Marlon Peterson

Cindy Seip

Marlon Peterson grew up in 1980s Crown Heights, New York, raised by Trinidadian immigrants. Amid the routine violence that shaped his neighborhood, Peterson became a high-achieving and devout child. But at 14 he was raped by a man at gunpoint, and in the aftermath of the trauma, a series of choices led to Peterson’s first arrest, getting shot, and his participation in a robbery that resulted in two murders. Nineteen-year-old Peterson was charged, convicted, and served seven years in prison. While incarcerated, he immersed himself in anti-violence activism, education, and prison abolition work. In his memoir, Bird Uncaged: An Abolitionist’s Freedom Song (Bold Type Books), Peterson challenges the typical “redemption” narrative and assumptions about justice. With vulnerability and insight, he uncovers the many cages created and maintained by American society. Kirkus called it a “worthwhile contribution to evolving conversations on race and criminal justice.”