A literary mixtape of transformative dialogues on justice with a cast of visionary rebel activists, organizers, artists, culture workers, thought leaders, and movement builders.
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Rebel Speak sounds the alarm for a global movement to end systemic injustice led by people doing the day-to-day rebel work in the prison capital of the world. Prison activist, artist, and scholar Bryonn Rolly Bain brings us transformative oral history ciphers, rooted in the tradition of call-and-response, to lay bare the struggle and sacrifice on the front lines of the fight to abolish the prison industrial complex.
Rebel Speak investigates the motives that inspire and sustain movements for visionary change. Sparked by a life-changing interview with working-class heroes Dolores Huerta and Harry Belafonte, Bryonn invites us to join conversations with change-makers whose diverse critical perspectives and firsthand accounts expose the crisis of prisons and policing in our communities. Through dialogues with activists including Albert Woodfox, founder of the first Black Panther Party prison chapter, and Susan Burton, founder of Los Angeles's A New Way of Life Reentry Project; a conversation with a warden pushing beyond traditions at Sing Sing Correctional Facility; and an intimate exchange with his brother returning from prison, Bryonn reveals countless unseen spaces of the movement to end human caging. Sampling his provocative sessions with influential artists and culture workers, like Public Enemy leader Chuck D and radical feminist MC Maya Jupiter, Bryonn opens up and guides discussions about the power of art and activism to build solidarity across disciplines and demand justice.
With raw insight and radical introspection, Rebel Speak embodies the growing call for "credible messengers" on prisons, policing, racial justice, abolitionist politics, and transformative organizing. Reimagining the role of the writer and scholar as a DJ and MC, Bryonn moves the crowd with this unforgettable mix of those working within the belly of the beast to change the world. This is a new century's sound of movement-building and Rebel Speak.
Bryonn Bain, author of Rebel Speak: A Justice Movement Mixtape (University of California Press, April 2022) is Brooklyn’s own prison activist, actor, hip hop theater innovator and spoken word poetry champion. Described by Cornel West as an artist who “...speaks his truth with a power we desperately need to hear,” his theater, film and television work are critically acclaimed – from his award winning BET talk show My Two Cents, and Emmy nomination for BaaadDDD Sonia, to the Emmy award-winning LA Stories. His one-man theater production, Lyrics From Lockdown, is executive produced by Harry Belafonte (BlacKkKlansman), and tells the story of Bain’s wrongful imprisonment through hip hop theater, spoken word poetry, blues, calypso, comedy and letters exchanged with fellow poet and friend, Nanon Williams – who was wrongfully sentenced to Death Row at just 17 years old.
Wrongfully imprisoned in his second year at Harvard Law, Bryonn sued the NYPD, and told his story for 20 million viewers on 60 Minutes in an interview with Mike Wallace. After writing the Village Voice cover story “Walking While Black: The Bill of Rights for Black America,” his work received the largest response in the history of the nation's most widely read progressive newspaper. Bain produced the Lyrics on Lockdown Tour, which reached 25 states, and spawned higher education courses using the performing arts to build literacy in prisons nationwide. For the decade that followed, Bain taught courses using the arts on Rikers Island penal colony. After teaching hip hop, spoken word and theater at Harvard, Bain founded the prison education program at NYU to offer higher education and college degrees to men incarcerated in upstate New York. Bryonn founded and directs the Prison Education Program at UCLA, where he has developed and taught arts-based courses and programs in LA prisons including the California Institute for Women, Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall, Camp Joseph Scott and Central Juvenile Hall.
Bain’s music, poetry, videos and TED Talks are available on Life After Lockdown: The Digital Mixtape, produced by hip hop founder DJ Kool Herc. Bringing standing ovations to sold-out venues on three continents, Bryonn has performed at over 250 colleges and prisons in the U.S., Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe. www.LyricsFromLockdown.com.
Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and has decades of experience as a leader, coalition builder, campaigner for social justice and seasoned nonprofit executive. In 2008, he was chosen as the youngest-ever president and CEO of the NAACP. During his tenure, he doubled the organization’s budget, grew its online activist base by hundreds of thousands and increased its number of donors eightfold, from 16,000 to 132,000. He also positioned the organization at the forefront of critical social justice issues such as the Trayvon Martin case, the fight against voter ID laws and major protests over the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policies. He pushed for the organization to fight more aggressively for marriage equality, led efforts to register 374, 000 voters and mobilize 1.2 million new voters to the polls, and worked to pass key legislative accomplishments during President Obama’s first term, most notably the Affordable Care Act.
In 2013, the Baltimore Sun named Jealous "Marylander of the Year" for his work on marriage equality, abolishing the death penalty and passing the DREAM Act. Jealous was the 2018 Democratic nominee for governor of Maryland, and most recently served as a partner at Kapor Capital. He is a graduate of Columbia University and Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and he has taught at Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania.
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