Press Release


The Public Square at the IHC hosts a reading and conversation featuring the poet and exonerated death row prisoner in Englewood.

CHICAGO – Join The Public Square at the IHC and the Neighborhood Writing Alliance for an exciting afternoon with local poet and exonerated death row prisoner Delbert Tibbs. He will read poems from his repertoire, including poetry that was inspired by being wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death row. His performance will be accompanied by readings by writers from the Neighborhood Writing Alliance’s Workshop at St. Leonard’s House, a transitional facility for ex-offenders, followed by a conversation with Tibbs facilitated by WVON radio host Cliff Kelley.

This event will take place on Saturday, April 19 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at the West Englewood Branch of the Chicago Public Library (1745 W. 63rd St., Chicago). This event is free and open to the public. Reservations are required and can be made by e-mailing or calling 312.422.5580. This event is co-sponsored by the Neighborhood Writing Alliance and the West Englewood Branch of the Chicago Public Library.

Delbert Tibbs was born in what he describes as “Apartheid Mississippi,” before the coming of “the King and Mrs. Parks.” He moved to Chicago at the age of twelve with his widowed mother and later attended Southeast City College and Chicago Theological Seminary. After dropping out in 1972, Delbert began what he has described as his “wilderness experience,” walking around the U.S.A. In 1974, Delbert was wrongfully arrested and charged with rape and murder in Florida. Although the state was never able to produce any evidence against him, he was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death. A mass movement was organized to fight for his life, spearheaded by his friends and family, and he was freed several years later. Delbert is affiliated with Amnesty International, the National Interreligious Task Force on Criminal Justice, and is on the advisory board of the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. He began writing seriously and publishing during his “wilderness experience,” and continues to do so. The story of Delbert’s clash with the criminal justice system has been powerfully told in the play, The Exonerated, by Jessica Blank and Eric Jensen. His story is also graphically and artistically told in the mixed media presentation “Barred from Life,” by David Popaisky.

Cliff Kelley is the host of “The Cliff Kelley Show,” which airs Monday through Friday from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM on WVON. He has distinguished himself as a popular talk show host who brings a wealth of knowledge on local, national, and international affairs. A native Chicagoan and attorney, Kelley has been in active in Chicago’s political arena for more than 30 years, including 16 years in Chicago’s City Council. Kelley has been a featured guest on issue-oriented programs on local, national, and international television and radio and is a frequent contributor to Chicago Tonight. He has traveled extensively to Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe.

The Neighborhood Writing Alliance provokes dialogue and promotes change by creating opportunities for adults in Chicago’s low-income neighborhoods to write, publish, and perform works about their lives.

The Public Square at the Illinois Humanities Council fosters debate, dialogue, and exchange of ideas about cultural, social and political issues with an emphasis on social justice. Programs promote participatory democracy by creating space for public conversations.

This program is part of the “Know More: Conversations That Matter” series. Art, issues, and dialogue—these are the key components to this exciting set of programs sponsored by The Public Square at the IHC. This series is a way to bridge the gap between the arts and social issues that are of current concern to Chicago’s Englewood and Humboldt Park communities. Performances and presentations by top artists and activists are a prelude to community-based discussions.

This series is made possible by a grant from The Joyce Foundation. Chicago Public Radio is the media sponsor. More information about “Know More: Conversations That Matter” and The Public Square at the IHC is available at

The Illinois Humanities Council is a nonprofit educational organization [501 (c) 3] dedicated to fostering a culture in which the humanities are a vital part of the lives of individuals and communities. Organized in 1973 as the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the IHC creates programs and funds organizations that promote greater understanding of, appreciation for, and involvement in the humanities. The IHC is supported by state, federal, and private funds.

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