Students of “Gospel, Rap, and Social Justice” collaborate with formerly incarcerated men and women to reveal the contemporary relevance of Dante’s journey from “Inferno” to “Paradise” in “The Divine Comedy.” Featuring the Gospel music and rap poetry of Naomi Wilson and BL Shirelle. The event is free and open to the public.
Image: Dante presents his poem about a journey out of hell through purgatory and into paradise in La commedia illumina Firenze on the wall of Florence Cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore.
BL Shirelle is an accomplished musician, producer, and songwriter. In addition, Shirelle serves as deputy director of Die Jim Crow, the first non-profit record label in United States history for currently and formerly incarcerated artists. After serving ten years in prison herself, Shirelle is now dedicated to social change and activism through her music through her work with Die Jim Crow Records. She has been a guest speaker at colleges across America, educating youth on mass incarceration and she also continues to work with artists still in prison to produce and share their music on high-quality platforms. Shirelle’s work has been featured in, the LA Times, NPR, Rolling Stone, PBS/Whyy, Ms. Magazine, Bushwick Daily, Aesthetics For Birds, We Want The Airwaves, and The Philadelphia Inquirer, among others.
Naomi Blount Wilson was born in the ‘50s and raised in North Philadelphia. She had a great childhood and discovered that she had musical talents at a very early age. She recorded her first single, “I’m So Young”, when she was fifteen. During that time, she went down a dark path, quitting high school, then becoming a drug addict and an alcoholic. In 1982, she went to prison for conspiracy to commit murder after being sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. While in prison, she obtained her GED, earned an associate’s degree in business, and a paralegal certificate. In 2019, after serving thirty seven years in prison, her sentence was commuted, and she was released. She now works as a commutation specialist for former Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (now U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania). She is also a program consultant for the Shining Light Academy where she tries to unlock human potential inside American prisons. Life is now, like a box of chocolates.