Union Church member Willie Dodson presented to Wednesday Night Live on Nov. 14th about his work with the Central Appalachian Prisoner Support Network in Wyse County, VA. CAPSN, which began after prisoners in an Appalachian prison staged a hunger strike to protest inhumane treatment, seeks to support both prisoners (who often come from urban areas and are usually racial minorities) and the rural Appalachian towns that are dependent upon the prisons for their economies. They do this in several ways:
- Partnering with AppalShop, which broadcasts a Monday night radio call-in show for families of incarcerated persons to send messages of love and support to their loved ones in prison. AppalShop’s Hollar to the Hood program produces “Calls From Home,” an hour-long call-in show, as well as “Hip Hop for the Hilltop,” a hip hop music show of requests by prisoners. Between those two shows, CAPSN produces the “Prison News Digest,” so that those on the inside can hear about what’s going on from the outside regarding prisons.
- Offering rides from urban centers (especially Washington, D.C. and Richmond, VA) to the prisons, which are often 7-9 hours away. They transport families in rented vans to and from the prison so that they can meet with their families for the hour allowed by prison rules. Union Church’s Mission Board has sponsored one of these trips, which cost $700 each.
- Working to build up relationships that break down the racism that is promoted by pitting mostly white and rural Appalachian workers against mostly black and urban prisoners. By promoting a healthier Appalachia together, they are helping to work against the structures that institutionalize racism.
Willie announced that, on November 30th, there will be a Square Dance and Cake Walk on the Berea College campus to support CAPSN’s efforts. Stay tuned for more details, which we will post when available.