Storytellers perform for incarcerated women in Shakopee

Published 7:55 am Thursday, May 30, 2019

SHAKOPEE, Minn.  — As a singer hits the high notes of a tune about never having to walk alone, women dressed in prison-issued gray sweats and white tennis shoes pass around a box of tissues.

“It’s all right, you can dry the tears from your eyes,” vocalist Robert Robinson tells them.

It was one point of a 90-minute show that moved almost the entire room of about 100 women imprisoned at the Shakopee facility to tears.

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A nonprofit group called The Black Storytellers Alliance brought performers from all over the country to the women’s facility for a single day in March. The group, which received a nearly $18,000 grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, sought incarcerated women as a new audience with the goal of helping them embrace their humanity through song and African folktale, the Minnesota Public Radio News reported.

The program, dubbed “The Journey,” was filled with metaphorical life lessons. Storyteller Dylan Pritchett, of Williamsburg, Virginia, kicked it off with a story about a young girl who ended up marrying a fish. But in the end, her father killed the fish.

The women listening to the tale immediately recognized the reason why the father killed fish: It was different.

“From beginning of time, people think something is wrong with being different,” Pritchett told them. “Hair color, skin color, where you live, where you’re from, how you talk.”