Ok, so I didn't actually MEET Oprah, but I did score tickets to hear her speak in person at the Tribeca TV Festival. So technically I did meet her, but she just didn't meet me! You've probably heard of the renowned Tribeca Film Festival, which takes place in New York every April, but this is the first year that the TV Festival is being hosted. The festival had a series of discussions where the stars, writers, and creators of several TV shows spoke about their experiences creating or starring in the show. I chose to hear Oprah and her writers speak about her new show Released. Released is a show based on the prison release of 6 inmates and their journey re-entering society. Some of these former inmates have been in prison for over many many years and the show will depict their struggles reconnecting with family members and readjusting to the outside world. I had the privilege of watching the show's premiere and I can tell you it is extremely emotional. There was a scene of one man who on his way from prison to home (after 19 years locked up for stealing $160) stopped at an airport newstand and was overwhelmed by the many options of snacks he was able to choose from and ended up going with a bag of chips he had in prison just because he simply wanted what was familiar. These men, some who have committed serious crimes, have finally finished paying their price to society and are looking for forgiveness and a fresh start to life.
Growing up, I lived a very blessed and privileged life where I knew and experienced nothing about the prison system and what it meant to have a family member locked up. Even now, I do not know a single person who has served time in prison or what their experiences were like. Watching this show really opened my eyes to issues that I had never considered before. The men and women serving time in prison can't simply be labeled as good or bad. It's not a basic black or white issue. These prisoners' stories are multi-faceted and much more in depth than I originally thought. I was amazed once again by Oprah's story telling abilities and how her and her team was able to portray these true stories so vividly. There is truly no disregarding Oprah's talent at communicating important ideas and doing it in a respectful manner that resonates with us audience members.
During the panel discussion session, hosted by Oprah, she revealed that the show's concept was drawn from author and criminal justice activist, Shaka Senghor's personal experience after he was released. Shaka discussed his turning point in prison (he was imprisoned for 26 years) and how upon release he desperately wanted to turn his life around, but the resources available were scarce. This show's thought provoking topic will definitely shed more light on the importance of bringing former inmates back into society as fully functional adults.
I came to the Tribeca TV Festival to meet one of my idols, but I left with a wealth of knowledge and information. If you are looking to help out with this very important issue in the New York City area, a great organization to get involved with is The Fortune Society.
Is Released a show you would be interested in watching?