Bryonn Bain is a prison activist, spoken word poet, hip hop artist, actor, author and educator. Bain’s discussions and debates have aired on BET’s award-winning talk show “My Two Cents,” where his guests have included Jim Jones, LL Cool J and Snoop Dogg to name a few. Bryonn has lectured and performed at over 100 colleges and correctional facilities around the world. Upon launching the “Lyrics on Lockdown” national prison tour/campaign, Bain created a university course by the same name that he taught at NYU, The New School, Columbia to link students to prisoners at Rikers Island, and has performed the hip hop theater/spoken word production “Lyrics from Lockdown” (executive produced by Gina and Harry Belafonte) for sold-out theaters on three continents worldwide.
Described by Cornel West as an artist who “…speaks his truth with a power we desperately need to hear,” Bryonn Bain is Brooklyn’s own hip hop theater innovator, spoken word poetry champion, prison activist, actor, author and educator. Wrongfully imprisoned during his second year at Harvard Law School, Bryonn successfully sued the NYPD, interviewed with Mike Wallace on “60 Minutes,” and wrote the Village Voice cover story – “Walking While Black” – and received over 100,000 replies — the largest response in the history of the nation’s most widely-read progressive newspaper.
Bain reached prisons in 25 states on his annual tour to prisons and communities, and inspired and encourage university courses using poetry to build critical literacy in prisons nationwide. His one-man multimedia production, Lyrics From Lockdown – executive produced by Harry Belafonte – tells the story of Bain’s wrongful imprisonment through hip hop theater, spoken word poetry, calypso and classical music, as well as lyrics and letters exchanged with fellow poet and friend, Nanon Williams. Sentenced to Death Row at 17, and after more than 25 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit, a federal judge finally ordered Nanon’s release in November 2010 — one year after the NYC premiere of Bain’s production at The Public Theater. Developed in prisons, public schools and universities nationwide, the show has received extraordinary reviews, sold out on three continents with standing ovations in Europe, Asia and Africa. www.LyricsfromLockdown.com.
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 (Culver City), the Los Angeles Theater Center (LATC), Festival de Liege (Belgium), M1 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. After teaching the first hip hop and spoken word workshop in the Dramatic Arts at Harvard University, Bain began consulting Columbia University’s Center for Justice and School of Law as a Visiting Scholar, and founded the prison education program offering college degrees from NYU to men incarcerated in upstate New York. Bain co-supervises the UCLA International Human Rights Law Clinic, and serves as faculty advisor for the Justice Work Group and developing a UCLA Center for Justice.
Celebrated as “poet laureate of the hip hop generation” by NAACP President Benjamin Jealous, Bryonn’s discussions aired weekly in over 20 million homes worldwide on BET’s award-winning talk show My Two Cents. His interviews have included figures such as Mike Wallace, Tavis Smiley, LL Cool J, Tricia Rose, Dolores Huerta, Tim Robbins, Malik Yoba, Snoop Dogg, Nelson George and Harry Belafonte. Winner of the 1999 Boston Grand Slam Championship and 2000 Nuyorican Grand Slam Poetry Championship, Bryonn ranked #1 in the nation and second in the world during the 2000 International Poetry Slam. His work has earned grants from the Ford, Open Society, Mellon and Bertha foundations. His first book, The Prophet Returns, honors the legacy of Kahlil Gibran and the countless voices. His first book, The Prophet Returns, honors the legacy of Kahlil Gibran and the countless voices Bain has worked with behind bars nationwide for nearly three decades. His second book, The Ugly Side of Beautiful: Rethinking Race and Prison in America, is published by Third World Press with a foreword by Mumia Abu-Jamal and introduction by Lani Guinier. His latest book, Fish & Bread/Pescado y Pan, is a bilingual, hip hop education children’s book published by Brown Girl’s Books.
Bryonn has taught at Brooklyn College, NYU, The New School, Long Island University, and Columbia University ranging from hip hop and spoken word poetry to critical perspectives on the prisons and policing, and has lectured and performed at over 200 colleges and correctional facilities in the United States, and for sold-out audiences in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe.