Finding America Team Corner: “Unprisoned opens the conversation to…things people aren’t always willing to talk about”

Asha Lane at her desk, editing a piece for UnprisonedIn this occasional Finding America Team Corner, we’re introducing talent from the 15 Finding America productions. This Q+A has been lightly edited for space and clarity. 

Asha Lane recently graduated from high school. She worked as a student reporter with Unprisoned on a story about security and discipline in New Orleans’ high schools.

From the world’s incarceration capital, Unprisoned and WWNO meet those serving time inside and outside the criminal justice system. Unprisoned shares stories across platforms and perceived social lines, to incite conversation about the ways mass incarceration affects families, communities and notions of justice. Unprisoned is led by independent producer Eve Abrams in collaboration with WWNO digital director Jason Saul.

Professional experience/background:

I recently graduated from International High School of New Orleans (IHSNO) and Bard Early College of New Orleans (BECNO). I began working with Unprisoned in November 2015. Developing my story with Unprisoned became a big part of the rest of my senior year. Eve Abrams essentially trained me in how to effectively interview people. I learned so much about myself, journalism, and New Orleans. I plan to attend Bard College in the fall of 2016.



Have you had a favorite moment while working on Unprisoned?

Surprisingly, … when Eve and I sent in our first version of the story and got word from her editors that we would totally have to revamp almost the entire story. Although I was upset at first, I began to see how necessary it was to go further.

From that moment on Eve and I decided to go more in depth by interviewing principals from the schools that we included in the original story. My favorite interview was with the principal of Edna Karr, Harold Clay. After our hour-and-a-halflong interview with Mr. Clay, Eve and I sat in her car for about 15 minutes trying to digest what just happened. Before our interview, the only impression that we had of Edna Karr was that it was “prison-like” and not a “fun” place to be in. Our interview with Mr. Clay almost instantly destroyed our original impression because of his calm, cool and collected demeanor. After this interview, we were in full speed to get the rest of the story.

What have you learned while working on Unprisoned?

I learned a lot. The most I gained from working with Unprisoned was the journalist experience. Eve showed me how to properly interview people and how to get the answers that I want, while also finding the truth in whoever is sharing it. I also learned more about how New Orleans charter schools are trying to move further away from the school-to-prison pipeline, but somehow aren’t quite there yet.

How does Unprisoned reflect your American experience?

I think Unprisoned opens the conversation to a lot of things people aren’t always willing to believe or talk about. I do believe that America turns a blind eye to racial inequality, in believing that racism no longer exists. Unprisoned discusses things, such as race, that prove that those beliefs just aren’t true.

What are you inspired by right now?

I am inspired by the Black Lives Matter Movement. I believe there needs to be a change in equality, in all forms, and I believe through the Black Lives Matter Movement, young people might actually be able to make this happen.

What is one thing you love about New Orleans?

Food. Food. Food.

What is one thing you wish would change about New Orleans?

I wish there were more opportunities for young people to do something positive. Although you cannot change their background and where someone came from, you can help impact where they go.

Tell us one random fact about yourself:

I am a native Marylandian!