Jan Parks and her friend Sharon Eggers protest near former Minnesota Congressman Erik Paulsen’s office in the spring of 2017.

Jan Parks spent 34 years teaching English and journalism to junior and senior high students in Bloomington, Minnesota public schools. She served as advisor to the high school student newspaper and yearbook staffs, winning three All American and numerous First Class awards from the Minnesota High School Press Association along the way. Parks has a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Nebraska and a Masters Degree in Women’s Studies from Hamline University.

Resisting in Retirement

Trump Presidency Helped Me Discover My Inner Activist


March 2019

BY JAN PARKS

Political activism was never on my bucket list. When I retired from teaching in 2004, after more than three decades of intense and wonderful years, I told my friends that at long last I’d have time for recipes, dinner parties, and travel. No rocking chairs—just relaxation!

But I ended up getting restless, and started doing occasional volunteer work, political volunteer work. For example, I especially enjoyed volunteering for 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Her message of equality and empowerment captivated me. I can’t say I was intensely involved in her campaign, but I made donations and I was a phone bank caller.

Hillary was a great candidate—brilliant, articulate, experienced. Her opponent, Donald Trump, was magnificently flawed—he seemed unelectable. But as it turned out, my efforts to lift Clinton into the White House, as the first female president in American history, weren’t enough. Her loss to Trump on November 8, 2016 shattered me. Like so many people, I brooded and became a keyboard activist on Facebook. I soon realized I was suffering from depression because of Trump and his administration.  (more…)

Raymond Towler was 24-years-old the day he went to prison. He was 52 on the day of his release. DNA testing ultimately proved he had been wrongfully convicted of rape in 1981. Towler is the leader of The Exoneree Band.

Musical Justice

The Exoneree Band Rocks Against the Pain of Wrongful Convictions


March 2019

BY LYNN MOLLER

 

Minutes are like hours

And hours seem like days

Days feel like months

Just wasting away

 

Nothing here to look at

But this tired body of mine

Not much to hear

Just my heart beating time

 

How the hell can a person

Withstand so much pain?

How can anyone endure

And not go insane?

 

They are lyrics from a song called “Four Years in the Hole,” co-written by Antione Day. But he not only penned them, he lived them.

Day, along with Ted Bradford, Bill Dillon, Eddie Lowery and Raymond Towler, collectively spent more than a century in prison, all of them wrongfully convicted of another person’s crime. Their stories are heartbreaking, gut wrenching, frustrating, and compelling tales of injustice. And they tell them – through music.

Yes, these remarkable men have banded together – literally. They call themselves The Exoneree Band.

All five members (see sidebars explaining the details involving each man’s wrongful conviction) have different backgrounds but shared similar ordeals; they now use the power of music to heal, inspire, and fight for justice.

Guitarist Towler leads the band. Dillon is the rhythm guitarist and bassist. Bradford sings and plays bass guitar. Lowery is a singer and acoustic guitarist. Lead singer and drummer Day says, “As musicians we come together to bring attention to the issue. We want to spread this message, and make people aware of what goes on in our judicial system. If we don’t do anything about it now, it’s only going to get worse. So many innocent people are still incarcerated.”

Day explains that music has always been his first love and, thankfully, the Illinois prison where he was housed gave inmates access to equipment. As a result, Day was even able to start a band behind bars. Bradford says he played the guitar as a teenager and had dreams of making it big. He continued playing in prison. Dillon and Lowery taught themselves to play guitar while locked up, allowing them to focus and concentrate on the positive, they say, and let the prison walls symbolically crumble. Towler says music, and being a musician, carried him through his entire incarceration and that, upon leaving prison, it was a priority for him to continue with this musical identification. “Music chose me,” he explains. “I’ve been playing since age 12.”

The men met at an Innocence Project conference and discovered  (more…)