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A Fiery Reminder That Black Lives Matter From a Hip-Hop Artist Rhyming Behind Bars

Rapper Richie Reseda hasn’t let a 10-year prison sentence stop him from making his message heard.

Image via Reseda's Tumblr.

An imprisoned hip hop artist currently serving a 10-year sentence in a California state penitentiary released a track decrying the prevalence of state violence against black communities. The song, 28 Hours, by Richie Reseda, was co-released by Black Lives Matter and Los Angeles-based art collective G.R.E.E.D.Y. City last month. With lyrics that reference the deaths of Renisha McBride, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and others, the song represents a passionate, politically charged condemnation of police violence and mass incarceration.

“Suicide, genocide at the same time,” sings Reseda. “No one’s on my side so I throw up gang signs. Red and blue lights, yeah, they flashing signs too. / That’s the biggest gang on Earth who pulled up right behind you.”

Reseda, born Richard Edmond, was 19 years old when he was first imprisoned in 2011 on charges of kidnapping and armed robbery. He was facing multiple life sentences, but his lawyers, aided by the efforts of a local activist community, were able to argue successfully for a reduced sentence of 10 years.

Patrisse Cullors, the founder of Dignity and Power Now, a non-profit organization dedicated to ending mass incarceration, and a co-founder of Black Lives Matter, says she has been mentoring Reseda since he was 14 years old, when he was a student at L.A.’s Cleveland High School. Now, Reseda is also organizing the prison population, helping prisoners get involved with the organization.

“A few men who had been inside the prison are now Dignity and Power Now members because of Richard,” says Cullors. He’s also founded a prisoner-led program called Success Stories, to rehabilitate people who are inside.

Reseda is producing his debut album while incarcerated. Black Lives Matter and G.R.E.E.D.Y. City will be releasing the entire record, Forgotten But Not Gone, in the near future. ‘28 Hours’ offers a brief preview of the ideological scope of Forgotten But Not Gone, which is specifically American in its intent, but global in its perspective.

“There’s robots in the sky, like Osama’s in the hood,” he sings on the track. “Panorama to Iraq, Ferguson, Inglewood. The hills have eyes so militarized they shot her where she stood.”

Cullors says the album captures the spirit of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the current political moment in which we live.

“It's very purposeful that we're releasing ‘28 Hours’ in the middle of this movement,” says Cullors. “It’s the story of a young black person who's behind bars, the process of being taken from his community and family at such a young age, and what it means to have to redefine your life, your purpose, inside a cage.”

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