Human Powered Humanity Unlocked: Podcast season 2, episode one: Death-defying feats

Episode 1: Death-defying feats

In the first episode of Human Powered 'Humanity Unlocked,' we are stepping out with the remarkable and singular Dasha Kelly Hamilton. Dasha wields words to make magic happen, whether on stage herself, in writing sessions like Prose & Cons, or while chatting with co-host and public historian Adam Carr. We'll drop into one of her workshops and talk with Josh and Fontaine, both students and writers who have responded to Dasha's challenge to find courage in their own unique relationship with words. The result is poetry like you've never heard before. Dasha says that most of the people who meet her didn't know what they were getting into, so get ready. This is going to be good!


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Episode Extras!



Growth & Disparities in American Jails

In the fall of 2022, 1.8 million people were incarcerated in the United States. People are sent to jails and prisons more than 7 million times a year. The Vera Institute of Justice developed a data tool to show the prison and jail incarceration rates for every county in the United States. Vera is a national organization that works for safe, healthy, empowered communities and a fair, accountable justice system.

Vera has also produced this four-page document outlining incarceration facts for the state of Wisconsin. Whether someone comes from the most heavily incarcerated zip code in Milwaukee, or is one of the 1,154 people in jail or prison in a county of just over 9,000 people (Forest County), or one of the 472 people in a pretrial jail in rural Waupaca County, the data connects the dots to show how mass incarceration is part of Wisconsin’s story.

Josh and Dasha

Making Magic

In this episode, Dasha Kelly Hamilton shares some prompts to get the poetry juices flowing. Get a piece of paper and pencil and try them yourself:

  • 🖊️What is something you quit for a good reason? It could be some place, someone, some idea...whatever comes to mind. Write three statements.
  • 🖊️Describe a moment when you thought an opportunity or mindset was 'too big for you.'
  • 🖊️What has been your relationship with words? As a kid? As a teen? When you were at work? In your own time?

Scroll down to listen to the poems written based on these prompts by Andron Lane, Caliph Muab'El, Servant Ventae Parrow Bey, and Jeffrey Bodine.

Meet Dasha

In this episode, you get to hear a snippet from a live performance on HBO's Def Poetry Jam, hosted by Mos Def in the early 2000s. Watch this video to see ‘6 million ways to die’ performed by Dasha Kelly Hamilton and Dan Vaughn.

Dasha is a Creative Change Agent based in Milwaukee and Anchorage, Alaska. She tours the country with Makin' Cake, a stage production and film she wrote and performs about American history, race, class, and equity. When she was Wisconsin Poet Laureate (2021-22), she started an inclusive poetry exchange called A Line Meant. The website explains that "[o]ne line of poetry can work like a spell, conjuring a memory for one person and pulling gospel from someone else." With single lines from published poems, she prompted people around the state to write new poems and, in the process, to connect with strangers. To make sure that everyone felt welcome to participate, there were options for people who didn't or couldn't use computers, including people in Wisconsin's prisons.  A Line Meant project prompts, collective poems, and forthcoming book can be found here.

Josh Wells

Meet Josh

Joshua Wells is a poet and spoken word artist, a guitarist, a singer, and a songwriter,  and self-proclaimed "incurable coffee snob with eclectic music obsessions and a passion for great art of all kinds."  While he was in the Wisconsin prison system, he was part of Prose & Cons, a writing group led by Dasha Kelly Hamilton. Prose & Cons uses both written and spoken verse to restore voice to people who have been rendered voiceless.

Wells was asked to help lead the group and says about the experience: "I learned and gleaned far more from these amazing individuals than I could ever have given them. Their voices still echo throughout my own writing." Since he has been released from prison, Josh has continued to carry the mission of Prose & Cons as he works to expand the program into communities in Wisconsin and beyond. He says he is driven by a belief that the power of poetry and narrative shared openly and honestly can reach hearts, change minds, and restore community.

➞ Listen to Joshua read one of his poems, "I hate the dark."

Want more poetry!?

In this episode you hear from some people who came to a special poetry workshop with Dasha. These guys met Dasha when they were inside, but she has stayed in touch with them and invited them to hang out and create some new works. We are excited to share their poems with you!

Andron Lane’s personal mission is simple - “to give back and nurture the community he grew up in and loves.” An innovator, as well as a fitness and mindfulness practitioner, Lane also launched his own business which focuses on individual goal setting, empowerment, and health lifestyle choices. In this clip you will first hear a poem written by Lane during a group poetry workshop led by Dasha Kelly Hamilton. It is followed by Lane's explanation of his thinking, and inspiration behind the message of his poem "I Know Why Tears Evaporate."

In this clip you will first hear a poem written by Caliph Muab'El during a group poetry workshop led by Dasha Kelly Hamilton. It is followed by Muab'El's explanation of his thinking, and inspiration behind the message of his poem. He spent 15 years of his life in prison, including 10 years in solitary confinement. Inspired by the direct impact of his experience, his career has been largely focused on mass incarceration, the school-to-prison pipeline, police involved injustice, racial inequality, and violence prevention. Currently, Minister Muab-El is the President of All of Us or None Wisconsin, a grassroots effort, and is a co-founder of multiple a violence prevention initiatives in the Wisconsin.

In this clip you will first hear a poem written by Servant Ventae Parrow Bey during a group poetry workshop led by Dasha Kelly Hamilton. It is followed by his explanation of his thinking, and inspiration behind the message of his poem "I Know Why We Create 'The Most High' in Our Own Image." You can read his Love Wisconsin story here, part if a series sharing people's experiences with re-entering their communities after incarceration.

Jeffery Bodine is a self proclaimed everyday spoken word poetry writer. He credits Dasha Kelly Hamilton for blessing him with her raw spoken-word-talent, and for unfolding his three powerful souls filled with a treasure of love, joy, inspiration, happiness, history, and spoken words. In this clip you will first hear a poem written by Jeffery Bodine during a group poetry workshop led by Dasha Kelly Hamilton. It is followed by Bodine's explanation of his thinking, and inspiration behind the message of his poem "I Know Why Rain Falls Upon the Ground".

In this clip, you will hear Fontaine Baker recite a poem from a phone inside a Wisconsin correctional facility. Since he was a child, Fontaine has chosen writing and performance music as a way to escape the challenges of his childhood. At the age of twenty-four he was sentenced to 40 years in the Wisconsin prison system. He was one of the first students of Prose & Cons, a poetry workshop series initially led by Dasha Kelly Hamilton in Racine Correctional Facility, and is now a leader with the writing collective. He has earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies, a minor in psychology, a Doctorate in Divine Metaphysics, and is an ordained minister. He is involved with organizations inside and outside of prison focused on conflict resolution, social justice, ending gun violence, and supporting the families of people who are incarcerated and he is a socially-impacted coordinator for “A Line Meant,” a state-wide poetry project.

Further thinking

Incarceration policy and practice in Norway blog graphic Kamika Patel

Kamika Patel was a summer intern for Wisconsin Humanities while also participating in a study abroad program in Norway. She took classes and spoke with experts to learn more about the country's relatively recent shift in policy around incarceration. In this personal essay, Kamika reflects on the differences and considers the advantages. Read her essay here.


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Episode Credits

Hosts: Adam Carr and Dasha Kelly Hamilton
Senior Producer: Craig Eley
Producers: Jen Rubin and Jade Iseri-Ramos
Executive Producers: Dena Wortzel
Creative Producer: Jessica Becker
Photography: Used with permission