Latest News: Posts Tagged ‘pen pal’

“A rich mix of blues, swing, bop and ballads that’s also a testament to [Tiyo] Salah-El’s own efforts to reform the prison system” — PEN PAL author featured in Daily Hampshire Gazette

Sunday, June 19th, 2022

‘“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.’”

Read the full article here.

“Called to action by his legacy” — PEN PAL author Tiyo Salah-El featured in The Shoestring

Sunday, June 19th, 2022

“In prison, Salah-El was able to find ways to live a rich life even in the face of a system built to repress him. He taught saxophone lessons, tutored hundreds of people in order to help them obtain GEDs and thus be eligible for parole, wrote extensively about prison abolition, completed and published an autobiography, was a correspondent for Gay Community News in Boston (even though he was not gay himself), and earned both a bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree. Above all, says Ahrens, ‘he was able to keep his personality to a large degree: very open, very loving, very engaged, very positive despite being in prison for 50 years.’ This, along with all of his accomplishments (that are impressive in their own right), was his ‘revenge to the system,’ according to Ahrens, who remarks that ‘they tried to grind him down and they couldn’t.’”

Read the full article here.

“Tiyo’s Songs of Life” — Bombyx Center for Arts and Equity to host musical tribute to PEN PAL author Tiyo Salah-El

Sunday, June 19th, 2022

“‘Tiyo’s Songs of Life’ is a project seventeen years in the making. It began in 2005 when prison abolitionist Lois Ahrens sent fifty blank sheets of music paper to Tiyo Attallah Salah-El, a musician, composer, published writer, teacher, prison abolitionist, and good friend to people throughout the country and beyond. By then Tiyo, who had been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, had been incarcerated in Pennsylvania for close to 50 years. Within months, Tiyo sent the pages back to Lois, filled with his songs… ‘Tiyo’s Songs of Life’ is a musical celebration of Tiyo Attallah Salah-El, and a tribute to friendship and persistence. Tiyo would be proud and very happy knowing his music lives on. To quote Tiyo, ‘Long live love and good music!’”

Read the full article here.

“Letters of life from slow death row” — David Gilbert’s review of PEN PAL republished by the Anarchist Black Cross Federation

Friday, March 5th, 2021

“Tiyo Attallah Salah-El was an activist, scholar and humanitarian, working hard from behind bars to expose the ugly realities of life in prison. Through his correspondence with historian and activist Howard Zinn, Tiyo met the Hollywood agent Paul Alan Smith, with whom he began a 14-year correspondence memorialized in “Pen Pal.””

Read the review here.

“Letters of life from slow death row” — David Gilbert’s review of PEN PAL republished in the San Francisco Bay View

Friday, February 19th, 2021

David Gilbert is in Shawangunk Correctional Facility in his 41st year of a life sentence. Send our brother some love and light: David Gilbert, 83A6158, Shawangunk CF, P.O. Box 700, Wallkill, NY 12589.

Read the review here.

“Gutting and painful, but also searingly intelligent and deeply wise—plus consistently humorous.” — PEN PAL discussed by Mike Africa, Jr. and Aaron Shulman for the Los Angeles Review of Books

Monday, January 4th, 2021

IN THE EARLY 2000s, historian Howard Zinn introduced his film agent, Paul Alan Smith, to his friend and former student, Tiyo Attallah Salah-El, a prisoner sentenced to life who, while behind bars, had transformed himself into a scholar, a pioneering activist against mass incarceration, and a mentor to many fellow inmates. The two men became friends and pen pals, and over 14 years they exchanged 568 letters. Pen Pal: Prison Letters from a Free Spirit on Slow Death Row, published by OR Books in August, is a selection of Tiyo’s side of the correspondence. 

The voice and spirit that come through are indelible — angry, wise, mournful, contemplative, resilient, hilarious, profane, and above all deeply honest and caring. Tiyo dissects the everyday physical and emotional indignities of prison life, while also examining the political system that undergirds it. He manages to laugh at the cruel absurdity of his daily existence at the same time as he articulates his rage and weariness. The story that emerges in the letters is an intimate act of defiance. And if you like audiobooks, the audio edition of Pen Pal, read by Carl Weathers, will stay with you as vividly as Tiyo’s written words.

Tiyo passed away in 2018 — an enormous shame, since he didn’t get to see his letters in print or know how perfectly they are now landing in our boiling cultural landscape in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and so much else. In lieu of speaking with Tiyo, I interviewed Mike Africa Jr., who wrote the preface to Pen Pal. Africa is the son of two members of the MOVE organization, a Black activist group based in Philadelphia that was violently targeted by the police, an assault that culminated in 1985 with the Philly PD dropping a bomb from a helicopter on a MOVE house, killing six adults and five children. By this time, Africa’s parents were already in prison, where they would spend 40 years; Mike himself was born there. Two members of the MOVE organization whom Mike was close to served time in the maximum-security prison SCI-Dallas in Pennsylvania alongside Tiyo Attallah Salah-El. Mike and I discussed the intersection of his world with Tiyo’s. – Aaron Shulman

Read the interview here.

“A Year in Small Press and Indie Publications” — PEN PAL featured in BOMB

Friday, December 18th, 2020

As 2020 comes to a close, BOMB celebrates the new titles released from small and independent presses and the conversations that they inspired.

From fractured journeys of personal growth to sweeping reckonings with ancestral pasts, celebrate the indie presses that brought us fiction, nonfiction, and poetry this year when we needed it the most.

See the full list here.

Paul Alan Smith and Carl Weathers discuss PEN PAL on the Dean Obeidallah Show

Monday, December 14th, 2020

“Tiyo Attallah Salah-El’s exemplary life (without parole) is testament to the human spirit and the cause of abolition… Inspiring.” — PEN PAL reviewed by David Gilbert for Black Agenda Report

Friday, November 20th, 2020

David Gilbert has been incarcerated in New York State since 1981.

Read the review here.

Carl Weathers and Paul Alan Smith discuss PEN PAL on the Mo’Kelly Show

Monday, November 16th, 2020

“Tiyo Attallah Salah-El Navigates the Racialized Politics of Prison” — PEN PAL excerpt published on Lit Hub

Monday, November 9th, 2020
Tiyo Attallah Salah-El, the founder of the Coalition for the Abolition of Prisons, was an author, scholar, teacher, and activist. He served a life sentence, spending much of it in the State Correctional Institute at Dallas in Pennsylvania. Tiyo died in 2018.

In 2004, the activist Howard Zinn introduced Tiyo to his friend, a Hollywood agent named Paul Alan Smith. Tiyo and Paul began a correspondence that lasted for nearly 15 years. Pen Pal: Prison Letters from a Free Spirit on Slow Death Row compiles 92 of the 568 letters Tiyo sent Paul, providing an intimate panorama of institutionalized racism in the US. The following excerpt includes two of these letters.

Read the excerpt here.

Carl Weathers and Paul Alan Smith discuss PEN PAL on BEONDTV

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020

“Eye-opening” — PEN PAL featured on Programming Insider

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020

New Book from Tiyo Attallah Salah-El

Read the article here.

Carl Weathers and Paul Alan Smith discuss PEN PAL on Chat Daddy

Friday, October 30th, 2020

PEN PAL discussed by Carl Weathers and Paul Alan Smith on Law & Disorder

Monday, October 12th, 2020

Listen to the interview here.

“Carl Weathers and Paul Alan Smith on the Prison Letters of Tiyo Attallah Salah-El (with Amanda Knox)” — PEN PAL discussed on Crime Story

Friday, September 18th, 2020

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