August, 2015
Fugitive Waves – King’s Candy: A New Orleans Kitchen Vision

Fugitive Waves – King’s Candy: A New Orleans Kitchen Vision

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Robert King Wilkerson (aka Robert Hillary King) was imprisoned at Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana for 31 years. Twenty-nine of those years he was in solitary confinement. During that time he created a clandestine kitchen in his 6×9 cell where he made pralines, heating the the butter and sugar he saved from his food tray over a tiny burner concocted from a Coke can and a toilet paper roll. King and two of his friends started a chapter of the Black Panthers in Angola Prison during the 1970s. King’s case was overturned in 2001 and he was released. He lectures around the world and makes candy — which he called Freelines — to bring attention to issues of prison reform and the plight of The Angola Three. King was living in New Orleans during Katrina, refused to leave his dog, and weathered the storm in his apartment. Two weeks in, his friends from Austin bought a boat and went in to get him.


King making Freelines

King’s Freelines
1/4 pound butter
5 pounds sugar
1/2 gallon or 3 cans evaporated milk
1 gallon whole milk
1 1/2 ounce vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 pounds pecans
In a huge pot put all ingredients except pecans. Heat on a high fire, stirring continually so the mixture doesn’t boil over. Stir until the mixture is a caramel.
Pour onto large greased sheet pan, then add pecans. Allow to cool a bit, until you can handle it.
Using a spoon, whip the mixture. “Talk to it, show love to it,” says King.
Either leave completed mixture in sheet pan to cool entirely, or before it’s fully whipped, use a spoon to remove the mixture into smaller rounds, placing them on a second sheet covered in wax paper.
King warns that “candy has a mind of its own” and varying temperature and humidity can effect the result. Makes 25 3 1/2-ounce pieces

King’s book, From the Bottom of the Heap: The Autobiography of Robert Hillary King, tells the story of King’s remarkable life: his childhood in Louisiana, his teenage hobo years in Chicago, his pursuit of a boxing career, and time spent in solitary at Angola Prison. Buy it from PM Press.

Wall Street

Wall Street

Produced in collaboration with Nathan Dalton, Brandi Howell, Nancy Mullane and  Life of the Law, a group of journalists, editors, producers and scholars working together to produce stories about the law.  Mixed by Andrew Roth.

Every time we do a piece, so many great stories and extra material gets cut because of time constraints. The same is true for this story about Wall Street. We thought we would put up an early transcript of the mix, one before we had to cut for time, because perhaps some of you might be interested in seeing how we lay out our work and because the stories and little extra lines that hit the cutting room floor are ones we miss and are haunted by.

WS 6-by Nigel Poor

Curtis Carroll, aka Wall Street, photo by Nigel Poor

Wall Street

The Kitchen Sisters
(in collaboration with Life of the Law)
NPR’s Morning Edition
Friday, August 14

MUSIC: The Coral Route, Lanu (establishes and fades under)

WALL STREET: I couldn’t believe that this kind of access to this type of money could be accessible to anybody. Everybody should do it. And it’s legal.

MUSIC: Doors and Distance

WALL STREET: Business to me is like watching a soap opera. Always trying to anticipate what’s happening. I’m excited when I get the newspaper. Can’t wait to get home to read. I probably read about 5-600 articles a week. Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Forbes, Fast Track, Entertainment Weekly, Movielines… I like to know what the CEO’s doing. I like to know who’s in trouble. Once I read the articles I memorize certain content that I need. I create stories.

MUSIC: Seahorse, Moondog

NANCY MULLANE: He sits in this very small room at a desk, like one of those old school desks that has a big opening where you put your books. He’s made it like an office. Nobody sits at that desk but Wall Street. He invests in stocks from inside San Quentin Prison. And he helps other people. He’s their financial advisor. He’s called “Wall Street” inside the prison. Everyone knows him that way.

MUSIC: Everybody Got Their Somethin’, Nikka Costa

NARRATION # 1/ KITCHEN SISTERS: (Davia) We first heard about Wall Street through a friend who teaches yoga at the prison, hatha yoga, weekly inside San Quentin. Curtis Carroll aka Wall Street, was raised in Oakland, mostly homeless. His mother was addicted to crack, his grandmother too. Curtis and his brother ran the streets.

(Nikki) Curtis hated school, fell in with a gang, paid other kids to do his homework. His first crime, at 11 or 12, was robbing a mail truck with his brother. Someone told him the welfare checks were being delivered that day in his neighborhood. The envelopes were color-coded, they said, so those were the ones they looked for and stole.

MUSIC: Strut


WALL STREET: My Number One Rule is “Don’t get what?” Don’t get greedy. Criminals are greedy by nature. We want it all, all the time…

TROY WILLIAMS: Wall Street came inside the prison system at 17 years old. He was illiterate. Didn’t know how to read or write. One day he stumbled upon the financial section of the newspaper. He thought it was the Sports Section, he used to have his cellie read it to him. This guy asked, “What are you doing with that financial section? You don’t know nothin’ about that.”

WALL STREET: I was like, “What’s that?” The guy asked me if I played stocks. I had never heard the word before. He explained to me how it works, he said “This is where white people keep their money.” When he said that I said, “Whoaaa… I think I stumbled across something here.”

MUSIC: Elfdance, Moondog

NANCY MULLANE: Is there a regulation that a prisoner cannot invest in the stock market? Not that I know of. I’m Nancy Mullane, Producer of Life of the Law and a reporter on prisons. Wall Street feels that he is a natural. He was made to do this.

TOM DE MARTINI: Everybody knows Wall Street. Everybody. They seek his advice out. He pins up on the wall all his picks. You’ll see the COs, the Correctional Officers, go in and they’ll be writing stuff down. A lot of sergeants talk to him about it.

NANCY MULLANE: He makes predictions. Tapes them to the wall in an envelope, dated. And they check to see how well he did. It was like a game they all played.

WALL STREET: (in class, teaching) Do the math …if you buy a thousand shares, every ten cent hike in the price is how much?

Troy Williams, photo by Peter Merts

Troy Williams, photo by Peter Merts

TROY WILLIAMS: My name is Troy Williams. I just paroled from San Quentin State Prison after serving a life sentence. We started a Financial Literacy Group prior to my leaving prison called Freeman Capital. Right now, Wall Street is the CEO of that organization on the inside He will teach the stock program. That’s his realm.

WALL STREET: (teaching) There’s four steps. Every person on this planet that has made money has mastered these four simple steps.

TROY WILLIAMS & WALL STREET (duet): We easily (SAVINGS) have about 70 people in our class a week. (COST CONTROL) We teach the men personal finance (BORROWING PRUDENTLY) about stock investments, (DIVERSIFICATION) about retirement and how to manage your money. (THAT’S IT).

TROY WILLIAMS: You got a lot of older guys at San Quentin. I myself am pushing 50. A guy getting out at the age of 50, who hasn’t invested anything into his retirement at all, what is this guy gonna do? Half the prison guards don’t know who’s managing their retirement fund. They’re just somewhere in La La Land and it’s being taken care of.

MUSIC: Entrada (Music for Bowed Piano), Stephen Scott. A mix of Entrada and sound design from the sounds from San Quentin run under the next section

TROY WILLIAMS: The original prison, they would put prisoners on this boat at night and row them out into the middle of the water and they stayed locked up there. In the morning they would come get the barge, bring the men back to shore and they would do the work of the prison.

Fog Over San Quentin by Sandow Birk

Fog Over San Quentin by Sandow Birk

: The first state prison was a boat called The Waban, moored at San Quentin Point in the 1850’s. My name is William Secrest. I’m the author of the book, Behind San Quentin’s Walls: The History of California’s Legendary Prison and Its Inmates 1850-1900. During the Gold Rush San Francisco Bay was filled with hunreds of abandoned ships. People sailed to California and couldn’t get to shore fast enough to hunt for gold. They abandoned their ships in the harbor. They had to have prison because they had criminals pouring into California. The prison ship filled up pretty fast. They were 8 foot square cells as many as they could squeeze in the bottom of the ship. That was the beginning of it.

SOUND: Fog horns emerge from the mix with music and sounds

A cigar box full of tiny nooses

A cigar box full of tiny nooses

NARRATION 2 / KITCHEN SISTERS: (Davia) The first time we came to San Quentin the prison was covered in fog. We parked and the woman next to us looked over, rolled her eyes and said “Fogline. Good luck getting in.” San Quentin, just north of Golden Gate Bridge is right on the fog path that famously shrouds San Francisco. Perfect conditions for an escape, the passing of contraband, the procurement of a weapon. Prisoners are kept in their cells, visitors kept out. It’s the Bay Area, where fog and eccentrics and do-gooders pour into every nook and cranny of the region, including San Quentin. (Nikki) For two and half hours we sat on a bench outside The East Gate with all the others who couldn’t get in that morning … the computer guys teaching coding to the men, the Mormon guy who goes in to talk to the inmates on Death Row like he does every few weeks. The volunteer at the San Quentin Museum who oversees their historical artifacts, including a cigar box full of tiny nooses made by the last hangman at the prison. The woman sitting nervously, waiting for her husband to be released after 15 years. We waited for the fog to lift.

MUSIC: Bouncin’ Back, Mystikal

CLARENCE LONG: My name is Clarence Long and I’m in San Quentin Prison. Me and Wall Street was cellies at one time. He used to stay up til four in the morning studying his stocks. I be sleeping. He be up going through his portfolio and reading papers.

WALL STREET: When I first learned how to read, I started reading candy wrappers, clothing logos and it was like my mind opened to a whole different thing. Once I read the articles and memorize content that I need I take a vanilla envelope and I file them into a system. Currently I’ve probably got about 10-15,000 articles that I got in my cell right now.

CLARENCE LONG: I used to see him teaching classes on the yard, people sitting in bleachers listening to him. Once he showed me you could invest in companies and get dividends that what got me started learning about the stock.

NANCY MULLANE: The way it works is they have access to a phone. They can call anyone who will accept their call. “This is Global Tel Link. You have a call from Wall Street, San Quentin State Prison…” (fades under Wall Street)

WALL STREET: I don’t have any computer time. I don’t have access to be on the Internet. What I do is I call home and I say I want to buy 1000 shares of American Apparel. When I’m on the phone with them they’d be on the computer — online brokers, E-Trade. And they’ll tell me what the closing prices are for the day and I would know what to tell them to buy.

TOM DE MARTINI : Wall Street really has some far out ideas about finance. He doesn’t feel that buying and holding long term is going to make it for him. My name is Tom De Martini, volunteer at San Quentin Prison Financial Literacy Program. Being a prisoner he’s willing to take more risks.

WALL STREET: If you talk to a hedge fund manager he’ll tell you they never go with penny stock. Because the book says don’t go with that. But I never read the book so I don’t know what to fear. I don’t grab penny stocks, I grab stocks trading at penny status.

NANCY MULLANE: Inmates in California prisons can have jobs. Most inmates make something around 15 cents an hour. They don’t get all of it. Some of it goes to restitution. Some of it goes to an account for them for the prison canteen.

WALL STREET: Every time you’re working over there in the PIA (Prison Industry Authority) when you get that check for $50 you shouldn’t be spending $50 at the canteen. When your family send you 20 dollars that’s earned income, and if you’re not putting that aside you’re not setting up that nest egg.

TOM DE MARTINI: There’s a lot of guys in there who are trading through their family. They call every week. We talk about that. There’s Sam in therer whose got his daughters who he’s teaching. He’s providing information to her. They call every week and talk about that. So I ask, what did you tell your daughter this week, what did she tell you?

MUSIC: Under My Hat, DJ Vadim

WALL STREET: I’m in prison but I’m on just the same playing field as Warren Buffett. I can pick the exact same companies. I can’t buy as many shares. But technically we’re just the same…

Sam-Robinson-doorLT. SAM ROBINSON: I’m Sam Robinson, Public Information Officer at San Quentin. I think if that guy had had different opportunities in the community he was in, we wouldn’t be talking about Wall Street behind walls in San Quentin. He may have been Curtis Carrol, The Baron of Wall Street. You never know.

NARRATION 3 / KITCHEN SISTERS: (Nikki) Wall Street is 37 now. He’s been in prison for 20 years doing a sentence of 54 to life.(Davia) Word of Wall Street has started to leak outside of San Quentin. Small community-based investment clubs have been reading about him online, people living paycheck to paycheck, trying to get a financial toe-hold, are being drawn to his strategies and his story. Wall Street, they tell us, has the time they don’t to study the market and get wise about money.

WALL STREET: Overall the goal is to get the money to give back to the communities. When I look at how Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have made these pledges to give 90% of their wealth away I thought what better way than to go back and help the things I’ve destroyed.

MUSIC: Everybody Got Their Something

TROY WILLIAMS: These men are coming home. Guys who have been locked up for 20-30 plus years. You’re given 200 bucks and it’s like: “Good luck. We’re gonna pray for you. Stay out of prison.” Who do you want coming home? Do you want the animal that’s been caged away for years that’s the same bad-assed gangbanger that he was when he went to prison? Or do you want somebody coming home thinking differently?

WALL STREET: I try to re-iterate to the men that I’m not teaching you some for-sure plan. I’m teaching you to plan. It’s fine to take a loss, it happens. You just know I take loss and it doesn’t have to lead back in to whatever you was doing, drugs, or crime or gangs.

WALL STREET: So this is your homework, 1 call home to your family and I want you to say, “Hey! Do you have a retirement plan? Do you have a 401K? need to know everything happening with your money…”

KITCHEN SISTERS SOC: For NPR News, We’re The Kitchen Sisters, Nikki Silva & Davia Nelson




Special Thanks: Curtis Carroll, San Quentin Financial Literacy Program, Anna Deavere Smith, Arnold Perkins, Troy Williams, Lt. Sam Robinson, Nancy Mullane, Tom De Martini, Zak Williams, Clarence Long, Nigel Poor, James Fox & The Prison Yoga Project, Tracy Wahl, Jacob Conrad, TED, Pop-Up Magazine, Moondog


Fugitive Waves: The Braveheart Women’s Society

Fugitive Waves: The Braveheart Women’s Society


Brave Heart Women’s Society

Brook Spotted Eagle from the the Yankton Sioux/Ihanktonwan Oyate Reservation in South Dakota was one of the hundreds of people who called our Hidden World of Girls’ phone line with a story idea.


Hi. My name is Brook Spotted Eagle. I belong to a women’s society on my reservation in South Dakota. The Brave Heart Women’s Society. My mother is one of the founding grandmother’s who has brought it back to life. Over the last 100 years we’ve lost a lot of our ceremonies. I’ll have to check with the elders, but when I saw the Hidden World of Girls I thought it would be amazing to share with other Native women the Isnati coming of age ceremony for our girls. Give me a call if you’re interested. Thanks. Bye.

Watch the slideshow

White Swan, South Dakota
On a wide grassy bank of the Missouri River on , Brook Spotted Eagle stands watching five young girls raise a tipi. The girls are taking part in a four-day coming-of-age ceremony revived in the 1990s by the Brave Heart Women’s Society.

“I was part of the first group who went through this Isnati coming-of-age ceremony 13 years ago,” Brook recalls. Brook’s mother, Faith Spotted Eagle, is one of the women who re-established the Brave Hearts. With American and European contact many such societies and ceremonies have been lost over the last 100 years. In 1994, Faith and the Brave Hearts interviewed grandmas from three states about what they remembered of the Isnati coming of age ceremony.

“In the old days,” Faith Spotted Eagle says, “as soon as a girl had her first moon, her menses, she would immediately be isolated from the rest of the camp and begin a four-day ceremony where she was taught by other women. So we symbolically set up one camp a year and have the girls come in for four days.”

In traditional Yankton Sioux culture everyone had a niche, a role. One of the roles of the women who were part of the Brave Hearts was to retrieve the dead and wounded from the battlefield and help the families. “In a way we are doing the same thing today with the modern day Brave Hearts,” Faith Spotted Eagle says, “bringing back our people from emotional death.”

Thirteen Moons
Thunder cracks in the distance as the girls, dressed in long skirts and tank tops, unroll the canvas tipi. This is where they will sleep together for the next four days, away from the rest of the camp. A group of grandmas and aunties yell instructions from the sidelines: “A little to the north, to the north! Hurry up girls — before the rain comes!”


“Most women’s tipis have 13 poles because we have 13 moons in a year,” explains Judy Drapeau, a grandmother who helps every year. “That’s why we call it a moon camp because it’s a special time for women to learn about themselves.”

“The first thing you need to do is put up your own lodge, you need to have that strength to house yourself,” says Marissa Joseph, 21. Adopted at birth, Joseph spent a large part of her youth bouncing between relatives.
“Childhood was really rough — lost, floating and drifting.” “By my early teens, I was a pretty strong alcoholic. I didn’t know who I was and what I needed. I really wanted to not live anymore. The summer of my 14th year I went through Isnati. I felt like I was found.”


Feeding The Girls
During the four days, the girls cannot touch food or drink. They are fed by their mothers and other women in the camp. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, I don’t want to do this,’” says Kiari Worldturner, 16. “Your mom has to feed you and give you water. I didn’t like my mom. I didn’t trust her.”

Brave_Heart_0393Marla Bull Bear, who has been through the ceremony with her daughter, says the feeding feels a little like heartbreak — “that bittersweet feeling.” “It’s treating them like a baby one last time before they become women,” she says. “No longer would she be my little girl to feed anymore. You really begin to start the foundation of what that adult relationship is with a mother and daughter.”




Gathering Medicine
On the second day, the girls pile into the back of a pick up truck to gather traditional herbs and medicines. Faith Spotted Eagle points out a little plant called “too proud,” and yellow cornflowers, which have roots that when ground up are used to treat toothaches.

The girls pick buffalo berries and armfuls of wildflowers and women’s sage for the bouquets they’ll carry at the womanhood ceremony.

Teresa Heart, a Brave Heart grandmother, arrives in the afternoon and sizes up the girls. For the past 13 years, she’s made the girls’ ribbon dresses for the ceremony. “I didn’t have this when I became of age,” Teresa says. “Growing up at a boarding school, they came from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and they took us. I must have been five. And I didn’t see my mom and my grandparents for nine years. When I was older, they assigned me a little first grader and I had to teach her English. I’d braid her hair and take care of her. Then they’d switch everybody all around and I’d get another little girl. They wouldn’t let us get close to each other.”


The Camp Circle
Just before dusk, Marissa Joseph arrives to teach the girls how to make ceremonial food — dried buffalo meat jerky with buffalo berries.

“Every year I try to teach what I know, bring that back to recreate that feeling I felt,” she says. Older Isnati girls return year-after-year to feed the younger girls and teach them ceremonial songs and beading.

Throughout the days, the elders talk to the girls about modesty, courtship, pregnancy — and suicide, a serious problem on the reservations. “At times we have a nutritionist come in and talk to them about eating right and not just drinking Gatorade,” Brook Spotted Eagle says. “About not being afraid of doctors and having to get a check up. Sexual abuse and incest can pose a huge problem within families. There’s no easy way to talk about these issues, so you just have to get them out there. And we’re always talking about this concept of a camp circle. We can’t be attacking each other and doing this mean girl’s stuff.”


Madonna Thunderhawk, an activist and long time American Indian Movement advocate, sits watching the girls as they learn how to bead their small leather medicine bags. “As a grandmother and great grandmother, I just wanted to come and spend a few hours,” she says. “This is part of what I need to do. At one time, all of this was underground. We only got the American Indian Freedom of Religion Act in the late ’70s. So we had to stand our ground to have these things out in the open again.”

The Fourth Day
On the last day, each girl spends time with her mother or an auntie in the tipi. The older woman bathes the girl in sage water and talks to her about her birth, her young days — and her future. Kiari World Turner says her mother washed her hair and told her about when she was a little girl: “Good stories. I guess we found each other.”

In the late afternoon, dressed in their ribbon dresses, moccasins, and beaded regalia, the girls are introduced to the community as women and members of the Brave Heart Womens Society. More than 90 girls have taken part in the Isnati Awica Dowanpi Coming of Age Ceremony in the Ihanktonwan territory over the past 13 years.

“When I went through Isnati, my grandmother gave me the name Gray Eagle Woman,” remembers Marissa. “My sister’s name is Stand Strong Woman. She’s the baby girl and she’s lived a hard life as well, and she’s been able to stand strong. It only seems fitting that you would change your name with where you are in your life. The Brave Heart Society, these grandmothers, this connection with these girls I’ve made. This is my sixth year into it. I’m like a 6 year old trying to live a new life. I’m still pretty new to a lot of things.”