"My body's locked up. My mind is not locked up." - Robert Taliaferro
Working on this podcast with Wisconsin Humanities was one of my favorite creative projects. I have been volunteering with the Odyssey Project for years and lead storytelling workshops in Wisconsin prisons with the Odyssey Beyond Bars Project. In season two of Human Powered we talk with people impacted by the justice system about the power of the humanities in Wisconsin prisons. From a storytelling workshop at Oakhill Correctional Facility, to a poetry workshop with people who were formerly incarcerated, to a conversation with writers and editors of prison newspapers, we are digging into the importance of the humanities as tools for searching for meaning and understanding. With our hosts Dasha Kelly Hamilton and Adam Carr, we will bring you remarkable stories of people inside and outside Wisconsin prisons who are using the humanities to overcome the dehumanization of incarceration. You can subscribe here.
In this episode we are stepping out with the remarkable and singular Dasha Kelly Hamilton. Dasha wields words to make magic happen, whether on stage herself, in writing sessions like Prose & Cons, or while chatting with co-host and public historian Adam Carr. We'll drop into one of her workshops and talk with Josh and Fontaine, both students and writers who have responded to Dasha's challenge to find courage in their own unique relationship with words. The result is poetry like you've never heard before. Dasha says that most of the people who meet her didn't know what they were getting into, so get ready.
Some would say that storytelling is what makes us human. In this episode, we are going to hear some great stories. We are heading to Oakhill Correctional Facility, where the University of Wisconsin Odyssey Beyond Bars Project offers storytelling workshops each semester for incarcerated students who are in the English 100 course. This is UW-Madison’s first face-to-face credit-bearing course inside any Wisconsin state prison since 1917. We will hear from Peter Moreno, the founder and Director of the program, Kevin Mullen, who designed the curriculum and teaches the course, and Mark Español, a former student. And, we get to hear the story Mark told at the English 100 graduation inside Oakhill.
Started in 1887 by three well-known convicts, The Prison Mirror is often considered the best prison newspaper in the United States. But it is just one of many. In the 1980s, Robert Taliaferro was a writer and editor for The Mirror, as it was called in those days. Shannon Ross is a writer who started The Community in 2014 when he was in prison. The newsletter, which he still edits today, reaches half of Wisconsin's prison population. With hosts Adam Carr and Dasha Kelly Hamilton, Robert and Shannon come together to talk shop. We hear from them about why their work centers human-interest stories from people who are incarcerated and what we can learn from those who have an inside perspective.