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Ain’t No Kumbaya: The Challenge of Creating Community in Prison

In this episode of Prison Prophets, “Ain’t No Kumbaya: The Challenge of Creating Community in Prison”, you’ll hear a whole community of voices, from the Superintendent of the prison, Cynthia Link, to several of our participants, Mike, Blackwell, Benny and Bernard, plus plenty of music, including Cody’s cover of “Keep Me in Your Heart for Awhile,” and you won’t want to miss Blackwell’s version of the theme song from “The Love Boat”—it just might be the silliest thing on your playlist this whole week. And we think this episode might shake up some of your ideas about what it’s like inside a maximum-security prison.

Bernard, "All Smiles"


It’s easy for those of us who do not live in prison to assume that we’ll all get along. We imagine that we’ll be a team with a common goal. As Mike, one of the participants, says, “Everyone wants their time to shine,” and isn’t that true of all of us? And all the more true in a way we outsiders couldn’t possibly understand for people who are incarcerated, as they exist in a world that is founded on privation, a world where control is routinely wielded against them, often in the most capricious and underhanded ways, as co-host Warren Smith explains.


We’re particularly proud of this episode. It is our friend Blackwell who spoke those words, “ain’t no Kumbaya,” letting us know that it wasn’t going to be easy to create community, but as you’ll see, we came to cherish one another and to forge a deeply shared humanity. We hope you’ll listen, as we think you’ll be lifted by gaining access to this group of men, all musicians, who found belonging and community in prison, and who found a way to reclaim the goodness that had been denied them through the healing power of music.

Blackwell, "stylin' in the Chapel"

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© 2020 Songs in the Key of Free. Photos © 2017 Gabriela Bulisova