Cole Williams, a dedicated father, has spent his career mentoring men and boys of color trapped in the criminal justice system. He regularly witnesses teenage boys struggling in the system, while at the same time growing into manhood. These are men who then become incarcerated fathers.

One day in early 2017, a student in juvenile detention asked him a simple question:

“How do I become something I don’t see?”

Immediately, Cole understood the gravity of this question, and why it was being asked. But in that moment, he also realized that there was no easy answer.

He was working with some of the most ambitious, talented, and intelligent young men he had ever met. And yet, their potential was being limited by social systems which lacked the resources of more affluent communities. Without a path to upward mobility, the best and brightest of these young men were left with few options.

This common reality is an unfortunate circumstance that has channeled millions of men into the prison system. A perpetual cycle of incarceration that has left ensuing generations without access to the wisdom of fathers, brothers, and cousins who have gone before.

He enlisted the help of Joel Van Kuiken, a passionate advocate and creative communicator, and Eric Scott Johnson, a founder of Gorilla, a creative studio focused on human-centered storytelling.

Together the team envisioned a platform which would connect Delta Project students with community leaders who could empathize with their circumstance, and offer insight through one-on-one conversation. The model would empower students to produce and direct an on-camera, podcast style interview which they hosted themselves.

To achieve this, Eric leveraged a filmmaking tool he invented along with his Gorilla team. The device, inspired by Errol Morris’ direct-to-lens interview style, uses a two-way mirror system which enables both interviewer and interviewee to hold a conversation while looking directly into a camera lens.

The team enlisted the help of Gorilla’s community of filmmakers, and together, crafted a hands-on mentorship program which trains Delta Students in the basics of filmmaking.

The result is a powerful, poignant human connection that everyone can experience.

Counter-cultural in both content and format, each interview provides an intimate window into the potential of young men trapped in a cycle of incarceration. The program offers these incredible young men a rare opportunity to look beyond their present circumstances and envision what they can truly become.

The Delta Project is a story of empowerment, cultural subversion, and human understanding. Through it, we believe we can positively alter the lives of young men. Young men who are filled with potential, and ready to become something they don’t see.

To get involved, please visit our contact us page.