Lady Unchained is the performance name for Brenda Birungi, a black woman from South East London.
In 2008 at age 21, Brenda and her sister were in a nightclub. They were having fun when her sister began to get attacked. Brenda came to her defence and ended up going to prison for 11 months and spent 5 more months under supervision.
Whilst in prison, she would write notes to herself. She would later discover this was poetry. Upon leaving prison, Brenda founded Unchained Poetry, a place for people with experience of the justice system to meet and share their stories through poetry.
Originally, Lady Unchained didn’t know she had written poetry. It was only when she spoke to the charity Body and Soul that she realised she could do something with her experience rather than be angry about it.
Lady Unchained is open about her experience in prison and this is the stimuli from which she writes. Two of her poems, Road to Victory and Dear Mum can be found in the video link below.
She uses creativity to inform others of her experience in prison and creates opportunities for ex offenders like her to have their voices heard creatively. She inspires me as hearing personal experience in prison, especially from a black woman, gives me and encounter of the racist and failing system from the inside. It also challenges societies views on prisoners and also creates job opportunities for prisoners that often when leaving prison are not eligible for jobs. She is unafraid to speak about/make poems about hard topics surrounding incarceration including race, food, inequality etc.
Then, to further on from this, she just did. She said this isn’t good enough, let me change this and did. She created a creative space where ex prisoners are welcome and able to share their story too. This gives them the opportunity to ease back into society whilst not shying away from their past.