• Joseph Wilson

I, Too, Sing Sing America

Three things determine the characters we develop as human beings. The three things that brand us are: our living environment, our genetic make-up, and our will. I am an American male of African descent. The environment that I was raised in was both loving and treacherous. My heritage and the pride that goes along with it was stolen, leaving me with a lack of identity. But will, the desire to rise above it all has led me to places that I never conceptualized in any way.

My mother, a crack-cocaine addict for over twenty years, somehow managed to obtain an Associates degree. This has left a great impression on me. I remember seeing photos if us at Medgar Evers College. I remember African dancing at Amboy Neighborhood Center. I remember being involved in the 4H Cub, Cub Scouts, and more. While things got cloudy in the room of toxic walls, these visions gave me pulmonary sinews to somehow turn poison into progeny. Today is the second day of 2017, the twelfth year of my twenty-five year to life sentence; yet, in this container, I have managed to crack the seal. I was featured on the Today show this morning. Usually men of my hue and stock are splashed across screens and pages as a suspect in a crime, the victim of some guy who could’ve been kin. Instead, I was interviewed about prison opera.


You did not read that wrong. The Baroque era has impacted a broke area. I met

Joyce DiDonato about two years ago while participating in Musicamba and

Carnegie Hall’s Musical Connections programs. I had always had musical

interests. I wrote a song, “Need’a Pick’n”, to express the pain, remorse, and

ignorance I had displayed in killing another human being (Avery Fredericks).

Needless to say, that decision has placed me in the position to be a slave in

accordance to the thirteenth Constitutional Amendment.

My hope was to enlighten, forebode, and prevent others from engaging in criminal activity, lest you become a “Nigger for life” as some say. This [hope] was accomplished when Sarah Elizabeth Charles sang a version of “Need’a Pickin’” at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse as a part of The Somewhere Project.

Before meeting Joyce DiDonato, my opinion of opera was that it was boring, out of my comfort zone, opulent, and White. While opera and classical music is still opulent and dominated by Whites, I began to be inspired and resolved by it when Joyce promised to return [to Sing Sing] a year later. During that year[-long interim], I immersed myself in classical music scores, history, and sound. Since then, I’ve written one piece for Joyce among others. I am also in the process of completing a one act opera.

When I think of my environment, it saddens me. When I ponder the unknowns of my make-up, I feel incomplete. This incomplete sadness has ignited my engine of desire. Even prison walls must relocate themselves . The dust of the ground I may be, but I am given dominion over it all.

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