Breaking the chains of silence through the power of stories



The power of storytelling does not only bring a vivid picture of the imagination of a speaker to provoke laughter or tears, but also a sense of conviction of your conscience when challenged by searching questions from the narrator. Giving an account of an incident, true or invented, the speaker’s main aim is to leave a MESSAGE with his audience, which will have a lasting impact. 

On Saturday, August 20, 2016, history was made as MEP Talks, which is one of the in-prison enterprise projects of the Message Enterprise Program at Drakenstein Prison, held its first SPEAK OUT event with members of the general public. The brave speakers responsible for giving a voice to the voiceless, shared their life changing stories with members of the public from various communities, companies, organizations and also DCS Officials. Eight speakers gave a 5-6 minute speech about their lives and competed in front of a panel of guest judges. Many of them had never spoken at such an event before.

“I could feel it in my stomach. I was so nervous to go on stage but then as soon as I looked out, I felt that I needed to be strong and speak my story.”
— MEP Student Speaker

When Prison Bars Talk

Saying that it was a success would be making an understatement, because the objective to evoke a positive response was not only that, but also a day of where perspectives of prison were forever changed. As one speaker so powerfully spoke:

“If these bars could talk and these walls could send a message to the outside world, many would be amazed at what we can turn out to be in this place.”
— MEP Student Speaker

The MC of the event, while an inmate the day of the event, was released from prison two days later after serving a 7 years and 9 month sentence. His words were powerful as he stood as atransformed man on stage, wearing a prison uniform for the last time: 

“The fruit of the seeds planted by The Message South Africa is evident in the lives of the pariah (social outcasts), who are taking the stand from inside these walls to let their voices be heard about the powerful transformation taking place.”
— Siseko Ngwayishe - MEP Student - Released 22 Aug

The essence of the speakers’ passions, interests, and ambitions wasn’t only about unearthing their best qualities and presenting them in an appealing way, but also knowing themselves to grow themselves; revealing their uniqueness which immediately distinguishes them from others and makes them memorable.  

The day was also one of honor and respect, whereby a tribute was paid to Laura Tucker, wife of our National Director Tim Tucker and one of the dear Message team members that suddenly passed on last week. The event was dedicated to her and the entire Tucker Family. One life may have been “excused” from us for now, but as we paid tribute to her honor, the impact resulted in 9 people coming to the Lord at the altar call at the end. 

The Power of Transformed Lives

There is one brand on display every single day that is often snubbed, overlooked and ignored. That brand has been finally ‘heard’-and the critics are as silent as the grave, deafen under the echo of sincere change taking place behind prison bars. Like one of the speakers said:

“I believe we are the architects of our own destiny and greatness, and merely have to take responsibility for whatever surfaces.”
— MEP Student Speaker

It was clear how these men had changed from focusing on personal accomplishments and gains, to truly desiring to serve, assist, encourage and share in the success of others and helping raise up a generation of urban heroes. The highlight or ‘wow’ factor of the day wasn’t as much about the content, which was inspiring, but more of an optical appearance produced by the dedication and commitment of their lecturers, trainers and mentors-that said we trust you enough to let you fly. 

It was a powerful moment as one of the MEP Students currently serving a life sentence, took the first place crown with his thought-provoking and emotional “The Paradox of Life” speech. He was living proof that where others see something that should be thrown away, there is instead an opportunity for light to shine in the darkness and there is no life too hopeless to be used for a greater purpose.

All in all it was a day filled with tears and laughter, hope and promise of a generation rising up from their current state of immobility to leaving a legacy that says their names won’t only be engraved on criminal records, but on the hearts of many.     

-Written by a M.E.P. Student

On behalf of the M.E.P. Brotherhood, we would like to thank The Message Trust, DCS officials, Solid Events and Brand Design for going above and beyond to make the event possible. 


Click below to scroll through pictures from the event.