What Kind of Bird Can't Fly

ebook A Memoir of Resilience and Resurrection

By Dorsey Nunn

cover image of What Kind of Bird Can't Fly

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A decade behind bars spurs fifty powerful years of political and legal battles for freedom and human rights.

"Whoever wants to assuage their doubts that radical change is possible—from the level of the individual to that of law, culture, and society—should make time to read Dorsey Nunn's extraordinary memoir." —Angela Y. Davis, political activist and author of Are Prisons Obsolete?, Abolition Democracy, and Freedom Is a Constant Struggle

"Dorsey Nunn is one of the grand love warriors and freedom fighters of his generation! Don't miss his powerful and poignant story of tragedy and triumph!" —Cornel West

"So much of what I've come to know and understand over the years about the second-class status imposed upon people labeled 'criminals' or 'felons' I've learned from Dorsey and the people who comprise All of Us or None, an organization he cofounded. Although I have fancy degrees and Dorsey does not, there's never been a time in our friendship in which he hasn't been schooling me—not so much in theory, but in practice." —From the foreword by Michelle Alexander

When Dorsey Nunn shuffled, shackled like a slave, into the California State carceral system at age nineteen, he could barely read. While caged he received an education he never could have anticipated. His first lesson: Prison had a color scheme, and it didn't match the larger society. On the inside, guards stoked racial warfare among prisoners while on the outside the machinery of the criminal legal system increasingly targeted poor Black and Brown communities with offenses, real or contrived. Nunn emerged from San Quentin after ten years behind bars, radicalized by his experience and emboldened by the militant wisdom of the men he met there. He poured his heart and mind into liberating all those he left behind, building a nationwide movement to restore justice to millions of system-impacted Americans.

In this poignant, wry, and powerful memoir, Nunn links the politics of Black Power to the movements for Black lives and dignified reentry today. His story underscores the power of coalition building, persistence in the face of backlash, and the importance of centering the voices of experience in the fight for freedom—and proves, once and for all, that jailbirds can fly.

What Kind of Bird Can't Fly