Sonic Archive of Prison Writings

Description

This digital archive features the recorded voices of incarcerated authors through a sonic collection of their works. The collaboration with Mpingo Waridi Uhuru, Danny W. Cherry, and Jennifer Rose was made possible through the support of the American Prison Writing Archive (APWA). The APWA holds the largest collection to date of non-fiction writing by currently incarcerated Americans; you can find the open-source database here.

 

Mpingo Waridi Uhuru is a Black trans woman, writer, singer and poet, who shares her life experiences, her struggles, and her hopes through creative writing and expression.

 

Danny W. Cherry is a Black queer writer, who voices their activism as a queer person of color as central to their resistance against the conditions of the prison environment.

 

Jennifer Rose is a white identified trans woman, journalist, and writer, who speaks about her advocacy work and about trans resistance in California.

 

Seizing the Particular Capacities We Have

Building the Sonic Archive of Prison Writings was a process that spanned multiple months, with many conversations, but also many interruptions, due to the constraints of communication with incarcerated people, and were exacerbated through multiple COVID lockdowns in the prisons.

As I describe in the white paper, digital technology played an essential role in the process of the creation and publication of the recordings. The technical clarification and amplification of the authors’ vocal performances required digital recording software, digital production technology, as well as technical and digital expertise.

Through a collaboration with the Prison Radio, an activist project that publishes commentary by political prisoners, the recordings were edited with the help of their audio engineer to make the quality of the authors’ voices clearer than the usual low signal the phone call allows. The editing process also included a cleaning of the audio that reduces some of the background noise, and removes the automated voice that interrupts the phone calls multiple times to remind us that they are subject to monitoring and recording through prison authorities. The decision to remove these interruptions were made collaboratively with the authors since they function as a reminder of surveilling the content of the phone call, and disrupted the authors’ momentum and reading flow.

The archive's content reflects the work that the authors wanted to share publicly.

COLLECTION 1

Mpingo Waridi Uhuru has published one essay with the APWA. She has written forty-five novels and five books of poetry.

This is the sonic collection of her work for this project:

Introducing Myself
I am From
Beautifully Made
Trans
Authenticate
Black Silhouette
In Spite of the Challenges, I Will Thrive
Safety and Security
Please
Forgive and Being Forgiven
Here All Along

COLLECTION 2

Danny W. Cherry has published sixteen texts with the APWA, three of which they read for the recordings.

This is the sonic collection of their work for this project:

And She Has Arrived: Her Formal Introduction
The Queer Language-Bender Binding Purgatory
The Unbreakable Queen

COLLECTION 3

Jennifer Rose has published one essay with the APWA, and who has also written extensively on transgender rights, decarceration, and abolition for other prison writing platforms.

This is the sonic collection of her work for this project:

Beth In Florida: Letter addressed to Harvard Solitary Confinement Panel
Trans Resistance in California
Don’t Hate

Resource slideshow

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Introducing Myself

Showing audio resource: Introducing Myself

By Mpingo Waridi Uhuru

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Resource list

17 resources. Showing results 1 through 10.