Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts


Mass Communication and Media Arts

First Advisor

Aguayo, Angela

Second Advisor

Motyl, H.D.


In 2007, I began a personal investigation to tell the story of my cousin, Michael Alford's (Mikey) incarceration. In 2000, he was convicted of aggravated kidnapping and received a sentence of twenty years in prison. While Mikey serves his sentence at Hill Correctional Center in Galesburg, Illinois, I began talking to members of my family to chronicle Mikey's life and follow the path that led him to prison. During the exploration of Mikey's past, unexpected stories were uncovered, which led me to the crumbling relationships within our multiracial, estranged family, our relatives grappling with the issues that lie within a family having an incarcerated relative, and Mikey's correlation to societal stigmas toward African-American males. I was forced to confront my private reservations, of anger and betrayal, toward particular family members and specifically, my non-existing relationship with Mikey. This documentary became an exploration into familial and societal relationships between me, the filmmaker, who hid behind the camera to get a story and my cousin, Mikey, who is behind bars. As my journey came to an end, I realized that even though my cousin was isolated in prison he was able to guide me back to a family with whom I had a conflicted past, and it also led me to a self-realization that has changed me forever.




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