On November 16, 2023, the State of Ohio intends to murder an innocent man. Indeed, that is the day they've determined they will strap down to a gurney and pump poison into Keith LaMar. They know he is innocent; after all, they were the ones who withheld all the eyewitness statements and confessions that could have helped him at trial following the 1993 Lucasville Prison Uprising. For the past 27 years, Keith has maintained his innocence from solitary confinement, researching and studying his case from inside a steel cage the size of a closet. In spite of being unable to touch grass or feel the wind against his skin, Keith LaMar has cultivated a beautifully perceptive understanding about life and the system that railroaded him.
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One of the best ways to get to know Keith better is by hearing and reading him in his own words:
Podcasts: Pieces of a Man together with Brian Jackson
Listen to Keith and Brian talk about the aftermath of one of the most unusual Independence Days ever and the continued disconnect between African-Americans and the holiday. They wind up on a more serene note discussing how the healing music of John Coltrane has inspired generations to reach within for the best of themselves, whether musicals or spiritually.
Here the duo turns to Keith's efforts to free himself from an unlawful conviction and how he has maintained his sanity having been on death row and solitary confinement for 27 years. Brian answers some questions about whether or not he feels playing messages that for decades went unheeded was worth it in the end.
In this episode, Keith and Brian unpack the "Case for Reparations" and a song that asks an unanswerable question.
Episode 4: Forget...Improvise
Keith turns the tables on Brian and gets him to spill the beans about his early life, how he found his musical path and the partnership that led him to be the bearer of a nearly 50-year legacy.
Read some of Keith's most poignant writings here:
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It's important to know that the magnitude of Keith LaMar's presence on this earth cannot be contained by this death sentence he carries. In spite of being made to suffer inhumane conditions these three decades, he has continued to pour love and knowledge on friends and strangers alike, inspiring them to find ways to live their lives with purpose. He has founded the Native Sons Literacy Project to help kids caught up in the school-to-prison pipeline discover that reading will open doors they never could imagine. Through his efforts, Keith has been able to get hundreds of meaningful books in the hands of at-risk juveniles, books such as Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me, Richard Wright's Black Boy, and Shaka Senghor's Writing My Wrongs. He exchanges calls and letters with high school and college classes, inspiring people to live their most meaningful lives while they yet can. Even from one of the most awful places imaginable, he is shining a light into the darkness. That will be Keith LaMar's legacy, no matter the outcome of his most critical situation.
Keith holding a painting he did from Solitary Confinement, one he spent 120 hours to