BRYONN BAIN is Brooklyn’s own prison activist, spoken word poet, hip hop artist, actor, author and educator. Described by Cornel West as an artist who “…speaks his truth with a power we desperately need to hear,” Bain’s discussions and debates have aired weekly in 28 million homes worldwide on BET’s award-winning talk show My Two Cents. His interviews have included guests including Jim Jones, LL Cool J, Snoop Dogg, Ciara, Damon Dash, Malik Yoba, Omali Yeshitela and Malik Zulu Shabazz.
Wrongfully imprisoned during his second year at Harvard Law, Bryonn sued the NYPD, was interviewed by Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes, and wrote the Village Voice cover story – “Walking While Black” – which drew the largest response in the history of the nation’s most widely-read progressive newspaper. Bain’s grassroots organization, Blackout Arts Collective, which developed the annual Lyrics on Lockdown Tour, has reached prisons in 25 states, and spawned a series of university courses using the arts to teach critical literacy in correctional facilities. His new book, The Ugly Side of Beautiful: Rethinking Race and Prisons in America, was published in 2013 by Third World Press.
Bryonn has lectured and performed at over 100 colleges and correctional facilities in the U.S., Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe. Bain founded the Lyrical Minded project — which brings hip hop, theater and spoken word to high schools in New York, San Francisco and Boston. A Nuyorican Grand Slam Poetry Champion, Bryonn ranked #1 in the nation and placed second in the world during the 2000 International Poetry Slam. Having taught courses on hip hop, spoken word and the prison crisis, at Brooklyn College, New York University, The New School, Columbia University and on the Brooklyn Campus of Long Island University, Bain taught as a Visiting Lecturer for Harvard University’s Dramatic Arts Division before he was invited to facilitate organizing the Prison Education Initiative at New York University.
Bain played a Nat Turner-inspired cult leader in the award winning thriller Pig Hunt. Directed by Academy Award winner Jim Isaac (The Fly, Return of the Jedi), Bryonn was lauded byVariety Magazine for the “stand out” performance in the film. His own poetry is featured in the soundtrack and on the latest album by rock legend Les Claypool of Primus. Bain’s one-man multimedia show – LYRICS FROM LOCKDOWN (Official Selection, NYC Hip Hop Theater Festival) – tells the story of his wrongful incarceration through hip hop, theater, spoken word poetry, calypso, classical music, and letters exchanged with a fellow poet and friend, Nanon Williams, sentenced to Death Row at 17 years old. After nearly 20 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit, a federal judge recently ordered Nanon’s release — one year after the show’s New York premiere at The Public Theater. Developed in prisons, public schools and universities nationwide, the show has sold-out on three continents and received extraordinary reviews worldwide.
Watch Bryonn’s performance on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry show.