Liza Jessie Peterson was trying to explain how her one woman show, “The Peculiar Patriot,” came about. “I was inspired by family members I would see getting on the bus at midnight at Columbus Circle,” she said. “Boarding fleets of buses taking them to various correctional facilities in upstate New York, and I knew that I was witnessing a love story.”

The name of the character in Peterson’s one woman show is Betsy LaQuanda Ross. She was given the nickname Betsy by a mentor from the character’s youth, who believed she had a gift for sewing quilts, an activity she was coaxed into beginning while in juvenile detention as an adolescent. The real Betsy Ross, of course, is given credit for sewing the first American flag. She hailed from Philadelphia, just as the poet and playwright Peterson does.

Peterson struggles to find the words to identify exactly why she chose Betsy Ross as the blueprint for Betsy LaQuanda Ross. There is the definite sense that there was something spiritual at play. That is, Peterson didn’t so much make that decision as carry out a preordained mission. “Betsy LaQuanda Ross, it’s kind of hard to explain the creative process,” Peterson said. “It’s just how characters come. It’s kind of how artists are wired. I can’t really explain it. Part of the inspiration was me, the artist and human being, witnessing hundreds of people gathered at Columbus Circle at midnight to support and show love and show up for their loved ones who were behind bars. I knew those people at Columbus Circle were peculiar patriots. They were doing something very loving and supporting a nation of people who were behind the wall.”

Peterson has worked for two decades at Rikers Island jail in various capacities, including as a poetry instructor. She arrived in New York City in 1991 and started working at Rikers in 1998. “I was asked to conduct a poetry workshop for adolescent boys detained at Rikers Island,” she explained. “I worked for a nonprofit that sent poets and writers to schools in NYC to conduct poetry workshops.”

She admits feeling a little insecure as to how she would be received when she started out. “I knew I was going to teach kids, and the only trepidation I had was that they wouldn’t like my workshop or they would think poetry was boring or that they would be typical ornery teenaged kids.”

Peterson came away from the experience very pleasantly surprised. “They were very receptive,” she said.

Her love for young people provides the fuel that keeps her going. “I enjoy working with youth, period,” she said. “They’re the future and there’s so much potential and there is so much bright light in them that I always seem to identify and connect with. As an artist and an educator, it brings me great joy to spark a light of inspiration.”

Peterson is also an accomplished author, having written “All Day: A Year of Love and Survival Teaching Incarcerated Kids at Rikers Island,” and she appeared in Ava DuVernay’s Emmy Award winning documentary “13th.” She is also the recent recipient of a $100,000 grant from the Art for Justice Fund.

“The Peculiar Patriot,” which runs through July 29 at the National Black Theatre, is a funny, stirring, heartfelt ride about friendship, community and sisterhood and how they are all affected by the so-called prison industrial complex.

With regard to what two decades working in the system has taught her, Peterson said, “It has given me a deeper appreciation for the legacy of resilience of my ancestors and our people and understanding of the continual campaign to crush us and oppress us and deny us our humanity. In spite of that, we continue to love.”

Through a mixture of monologue and projected multimedia images, the action unfolds in the visiting room of a prison. The entrance to the theater itself is adorned on each side by posters listing rules of the visiting rooms in the numerous prisons throughout the country, such as only holding hands where the guards can see them or only being able to eat snacks from vending machines on the premises.

Over the course of the show, Betsy LaQuanda Ross sits across the table from her best friend Joanna, who she visits regularly, updating her about the unfolding events in her life and in the community, sharing gossip and also taking trips down memory lane with her. In between, she skillfully slips in factual information about the ways that working-class Black communities are host to an often parasitic prison industrial complex.

On each successive visit, she brings more pieces of the quilt that she is making, each square representative of someone in her life caught up in the justice system. By the last act, the quilt is complete, literally a material token of her love for her community. LaQuanda is the character that you cannot help but fall in love with. A big sister and baby sister all at once, she is incredibly smart but is also authentic and as big-hearted. A genius blend of art and brutal social commentary, “The Peculiar Patriot” will, from the first minute, move you to tear-inducing laughter and at some points, just plain tears. I can say with absolute confidence it is a production that everyone needs to see and will be glad they did.