Prison Music Project
THE PRISON MUSIC PROJECT
In 2010, folk-singer and songwriter Zoe Boekbinder (they/them) visited New Folsom Prison for the first time. What they thought would be one interesting day turned into a decade-long collaborative project. Boekbinder visited the prison often over the next five years; performing and teaching music workshops quickly turned into the beginnings of collaborations with writers and musicians who were incarcerated within New Folsom's walls. Boekbinder collaborated on the first of these songs with Alex Batriz, and following that, was approached by many more writers about collaborations. This was the seed for the Prison Music Project and the culminating album, Long Time Gone, produced by Ani DiFranco. Out now on Righteous Babe Records, the album features work by nine incarcerated (and formerly incarcerated) writers. Scroll down for their bios.
The profits of Long Time Gone sales will benefit communities impacted by mass incarceration and the funds will be administered by the Southern Center for Human Rights. The contributing writers will decide, collectively, what projects will be funded. The writers own their work and will profit from royalties.
PRISON MUSIC PROJECT TOWN HALL
Announcing the Prison Music Project Town Hall
July 18 at 5pm PDT / 8pm EDT
A live-streamed panel with a few of the creators.
A safe space to ask questions about the project.
Moderated by Leyla McCalla
Panelists: Ani DiFranco, Nathen Jackson-Brown, Zoe Boekbinder
Guests calling from prison: Samual Brown, Bruce Dixon, and Spoon Jackson
Tune in live on the Righteous Babe Records Facebook
Submit questions by July 16th at 10am CDT here: https://forms.gle/Q1QpHXTjzSvw3hTV7
We will prioritize questions from people who have been impacted by incarceration.
The Prison Music Project is ten years in the making and, due to the content, we expect people to have opinions and feelings about it. In fact, we welcome it. We are responsible to the people whose stories we share with this work. The goal is to amplify the voices of incarcerated folks and, due to privilege and freedom, there are two white people (neither with any experience of incarceration longer than one night) at the helm of this project. While working intentionally to give power to our incarcerated collaborators, we know we have not done this flawlessly. We are accountable to communities impacted by incarceration and we are here to listen. We do not expect anyone’s emotional labor and we welcome and appreciate feedback.
At the core of this project is a belief that people are not defined by their mistakes. We believe in healing and harm-reduction instead of punishment.
PRISON MUSIC PROJECT SESSIONS: LONG TIME GONE ALBUM RELEASE CONCERT
The Prison Music Project Sessions: Long Time Gone Album Release Concert is now available on demand! Tickets benefit Sister Hearts Re-Entry Program and The Center for Life Without Parole Studies. Watch the full show featuring performances from Ani DiFranco, Zoe Boekbinder, Terence Higgins, free feral, and Launa Reed, as well as call-ins from incarcerated poets Spoon Jackson and Samual Brown and the faces and music of Alex Batriz, Abraham Banks, and Greg Gadlin via documentary footage. Emceed by Nate Dogg 916.
Donate to our incarcerated collaborators' commissaries
About Jacob John Allen
Jacob John Allen is an artist. He is a skilled classical guitarist, an accomplished illustrator, and a songwriter. He has an affinity for trains.
Write to Jacob at:
Jacob Allen K67439
P.O. Box 8103
San Luis Obispo, CA 93409-8103
Writer of Midnight Deal and Broken Vessel
About Abraham Banks
Abraham Banks is a loving & dedicated father, leader, writer, free thinker, revolutionary, Omnist, and believes in the liberation of all people from the tainted hands of oppression and tyranny. In his spare time he does a lot of studying, reading, and research in order to bring to light the wickedness that is covertly done in the dark by the powers that be. His song Breakthrough is a testimony of his life experiences and how they are perceived from his perspective. Check out the video and enjoy.
Write to Abraham at:
Abraham Banks T99238
California State Prison-Sacramento
P.O. Box 290066, Represa, CA 95671
Writer of Breakthrough
About Alex “Baby Shell Dogg” Batriz
Alex “Baby Shell Dogg” Batriz is from the Jungles in Los Angeles. He entered the foster system at a young age, then juvenile hall, and then prison. He has spent more time in institutions than not. He is free as of December 2018. He is a lyricist, freestyle rapper, and beat boxer.
About Ken Blackburn
Ken Blackburn was a professional drummer and used to tour with Lonnie Mack. He is a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter. He started writing songs in his 60’s, after many years in prison. He has a thick songbook and, if it weren’t for his incarceration, he might be considered one of the great songwriters of our time. His compositions feel classic the first time you hear them.
Write to Ken at:
Kenneth Blackburn D84879
RJ Donovan Correctional Facility
480 Alta Road
San Diego, CA 92179
Writer of All Over Again, Coffin Song, Long Time Gone, Just Another Link in the Chain
About Zoe Boekbinder
Nomadic at heart and a creator at their core, Zoe Boekbinder (they/them) was born on a farm into a family of four children. While music wasn't very present in their upbringing, Boekbinder recalls some of their first memories as making up songs. For them, music is as natural and as necessary as breath, and the way they engage as an activist. Boekbinder was raised, in part, by their grandfather — a Holocaust survivor. Having survived the horrific, prejudiced violence of his past, he instilled in Boekbinder a deep belief in justice, equality, and anti-racism. Songwriting has become their resistance language, a way to lift up the voices and stories of people who are marginalized by capitalism.
Using their music as a platform to bring light to stories and voices otherwise unheard, lost or forgotten, Boekbinder continues their empowering work from their hometown in New Orleans, LA, performing both as a solo artist and in collaborations with artists including Ani DiFranco, Amanda Palmer, Jason Webley, Neil Gaiman, Mal Blum, and Mirah.
About Nathen Jackson Brown
Nathen Jackson Brown, a.k.a. Nate Dogg 916 is a father, a husband, and a helper. He has a youtube channel where he speaks with other formerly incarcerated people about prison. In most episodes, he encourages anyone to reach out to him for help if they are struggling after being released. He hopes to open a re-entry project one day to provide housing, food, and support for people being released from prison.
About Samual Brown
Samual Brown has been in prison for over two decades. In that time, he has received numerous university degrees and he started several prison programs focused on self-improvement, preparing for release, and Restorative Justice. He is an accomplished poet, lyricist, and rapper. He also plays guitar and is a prose writer. He believes in the movement to re-envision justice in the US and the world. Despite his laudable work, he has been denied parole twice in three years.
Write to Samual at:
Samuel Brown P49627
Facility A & ASU, CSP – Los Angeles County A2-122
P.O. Box 4430, Lancaster, CA 93539-4430
Writer of Ain’t Trippin
About Bruce "Sincere" Dixon
Bruce “Sincere” Dixon is a black, Muslim American. He was raised in Sacramento and was institutionalized at a young age. He was 16 when he committed the crime that put him in prison, where he is to this day. He is a lyricist, freestyle rapper, and activist. Check out the video that he envisioned for his track, I Can’t Breathe.
Write to Bruce at:
Bruce Dixon P42926
California Medical Facillity
P.O. Box 2000
Vacaville, CA 95696-2000
Writer of I Can’t Breathe
About Greg Gadlin
Greg Gadlin is a lyricist and rapper. He grew up in Oakland, California. He entered the foster system at a young age because his father was incarcerated and his mother struggled with addiction. He received a third strike and, although he has never killed anyone, he has been condemned to die in prison - with a sentence of 967 years.
Write to Greg at:
Greg Gadlin G14047
Facility A & B, P.O. Box 5248
Corcoran, CA 93212
Writer of Monster
About Spoon Jackson
Spoon Jackson is a poet and published author. He co-wrote a memoir, called By Heart, with Judith Tannenbaum and published a book of poetry called Longer Ago. He is featured in the documentary, At Night I Fly and has a podcast by the same name. He also produces episodes for the podcast Uncuffed.
Write to Spoon at:
Spoon Jackson B92377
P. O. Box 4000
Vacaville, CA 95696-4000
Writer of Nowhere but Barstow and Prison
To further support a world without prisons, check out these organizations:
Southerners On New Ground
Women With A Vision
Voice of the Experienced
The Bail Project
Equal Justice Initiative