Hitting the Right Notes at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility
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“When I sing and I let it all out, I feel a sense of freedom, I feel a sense of peace and joy,” says Christopher Golden. He is a member of the facility choir and band made up of residents of the East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Meridian, Mississippi. The performers provide musical enjoyment for both staff members and fellow residents.
Deputy Warden of Programs Ray Rice explains how the instruments for the group became available.
“We were very fortunate. We had a local gospel quartet group; a man by the name of Archie Smith. They donated the musical instruments.”
With that community support, facility administrators organized a team of staff members to coordinate the choir and band to rehearse and perform at facility special events.
Christopher is quick to give thanks to the staff members who work directly with the choir and band.
“Words can’t express how grateful I am to Ms. Simms, Ms. McClendon because it’s a passion for them just to be a part of the choir themselves. And that inspires us, the light that they shine, the spark that they create; it illuminates all of us.”
In order to participate in the musical group, the men sacrifice personal time. “They’re practicing during their lunch hour,” explains Deputy Warden Rice. “We’re fortunate that our officers are able to get them out and get them to their classrooms so that they can practice. And these guys are really appreciative of everything that we’re doing. They continually tell me ‘thank you’ for what we’re doing.”
When the choir and band perform, all who listen are uplifted, including the staff. This inspires Christopher.
“When we take and do our thing,” he says, “and we see that they are elated, they’re enjoying it – they’re even joining in and singing and participating – that lifts our spirit up that much more, and encourages us that much more to continue doing what we do.”
“We are good people in a bad situation,” he continues, “and being a part of the choir is just the beginning of the positive steps that I’ll make in continuing my future.”