Listen: Art and Abolition With Bryonn Bain, Author of Rebel Speak: A Justice Movement Mixtape


Join us in exploring art and abolition, with host Max Rameau and artist, professor, writer, and prison abolitionist Bryonn Bain.

Bryonn talks with Max about his new book Rebel Speak: A Justice Movement Mixtape, and the multimedia production of his play Lyrics from Lockdown, playing at the Apollo Theatre on August 29th.

They also discuss the Prison Industrial Complex, organizing through the arts, the importance of mental health, and influences; including Albert Woodfox, Lani Gunier, and Kellis Parker. Artists mentioned include Maya Jupiter,  Liberation Family (artist Chen Lo) & Suckerpunch (Mic Crenshaw).

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Bryonn Bain 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 this year’s Emmy award for “LA Stories.” Playing over 40 characters in his one-man theater production, Lyrics From Lockdown is executive produced by Harry Belafonte, 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 work has been featured at the Apollo Theater, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, The Public Theater (NYC), National Black Theatre (Harlem), New Jersey Performing Arts Center (Newark), The Actor’s Gang Theater (Culver City), Los Angeles Theater Center (LATC), Festival de Liege (Belgium), M-1 Theater Festival (Singapore), Universidad de las Americas (Mexico) and Muteesa Royal University (Uganda), Rikers Island (New York), Marion Prison (Ohio), TEDX at Ironwood State Prison and Sing Sing Prison. His collaborators on stage and screen productions include Academy Award winners Jonathan Demme, Jim Isaac, Antoine Fuqua, and Tim Robbins, and influential artist/activists such as Scott Budnick, Danny Glover, Aloe Blacc, and rapper/actor Common (“Selma”). Author of three books, 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.

You can read more about the issues we explore on our podcast and much more at, the website of Partners for Dignity & Rights. See more of the work of host Max Rameau at Subscribe to The Next World for more news from the frontlines of movements for justice and liberation. Support the show at this link!