Dahlak Brathwaite was a recent college graduate and a rising star on the hip hop and slam poetry scene when he was pulled over with a bag of magic mushrooms in his car. In his native California, this meant entering a drug recovery program to avoid a felony conviction.

“This wasn’t the path that I had imagined for myself,” Brathwaite says. “I wasn’t an at-risk youth, I’d never even gotten suspended in high school, and I found myself walking the line of freedom and jail. I had just graduated from college and had to go back and receive totally different type of education.”

Entering a program where he was constantly being told that he was a criminal and a drug addict, Brathwaite even started to believe it himself. Fortunately, he had his art to turn to. He appeared on HBO’s “Def Poetry Jam” and the Brave New Voices international poetry slam, and released an album called “Spiritrials” that told his story in hip hop form.

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