Empty seats

MSR Editorial


By Kevin Reese

Contributing Writer

On February 7 and 8, 2014 there was a Black History Month celebration here at Lino Lakes Correctional Facility where I am currently housed. It was an amazing two-day event filled with heavyweight speakers, soulful music, topped with deep and rich history lessons.

We had esteemed and accomplished freedom fighters who demonstrated what the modern-day activist looks like. They all brought different perspectives and showed that there are many different platforms to fight from in the struggle for liberation and justice.

In attendance was the Spokesman Recorder’s very own Tracey Williams-Dillard who was so kind to offer the men this media outlet to let our voices be heard. She was accompanied by Mrs. Barbara Epps, a Bush Fellow member who works and deals with early childhood trauma. She is the granddaughter of a slave who has chosen psychology as her platform to fight back with.

Pastor Andres Agnes, who brought the story and the origins of Black History Month celebration, urged us to learn our history so we won’t continue to fall victim to the lies and misconceptions told about us. Dr. Portia McClain, a U of M professor of African American language, did an amazing job of tying us to our ancestors through our language.

Gospel singer Angela Stewart came and sang her heart out and filled the room with the spirit of our mothers and grandmothers. Mr. and Mrs. Zulu, from Minnesota Black Storytellers Alliance, told oral stories so rich that I think there was money added to my account — that’s a joke, but they were that good.

Last but not least, Michelle Horovitz and Tasha Powell spoke from the local organization Appetite for Change. They urged us men to become more aware of agriculture, and conscious of the foods we allow in our homes and in our neighborhoods. They also informed us that there is a war on nutrition and food in our community and we need to be involved.

We had musical performances from our house band — renditions of some oldies but goodies — also uplifting and powerful messages from the men who are with us behind the gate. I left the event feeling spiritually fed and empowered. It was the best two days I have experienced in the last nine years I have been incarcerated.

Everything was in its place except for one thing. The elephant in the room: all of the empty seats.


Next week: Why the empty seats? 

Kevin Reese in an inmate at Lino Lakes Correctional Facility.