Thousand Kites Project - An Explanation

In 1998, when Amelia Kirby and Nick Szuberla ( were volunteer DJs at WMMT, a community radio station in Whitesburg, KY, they received hundreds of letters describing human rights violations in newly-opened prisons in their community. Concerned about what was happening, they responded with an art project called "Holler to the Hood" to address human rights abuses in the United States criminal justice system. One of the first things they did was produce a radio program that brought the voices of prisoners' families to the airwaves. Broadcasting stories and messages from families and loved ones served as a way to better understand who was in their region's prisons. The show became a weekly broadcast on WMMT and had a special annual holiday broadcast on more than 120 stations around the country. Holler to the Hood's next endeavor was to create hill-hop, bringing together hip-hop (representing the urban areas where many prisoners are from) and traditional Appalachian music (where the prisons are located). In 2006 they completed a feature length documentary called "Up the Ridge" that explores their community's story with the prison system. All of this work introduced them to people and groups around the country concerned with the high rate of incarceration in the United States and the often unreported human rights abuses that occur within our country's prison system. As people who live in a small town they were also concerned to learn that many prisons are built as a form of economic development in struggling rural areas. Building on these projects, they began working with Roadside Theater and other artists and community activists around the country to create Thousand Kites. Thousand Kites was a national project that provided tools (theater, web, radio, and video) for people concerned about human rights and criminal justice issues to use to facilitate dialogue in their local communities across the United States. The success of Thousand Kites led Nick Szuberla to found Nation Inside (, an online platform that connects and supports those building a movement to systematically challenge mass incarceration in the United States.

Cite This

“Video: Thousand Kites, the Beginning (2006).” April 30, 2014.

Interested in copying, distributing, and/or adapting this work? Please view our license information.