They were gang members, drug dealers, violent predators. But also fathers and sons, brothers and best friends. Each spent time behind bars. Eventually, they completed their sentences. Now they’re out and trying to live meaningful lives.
While in prison, the men had spent hours talking with their prison chaplain. That man was so moved by what he heard; he decided to pitch a friend at Boston-based Powderhouse Productions with an idea for a new podcast. He even had the name for it: “exconversations.”
The producers liked the idea so much they decided to take the unusual risk of self-funding the project. Today, that podcast makes its official debut at www.exconversations.com — as well as on iTunes, Stitcher, Libsyn, PRX, and other podcast outlets.
“When I started work in the prisons, I came with the same negative preconceptions that most people have about prisoners,” says that former chaplain, Taymullah Abdur-Rahman. “But then I got to know a lot of guys. And they amazed and humbled me — with their intelligence, their sensitivity, their emotional and spiritual depth, and their struggle to come to terms with their mistakes and to try to change their lives.”
Abdur-Rahman now hosts and co-produces the exconversations podcast. His goal is to share these men’s stories with the world and perhaps change others’ misperceptions the way his own had been changed.
“Once you hear a man’s story, you’re connected. That’s the power of storytelling.”
It took a bit of convincing, but Taymullah eventually got a few of his old “clients” to agree to meet with him and record their stories for the first few episodes of the podcast.
“I must admit I was a bit nervous,” recalls Joel Olicker, co-exec producer for Powderhouse Productions (www.powderhouse.net). “Do you mean we’re going to invite a bunch of criminals into our studio and sit in a small room with them while we ask them a bunch of deep personal questions?” But once the first recording session got underway, Olicker recounts, his fears melted away. “These guys turned from stereotypes into human beings. I knew that other people would respond to them like I had.”
The ongoing podcast series can be heard at www.exconversations.com or on iTunes, Stitcher, Libsyn, PRX, and other podcast outlets.