As a second-year student at Harvard University Law School, Bryonn Bain was arrested for a crime he didn’t commit.
He was arrested twice. Once for vandalism and once for outstanding warrants for arrest.
Now, he shares his story of wrongful imprisonment and racial profiling world-wide through lecture, music, poetry and theater.
Over 100 colleges and correctional facilities in the U.S., Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe have hosted Bain’s lectures and performances. After next week, Mercyhurst will be among them.
After being wrongfully incarcerated, Bain won a law suit against the New York Police Department, appeared in an interview on 60 Minutes and wrote “Walking While Black,” a Village Voice cover story.
Bain’s new book, “The Ugly Side of Beautiful: Rethinking Race and Prisons in America,” which is based on his experiences, is soon to be released.
Bain’s Lyrics on Lockdown Tour has reached prisons in 25 states and led to the creation of a series of university courses using poetry and other arts to educate those in correctional facilities about critical literacy. The program was initiated by Bain’s grassroots organization, Blackout Arts Collective.
Currently, Bain teaches for Harvard’s Dramatic Arts Division as a Visiting Lecturer. Among other universities and colleges, he has taught at Brooklyn College, New York University and Columbia University, providing courses on prison issues, hip hop and spoken word poetry.
Bain completed his juris doctorate at Harvard Law School and his master’s in urban politics and cultural studies at New York University. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Columbia University where he studied political science and African American studies.
The political science department, along with support from the criminal justice, English and religious studies departments, are sponsoring Bain’s visit to Mercyhurst.
Political science professors Natasha Duncan, Ph.D., and Rolfe Peterson, Ph.D., are responsible for arranging the event.
According to Duncan, in addition to speaking about his personal experience, Bain is supposed to address issues surrounding the high rates of incarceration, specifically of minorities and the injustices of the U.S. criminal justice system.
Peterson expressed the importance of the speaker.
“Dr. Duncan and I felt that one of the most pressing ‘freedom’ issues in American society is the criminal justice system, and specifically, we were interested in a discussion of the challenges the United States faces in regards to mass incarceration rates, race, and freedom denied,” he said. “Mr. Bain is a leading voice on the US prison system and its influence in society.”
Along with Bain’s public lecture, Students will participate in a student-practitioner panel Tuesday, Oct. 23, where there will be a discussion of challenges in criminal justice and the prison system as well as a discussion on the ethics of crime and punishment.
“(From Bain’s lecture) we hope students will have a greater understanding of the operation and impact of the prison system,” said Peterson. “Students in general will have a better understanding of the important intersection of race and crime and punishment in U.S. society from a leading voice on the subject.”
Bain’s presentation, “Freedom Denied,” is free and open to the public. The event will be at the Taylor Little Theater on Wednesday, Oct. 24 at 7 p.m.
For more information about Bain and his experiences go to http://www.lyricsfromlockdown.com.