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Denton Black Film Festival

Image from the movie, 16 Bars

Bars won’t hold: Hip-hop artist finds art, beauty making music with inmates

Todd “Speech” Thomas traveled to a Virginia prison to make music with a handful of inmates. He went back home to Atlanta with a new collaboration, a deeper sense of grace and a hunger to share what he learned with the world.

Speech, the MC of the award-winning hip-hop band Arrested Development, got the idea for a 10-day intensive music workshop while watching television. The result of the project is documented in the film 16 Bars, directed by Sam Bathrick. The feature-length documentary made its Texas premiere during the Denton Black Film Festival on Friday night at the Campus Theatre, and Speech did a Q&A with the audience after the screening.

“My manager and I were independently watching Lisa Ling’s This Is Life on CNN,” he said. “There was this one episode about a daddy-daughter dance for Valentine’s Day in prison. I was like, ‘Where is this?’ I didn’t know this was something that ever happened in a prison in this country. It moved me.”

Read the full story from the Denton Record-Chronicle. 

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