Surviving Troubled Waters: From Prison to Freedom Through Music

Event time: 
Saturday, March 4, 2023 - 3:00pm to 4:00pm
Sterling Divinity Quadrangle (SDQ ), Marquand Chapel See map
409 Prospect Street
New Haven, CT 06511
Event description: 

In this music/theater piece Gospel singer Naomi Wilson and rap/poet BL Shirelle perform the music that has helped them, and others, survive the trauma of incarceration, while telling stories from their lives that echo Dante’s journey out of Hell onto the path towards Paradise.
Performed by Naomi Wilson, BL Shirelle & Dinny Aletheiani
Rap lyrics by BL Shirelle, Script by Ron Jenkins (based on interviews with Naomi Wilson and BL Shirelle)
Created with the support of Yale’s Institute for Sacred Music and Fairfield University’s Quick Center for the Arts.

BL Shirelleis an accomplished musician, producer, and songwriter. In addition, Shirelle serves as deputy director of Die Jim Crow, the first non-profit record label in United States history for currently and formerly incarcerated artists. After serving ten years in prison herself, Shirelle is dedicated to social change and activism through her music and work with Die Jim Crow Records. Shirelle has been a guest speaker at colleges across America, educating youth on mass incarceration. She also continues to work with artists still in prison to produce and share their music on high-quality platforms. Shirelle and her work have been featured in, the LA Times, NPR, Rolling Stone, PBS/Whyy, Ms. Magazine, Bushwick Daily, Aesthetics For Birds, We Want The Airwaves, and The Philadelphia Inquirer, among others.
Naomi Blount Wilson-“I was born in the ‘50s and raised in North Philadelphia. I had a great childhood and discovered that I had musical talents at a very early age. I recorded my first single, I’m So Young, when I was 15. During that time, I went down a dark path, quitting high school, then becoming a drug addict and alcoholic. In 1982, I went to prison for conspiracy to murder. I was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. While in prison, I obtained my GED, earned an associate’s degree in business and a paralegal certificate. In 2019, after serving 37 years in prison, my sentence was commuted, and I was released from prison. I now work as a commutation specialist for former Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (now U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania). I am also a program consultant for the Shining Light Academy where we try to unlock human potential inside of all American prisons. Life is now, like a box of chocolates.
Ron Jenkins is a recipient of Guggenheim and Fulbright fellowships. His prison theater work in Indonesia, Italy, and the U.S. has been supported by the R.F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights, The Asian Cultural Council, and the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center. Jenkins has written books on theater and social justice as well as articles forThe New York Times, The Jakarta Post, and The Yale ISM Review. He has translated and/or directed plays by the Nobel laureate Dario Fo for productions at the Yale Repertory Theatre, American Repertory Theater at Harvard, and the New York Theatre Workshop. His documentary plays have been commissioned by the Mellon Foundation, the U.S. State Department, the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Jenkins is a 2022-23 Fellow at the Yale Divinity School’s Institute of Sacred Music.

Open to: 
General Public