The Rebirth of P-Funk

The Rebirth of P-Funk


Originating in African-American communities of the 1960s, sweat glistens on every beat of a Funk song, compelling its listeners to be swept up in an unrelenting groove. From track to track, the genre invites us all to dance and feel transported to new forms of liberation. We’re welcomed into its rhythm and encouraged to shimmy and shake just as we are.

Paul “P-Funk” Stallings embodies the welcoming spirit of his namesake. Since joining the Fortune community in 2008 after five years in incarceration, his joyful spirit and creativity has impacted staff and participants alike, affirming our belief that individuals with justice involvement have the capacity to find success and be their best selves. “P-Funk is rarely without a smile. He brings light—and good music—wherever he goes,” notes Jamie Maleszka, Creative Writing Teacher and Grant Writer at The Fortune Society. When Jamie was new to Fortune’s partnership with PUBLIC WORKS, an organization that invites members of diverse communities to co-create ambitious works of participatory theater, it was P-Funk who helped her get acclimated. “He showed me the ropes and always saved me a seat,” she shares, “I was grateful to have a seasoned pro guide me…”

An interdependence of resources and skill sets are a key part of Fortune’s charm. Dynamics of influence are blurred as staff and participants motivate one another for the shared goal of building people, not prisons. Together, we create the world we wish to see: one where everyone has an opportunity to thrive regardless of their past. With this shared vision, strangers quickly become much more. As P-Funk shares:

“PUBLIC WORKS and Fortune are my friends and family. I’m not out in the streets anymore. I don’t spend time with knuckleheads on corners. I don’t drink. This is what I do. There is nowhere else I’d rather be. These are my people. After nearly 50 years, I’ve found my people.”

Through Fortune’s holistic services, P-Funk has found himself. Through our Education and Creative Arts programs, he has uncovered new pathways of self-expression, which inspire confidence with each step. With theatre, in particular, P-Funk notes, “I found my love. I can do the acting.” As we highlighted in a feature on P-Funk within our 2015 issue of the Fortune News, “Being at Fortune and taking advantage of the programs offered has taught him that he really can do anything.

P-Funk’s confidence is infectious. In community with others, he encourages all who interact with him to tap into their own unique power. Success doesn’t live in a silo at Fortune—one voice can make a world of difference. P-Funk embodies this belief daily. As Jamie notes, “P-Funk truly loves to see other people win.”  

With adequate support, individuals with justice involvement can move forward from their past and become beacons of hope. P-Funk’s light impacts all who are around him. Brisa Areli Muñoz, Manager of Community Partnerships at PUBLIC WORKS, shares: 

“P-Funk has been an integral member of the Public Works program. His generosity of spirit, can-do attitude, and deep care for those he is in relationship with is palpable. He makes every Public Works space more lively, more honest, and more fun. Our program would not be the same without him.”

As for the future, P-Funk has his sights set on earning his High School Equivalency diploma. After that, he’s available to whatever the Universe has in store for him:  

“If any more doors open for me, I’m gonna walk through it.”

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