‘“I was really struck by Tiyo’s music and by what I learned about him as a person,’ Salles said. As part of his preparation for recording the music, he read the 2020 book ‘Pen-Pal: Prison Letters from a Free Spirit on Slow Death Row,’ which features many samples of the correspondence Salah-El had with different people during his 40-plus years serving a life sentence, including Ahrens and the late historian Howard Zinn. ‘He was someone who remained positive and engaged in life, engaged in music and committed to changing the prison system,’ Salles said. ‘He didn’t let prison destroy him. As much as I admired his music, it was the social justice aspect of this project that was really important to me.’”

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