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Thousand Kites Project - An Explanation

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Published on Sep 26, 2007

In 1998, when we were volunteer DJs at WMMT, a community radio station in Whitesburg, KY, we received hundreds of letters describing human rights violations in newly-opened prisons in our community. Concerned about what was happening, we responded with an art project called "Holler to the Hood" to address human rights abuses in the United States criminal justice system.

One of the first things we did was produce a radio program that brought the voices of prisoners' families to the airwaves. Broadcasting stories and messages from families and loved ones served as a way to better understand who was in our region's prisons. The show is now a weekly broadcast on WMMT and with a special annual holiday broadcast on more than 120 stations around the country. Our next endeavor was to create hill-hop, bringing together hip-hop (representing the urban areas where many prisoners are from) and traditional Appalachian music (where the prisons are located). In 2006 we completed a feature length documentary called "Up the Ridge" that explores our community's story with the prison system. All of this work introduced us to people and groups around the country concerned with the high rate of incarceration in the United States and the often unreported human rights abuses that occur within our country's prison system. As people who live in a small town we were also concerned to learn that many prisons are built as a form of economic development in struggling rural areas.

Building on these projects, we began working with other artists and community activists around the country to create Thousand Kites. Thousand Kites is a national project that provides tools (theater, web, radio, and video) for people concerned about human rights and criminal justice issues to use to facilitate dialogue in their local communities across the United States.

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