Mass incarceration in the United States has grown to unprecedented proportions. While it has long plagued communities of color, it is increasingly a socioeconomic issue ravaging families in working and poor communities nationwide. Yet the inhumane conditions incarcerated men, women and children face every day are marginalized in the mainstream media and broader public conversation. We need your support for this historic collaboration between Belafonte Enterprises, the Correctional Association of New York, the Center for Nuleadership on Urban Solutions and the NAACP in the campaign to “Raise the Age” at which children can be charged and incarcerated as adults. Today, 16 and 17 year old boys and girls are incarcerated at facilities with adults like Rikers Island prison colony. New York and North Carolina are the only two states left in the nation that charge minors as adults.
The examples of two very wise men, Paul Robeson and Harry Belafonte, remind us: “Artists are the gate keepers of truth.” The latter joins us in sharing the responsibility of making sure the stories of those unjustly incarcerated are not lost on our watch. Lyrics from Lockdown is the true story of Bryonn Bain and Nanon Williams. The New York Times reviewed, “From the first number in which ‘brothers harden up their hearts, on Marcus Garvey Boulevard,’ Mr. Bain has something to say and says it eloquently…the story of (Bain’s) ridiculously unjustified 2002 arrest and detainment by the New York Police Department as a spoken-word-poetry and musical solo show, heavy on the hip-hop but including calypso and blues.”
As we link the arts and activism with this extraordinary work, your support is critical in making sure this impassioned, critically acclaimed, multimedia production with intergenerational appeal realizes its full potential. The vision of Lyrics From Lockdown that you can help us to realize includes:
1. Opportunities at correctional facilities, public schools, faith-based venues.
This work appeals to many who do not have the means to pay for tickets. Nevertheless, they should have the opportunity to experience this transformative piece and the community town hall/talkbacks that follow;
2. National Tour.
Reaching cities across the U.S. to mobilize support and work with other correctional organizations on related issues in our communities, and work to heal, inspire and inform;
3. Cinematic Presentation.
Bringing this story to either film or television will allow us to reach a wider audience and to ultimately generate much broader impact with this urgent work.
As we build this movement to end what Michelle Alexander describes so poignantly as “the new Jim Crow,” we look forward to working with you to inspire hearts and minds in our communities and all others impacted by this crisis. Thank you for your support.
Gina Belafonte and Ben Jealous