About Bryonn

Bryonn Bain


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 (“BlacKkKlansman”), and tells the story of Bain’s wrongful imprisonment through hip hop theater, blues, calypso, comedy and letters exchanged with fellow poet and friend, Nanon Williams – who was wrongfully sentenced to Death Row at 17 years old. For its record-breaking runs at The Actor’s Gang Theater in Los Angeles, his one-man show won the awards for “Best Solo Performance” from LA Weekly in 2018 and from the NAACP in 2019.


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 is the founding director of the Prison Education Program at UCLA, where he has developed and taught courses and programs in LA prisons including the California Institute for Women, Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall, Camp Joseph Scott and Central Juvenile Hall. As co-supervisor of the International Human Rights Law Clinic at UCLA School of Law, Bain guided the research, development and 2018 release of Women Beyond Bars: Reentry and Human Rights — a 100+ page report developed over two years with the CIW Think Tank he helped organize in the state’s oldest women’s prison in California. The report details the needs and resources of women returning from prison:



Bain’s 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 death row survivor Mumia Abu-Jamal and introduction by visionary legal scholar 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. Winning the Nuyorican Grand Slam Poetry Champion in 2000, Bain ranked #1 in the nation and second in the world during the 2000 International Poetry Slam. Bryonn has taught courses at Rikers Island, Sing Sing prison, DC Jail, Brooklyn Federal Detention Center, Brooklyn College, NYU, The New School and Columbia University — ranging from hip hop and spoken word poetry to critical perspectives on prisons. This fall, Bain will lecture and perform at the University of London (Birkbeck College of Law), University of Cambridge, and University of Oxford.


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 (“Silence of the Lambs”), Jim Isaac (“Return of the Jedi”), Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”) and Tim Robbins (“The Shawshank Redemption”), and influential artist/activists such as Scott Budnick (“The Hangover”), Danny Glover (“Lethal Weapon”), Aloe Blacc (“Blackish”) and rapper/actor Common (“Selma”).


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.



Actor, “Windows on the World,” (Feature Film), Directed by Michael Olmos Starring Edward James Olmos and Glynn Turman, Up Cal Entertainment, NYC, 2019 Generations of Cinematic Excellence Award, Method Film Festival, Beverly Hills, 2019
Actor/Writer, “On My Way,” (VR/360 Short Film), Directed by Gina Belafonte Executive Produced by Aloe Blacc, Produced by Sankofa.org and HuffPost/RYOT Official Selection: Global IMPACTFest Film Festival, El Paso/Los Angeles, 2018
Actor, “Chapter and Verse,” (Feature Film), Executive produced by Antoine Fuqua, Directed by formerly incarcerated Black Panther Jamal Joseph, Written by Daniel Beaty, Featuring Emmy award winner Loretta Divine (“Grey's Anatomy”), Omari Hardwick (“Power”) and Selenis Leyva (“Orange Is the New Black”), Harlem, New York, 2016
Performer, “BaaaddD Sonia,” (Documentary), Emmy nominated biopic of the life and work of Black Studies pioneer and Black Arts poet/activist Sonia Sanchez. Directed by Sabrina S. Gordon, Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater, Produced by Attie & Goldwater Productions and America Reframed on PBS (http://bit.ly/ARF_BSSanchez). Featuring Amiri Baraka, Questlove, Talib Kweli, Ruby Dee, Yasiin Bey (fka Mos Def), Nikki Giovanni, Haki Madhubuti, Jessica Care Moore and Ursula Rucker, 2015
Narrator/Producer “The Darkest Hour: The Impact of Isolation and Death Row” (Documentary), Directed and produced by Adolfo Cantu-Villarreal and Robyn Short Good Media Press/TZOM Films, https://vimeo.com/105865058, 2014
Actor, “Pig Hunt” (Feature Film) Directed by Academy Award winner James Isaac Up Cal/Epic Pictures. Produced by Nicola Miner and Robert M. Anderson, 2008
Performer/Producer, “Lyrical Minded 415,” (Documentary), Directed by Tania Cuevas Martinez, Produced by the San Francisco Unified School District, 2007
Actor, “Filmic Achievement,” (Feature Film) Directed by Kevin Kerwin, Best Picture, Stratford-Upon-Avon Film Festival and Nolita Film Festival, New York, 2005
Actor, “Hunting in America” Directed by Kona Khasu (Short Film), Boston, 2002
“LA Stories” Featuring Bryonn Bain and the UCLA Prison Education Program 
     with Giselle Fernandez, Spectrum News, Emmy Award, January 7, 2019
"Who’s Profiting from California’s Green Rush? Capitalizing on Cannabis and
     Incarceration," Route 66 for TRT World, Istanbul (Documentary News Feature),
https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=vBPCrSV9jp4, March 3, 2018
“Why Prosecutors Matter?” (Animated Short), Office of the Public Defender,
     Oakland, https://t.co/x8mlgW5kTAm.twitter.com/i/connect, April 2017
“The Tavis Smiley Show” with Academy Award winner Tim Robbins
      Harry Belafonte/The Actors Gang present Bain’s “tour de force,” February 2, 2016
“TEDX at Sing Sing Prison: Healthy Communities,” Directed by Jonathan Demme
       https://www.ted.com/tedx/events/10820, December 2014
“TEDX at Ironwood Prison: Infinite Possibilities,” Produced by Scott Budnick
      Featuring Richard Branson, California, May 14, 2014
“Microphone Fiends: Hip Hop and Spoken Word at NYU,” Fuse News TV
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h536HbhYqt8, April 22, 2013
“The Melissa Harris Perry Show: Obama’s Call to Action?” MSNBC
        Featuring journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner Trymaine Lee, March 1, 2013
"Here and Now," Interview with Khalil Gibran Muhammad, ABC News
     on-abcs-here-andnow/abclocal.go.com/wabc/story?id=8410092‎, February 1, 2012
“My Two Cents,” Host, talk show on politics, popular culture and current events
         Wrote and recorded original theme song, BET and Centric, Viacom Networks
“60 Minutes” Walking While Black: Interview with Mike Wallace, CBS News
        http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=suTXhLXrqYc, February 11, 2001
Writer/Performer, “Lyrics From Lockdown,” played 40+ characters in two unbelievable stories of wrongful imprisonment.  Executive Produced by Harry Belafonte
Directed by Gina Belafonte, LA Weekly and NAACP winner, Best Solo Performance 2018 and 2019, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and DC Jail, October 2018
Performer/Producer, “Lockdown Unplugged,” (Benefit Concert Performance)
Featuring MC Maya Jupiter, Black, Brown & Powerful: Freedom Dreams in Unequal Cities, Race and Capitalism Conference, Organized by Ananya Roy, LA Trade Technical College and Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy, April 26, 2018
Writer/Actor, “Lyrics From Lockdown,” The Ebony Repertory Theater (Theater)
Produced by the Center for Theater and Social Change, USC School of Dramatic Arts,
Benefit for Sankofa Summer School for girls at BJN Juvenile Hall, April 14, 2018

Writer/Actor/Director, “What It IZ: Hip Hop Theater Remix of The Wiz” (Theater)
LA Theater Company in collaboration with the CIW Prison Creative Writing Workshop, Produced by the UCLA departments of Theater, Film and Television, African American Studies, and Chicana/o Studies, Los Angeles, March and October 2017

Writer/Performer, “Lyrics From Lockdown,” (Theater), Executive Produced by Harry Belafonte, The Actor’s Gang Theater (Culver City), 2016-17, Freud Playhouse, (Los Angeles) 2015, The Grammy Museum at LA Live (Los Angeles) 2014, New Jersey Performing Arts Centre (Newark) 2014, The National Black Theatre (Harlem) 2013

Writer/Performer/Producer, “Lyrics From Lockdown,” (Theater), Co-Executive Directed and co-produced by Mei Ann Teo, Festival de Liege (Belgium) 2011
M-1 International Festival (Singapore) 2010

Actor, “Auction Block to Hip Hop” and “Platanos and Collard Greens,” (Theater) Directed by S. H. Seven, Produced by David Lamb, Between the Lines Productions
The longest running Off Broadway theater production, New York. 2007-2009
Performer/Director/Producer, “Lyrics On Lockdown.” (National Prison Tour)
Organized performing arts showcases and political education workshops on the prison industrial complex in public schools and prisons in 25 cities nationwide, 2001-2006
Writer/Actor/Producer, “What It IZ: A Hip Hop Theater Remix of The Wiz
Directed by Michael Dinwiddie, Dramaturgy by Imani Douglas, The Longwharf Theater, The Nuyorican Poets Café, Urban Stages Theater, New Haven-New York, 2002-2004

Performer/Founder, “Blackout Arts Showcase,” monthly New York City-wide series featuring independent hip hop/theater, spoken word, film, blues, rock and soul artists at CBGBs and Joe’s Pub at the New York Public Theatre.  New York City, 1997-2006
“Imagine Justice,” Capitol Mall, Sacramento and Folsom State Prison (Concert)
     In collaboration with Oscar/Grammy Award winner Common, J. Cole, Van Jones, for
     30,000 outside and 1200 incarcerated on the prison yard. August 21, 2017

“Eyes Wide Shut Mixtape,” Digital Album featuring youth at BJN Juvenile Hall
     In collaboration with Hip Hop founder DJ Kool Herc and MC Maya Jupiter:
     https://soundcloud.com/lvrdtrav/the-awakening-29-w-microphone-fiends-3102017, March 15, 2017

“Many Rivers to Cross,” Music, Art and Activism Festival, Produced by Sankofa.org,
     Featuring Carlos Santana, John Legend, TI and Harry Belafonte. October 1-2, 2016

“Life After Lockdown: Digital Mixtape,” executive produced by DJ Kool Herc
     A Prison Reentry Prototype, vimeo.com/87549311‎, 2015

Writer/Performer/Producer, “Got Things?” (Music Video), Directed by Abindigo
    Shabazz Bain, Co-produced by Joseph “Cello Joe” Chang, 2014

Writer/Performer/Producer, “Tears from a Star,” (Music Video), Produced by
    Arthametric, “Fragile” (Remix) by Sting, www.vimeo.com/m/81005979, 2012

“Don’t Be Scared: Music Inspired by the Motion Picture Pig Hunt”
      Produced by Skyfly/Auditory Sculpture (New York: Blackout Arts), 2008

“Next on the Mic”~ Live Jazz and Spoken Word, Produced by Jeff Robinson
      Featuring Quincy Troupe and Patricia Smith (New York Rounder Records), 2007

“Ancestors Watching,” (Music Video) Directed by Tania Cuevas-Martinez
     Featuring Anjali, Chad Moser and Climbing Poetree, Spanish Harlem, 2006

“Problem Child: The Philosophy and Opinions of Bryonn Bain,” Produced by
         Laurent “Ras Tippy” Alfred/The Boogie Men, (New York: Blackout Arts), 2005
Performed at over 250 universities and prisons worldwide 2001-2019

Emmy Award “LA Stories” ~ Spectrum News 2019

Best Solo Performance, NAACP Theater Award 2019

Best Solo Performance, LA Theater Award (LA Weekly/Stage Raw) 2018

Underground Scholars Initiative, Meritorious Contribution Award 2017

Culture of Liberation Award, Center for the Study of Political Graphics 2016

Prison Education Program Grant Award, Ford Foundation 2015

The Carter Center Delegation to Israel and Palestine 2014

Board of Directors, The Correctional Association of New York 2013

Board Award, California Association of Bilingual Educators (CABE) 2012

Official Selection, Festival de Liege, (Belgium) 2011

Official Selection, M-1 Theater Festival: Art and the Law, (Singapore) 2010

Official Selection, NYC Hip Hop Theater Festival, (New York) 2009

MC/Producer, Inaugural Spoken Word Concert for President Barack Obama 2008

National Prison Tour Grant Award, Open Society Institute 2001-2006

Named one of UTNE’s “30 Under 30 Changing Your Future” 2003

The Union Square Award ~ for Grassroots Art and Activism 2002 Grand Slam Poetry Champion, Nuyorican Poets Café (NYC) 2000
American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP)

Columbia University Black Alumni Association

Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network (AIYN)

Harvard Law School Alumni Association

Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA)

Actors Gang Prison Theater Project

Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC)

InsideOut Writers


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About Bryonn

Bryonn Bain BIO Bryonn Bain is Brooklyn’s own prison activist, actor, hip hop theater innovator and spoken word poetry champion. Described by Cornel West as ...