Thousand Kites and the Criminal Justice System

Practitioner: 

Date: 

Jan 1 1998

Thousand Kites, a nonprofit organization based in the Appalachian region, advocates for prison reform through performance.

The following excerpt is directly quoted from the Thousand Kites website:

"Starting 1998, as host of the rural, Appalachian region's only hip-hop
radio program "Lights Out," Thousand Kites media artist Nick Szuberla
received hundreds of letters from inmates recently transferred from distant
cities into two new, local SuperMax prisons. The prisoners’ letters described
racism and human rights violations, and Szuberla responded first by playing a
game of chess with the prisoners over the air and through the mail (he lost),
and then with artistic projects, including bringing hip-hop artists together
with mountain musicians and organizing radio broadcasts for prisoners’
families.  Involving dozens of artists, volunteers, and friends the
project continues to expand from the initial chess game.



In prison slang to "shoot a kite" is to send a message. Thousand Kites
is a national project that works directly with stakeholders using
communication strategies and campaigns to engage citizens and build
grassroots power. It uses performance, web, video, and radio to open a
public space for incarcerated people, corrections officials, the
formerly incarcerated, grassroots activists, and ordinary citizens to
dialogue and organize around United State’s criminal justice system.



Thousand Kites believes:

* The criminal justice system is the most pressing civil rights issue in the United States;

* Breaking down the silence surrounding the U.S. criminal justice system
through storytelling and listening helps people find effective
solutions to over-incarceration in their communities;

* Because policy follows public perception, insuring that there is ample
opportunity for free and open dialogue demands that all communities
work together for media justice."

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