides will join Michele Morales from the National Boricua Human Rights Network and actor Sammy Vega for a discussion and Q&A with the audience.

Imagine 27 years of your life living in a space 6 feet by 9 feet. Imagine being confined in isolation with no human contact. Imagine the shakedowns, the strip searches and the complete disregard for your humanity. Written by poet and activist Michael Anthony Reyes Benavides and former Puerto Rican political prisoner Luis Rosa, Crime Against Humanity confronts the physical and mental torture these prisoners endured for more than 27 years. We gaze into their cell and experience the loss of parents, the transition of children into adulthood and feel the physical brutality and torture of a government out to make an example of them. We see them as they refuse to be victimized and objectified, confronting their hardships and adversities while maintaining their dignity, and upholding their humanity.

For the last five years, much of Michael Reyes Benavides’ work has been dedicated to Café Teatro Batey Urbano. He has been involved in a variety of youth-lead projects, including the founding of Zócalo Urbano, a Chicago-Mexicano/Latino youth space located in the neighborhoods of Pilsen and Little Village. He has also sharted the stage with many poets, artists, and activists such as Lolita Lebrón, Roy Brown, Tato Laviera, and Delores Huerta. As an actor, he played the role of Cat Eyes in Miguel Pinero’s play, The Sun Always Shines for the Cool, produced by Chicago’s Urban Theater Company. He acted in and served as associate director of Spark, written and directed by world-renowned Nuyorican poet, Tato Laviera. He has also been a featured artist and speaker on HBO Latino’s Habla in Chicago and the documentary Dream Makers.

About Batey Urbano
Café Teatro Batey Urbano is a youth membership club and internet coffee-house exists with a threefold purpose: a) to showcase the talents of the area’s youth (hip hop, poetry with a purpose, music) and engage them in a continuous dialogue about youth, art, culture and the community; b) to link Puerto Rican/Latino students in the area universities with the community, particularly through publications and performances; and c) to provide a place in which older youth share their creative skills in a process of social ecology with younger people, (i.e. murals, creative writing, web page design, community gardening).

This event is presented by The Public Square at the IHC, in partnership with the Juan Antonio Corretjer Puerto Rican Cultural Center and Cafe Teatro Batey Urbano.

This event is part of The Public Square at the IHC‘s Know More: Conversations That Matter series. The Know More series is designed to bridge the gap between the arts and social issues that are of current concern to Chicago’s Englewood and Humboldt Park communities. It is made possible by a grant from The Joyce Foundation, and Chicago Public Radio is the media sponsor. Programming for Know More has included visits from hip hop scholar Jeff Chang Africana Studies scholar William Santiago-Valles journalist Laura Washington performer Will Power sociologist Mary Pattillo storyteller Ramon Lopez and poet Elizabeth Alexander.

For more information, call 312.422.5580.