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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Inmates unite to celebrate Black History

Monday, March 1, 2010

Inmates at Putnamville Correctional Facility celebrated Black History through singing, music, poetry and readings. The program was put together by 25 inmates with the help of Chaplain Jerry Anderson.
PUTNAMVILLE -- For the past six weeks, inmates at the Putnamville Correctional Facility have been putting their time to good use by creating "Progress; Pressing On" -- a program to celebrate black history.

The purpose of the program Saturday was to "present black history through singing, music, poetry and readings," a brochure read. A video montage of prominent African Americans throughout history, living and deceased, welcomed members of the audience

Lorenzo Reid, an inmate at the prison, wrote all eight songs featured in the presentation. The words were threaded together to convey the message that with hope and faith in God, change is possible.

Forty-one-year-old Reid received a 50-year sentence in 1993 after a Wayne County murder conviction. According the Indiana Department of Correction Web site, Reid's earliest possible release date is July 2017.

Chaplain Jerry Anderson was instrumental in helping the 25 inmates put together the nearly two-hour presentation.

"(The inmates) chose the people and I got the information for them," he said.

Special recognition was given to American icons, such as the late Michael Jackson, Sammy Davis Jr., and Nobel Drew Ali -- all African Americans who left footprints in black history. The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., an African American active in the civil rights movement, was recognized through a video set to music.

Inmates gave readings on Mae Jamison, the first African American woman astronaut; Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States; and Josephine Baker, the first African American to star in a major motion picture, to integrate an American concert hall and to become a world-famous entertainer.

"Now, we have Barack Obama in the White House," one inmate said amid applause from the audience of fellow inmates and a few other guests. "We need to continue to press on.

A Bureau of Justice report showed in 2002 black males made up a third of state and federal prison populations. More than 10 percent of all black men in the U.S. between the ages of 25 and 29 were in prison that same year.

As these statistics were shown, Reid's song "In A Perfect World" was showcased.

During a solemn moment, tribute was paid to the people of Haiti. A 7.0-magnitude earthquake rocked the small island nation Jan. 12, leaving devastation in its wake. A video was shown with pictures and facts mingled with music called "Haiti, Harvest for the World.

In closing, an inmate left the crowd with these words: "I hope something was done or said here today to keep you pressing on."

"(The inmates) worked very hard on this program," Anderson said.