StoryCorps In Kansas City — Forging A New Identity After Juvenile Incarceration
StoryCorps' MobileBooth came to Kansas City to collect the stories and memories of residents. This is one in a series of stories KCUR has chosen to highlight.
Ashley Raines' childhood wasn't easy.
"I wouldn't classify it as entirely ugly or unfortunate or anything, but it was a struggle," Raines told his wife Vanessa Aricco.
He started running away from home around 14 years old, hitchhiking across the country. He ended up incarcerated in a juvenile correctional facility in Topeka after a prank, and it wasn't pretty — there was sexual assault and violence in the facility.
After getting out, Raines decided he had to make some major changes.
"The first thing I had to do was get as far away from everything that had defined me so I had an honest opportunity to start somewhere.," Raines said.
He knew he wanted to express himself as a songwriter and musician. But even outside of the correctional facility, things weren't simple. Raines spent time on the streets, busking for money.
"It was easy for me to go be hungry on a street corner and play a song to try to coax a buck out of somebody," Raines said. "It would be much harder for me to starve that part of me that needed to write and create to make a livable wage."
Now as an adult, Raines reflects on how the power of art shifted his perspective from the kid who got locked up to the musician and man he is today.
"I can see the places where art impacts a life," Raines said. "I'm not talking about making some big purchase of some Basquiat and sticking it in your mansion somewhere, I'm talking about ... seeing your dying father trying to sing along to a song that you wrote.
"It matters when you see a painting that causes you to think, 'Maybe people all over hurt and we should take care of one another.' These are good ideas to continue to have ... we're going to lose the people who can do it and do it really well if we don't take better care of them too."
Matthew Long-Middleton is a community producer for KCUR 89.3. Follow him on Twitter @MLMIndustries.
Cody Newill is an audience development specialist for KCUR 89.3. Follow him on Twitter @CodyNewill.