Brer Rabbit and Jonny 5 of Flobots
Brer Rabbit (Stephen Brackett) and Jonny 5 (James Laurie) are lead emcees of the Flobots, the Denver-based alternative hip-hop band known for their platinum single, “Handlebars,” and for their commitment to grassroots social change. In addition to touring and performing with the full band, Brer Rabbit and Jonny 5 also appear as frequent speakers, lecturers, and facilitators at conferences, trainings, and academic institutions. Regardless of the venue or audience, Flobots use their expertise in applying interactive techniques to immerse all those present in an experience of their shared power.
In 2007, Flobots founded Youth On Record (formerly Flobots.org), an organization that offers musical training and recording facilities as a tool for youth development for Denver’s at-risk communities. In 2014, Flobots created the NOENEMIES project, a series of public workshops dedicated to recovering the power of collective song as a tactic for social movements.
Bracket and Laurie met in 1987 at Bradley Elementary School where they initiated their first collaboration: a comic book universe and publishing company called Tymeline Press. In high school, the friends shifted their focus to hip-hop. It was this passion that would crystallize into Flobots.
The duo launched the band in the midst of the 2004 election, seeking to use concerts to register and mobilize young voters. Flobots recorded their first full-length album, Fight With Tools, in 2007. The album’s meteoric success led to a record deal, international touring, constant radio play, and appearances on late night television. Since that time, Flobots have utilized the spotlight to shine a light on the needs of their local community and beyond, and have treated the stage as a platform from which to bolster positive social movements.
Brackett graduated from Colorado State University in 2001 with a degree in philosophy and a minor in sculpture. In addition to being a musician and frequent lecturer, he is a licensed teacher, an avid dancer, a leader in the National Training Institute and movement incubator Momentum, and an experienced stage, screen, and voice actor. He has served on the Board of Directors of Youth On Record for the past 10 years.
Laurie graduated Brown University in 2000 with a degree in Africana studies. In addition to being an emcee, his career has involved moonlighting as a community organizer, media columnist, talk-radio host, and storyteller. He has a passion for group-centered language acquisition, and is the co-creator of a weekly Spanish/English conversation exchange and karaoke night, as well as an experimental series of language-immersion game nights. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for Project Worthmore, a non-profit fostering self-sufficiency for refugees in Denver.
The Flobots released their fourth album, NOENEMIES, in the spring of 2017. Stay connected at www.flobots.com and on Flobots official Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.
SPEECH TITLES AND DESCRIPTIONS
TOGETHER WE RISE [Diversity]
When Stephen Bracket (Brer Rabbit) and Jamie Laurie (Jonny 5) met in elementary school, they had no idea that they were embarking on a 30-plus-year friendship that would weave together social activism, non-profit leadership, and careers as professional rappers. Nor could they have anticipated how they would each have to navigate the complex web of invisible boundaries and minefields laid out for them – for all of us – by a society fragmented by profound historical wounds and competing visions for the future.
In this presentation about diversity, Brer Rabbit and Jonny 5 share experiences and stories from their unique friendship to explore and demonstrate how we can and must learn to use our differences to grow as a community. The two explore how building a solid foundation of trust has helped them to traverse life’s often-rocky terrain, how through each other they have come to better understand their own personal identities and cultural heritages, what family trauma and Marvel comics have taught them about The Universal, and more.
NOENEMIES – NEGATIVE SPACE AS CANVAS [Empowerment]
Today’s digital landscape sorts us into “sides.” More than ever, it seems that having an opinion means being at war, and too often joining a community means silencing some other aspect of us. Seeking to find one’s voice can feel confusing, overwhelming, and isolating.
In this presentation about empowerment, Stephen Bracket (Brer Rabbit) and Jamie Laurie (Jonny 5) immerse us in a different way of looking at the world. Through historical references and personal stories, Brer Rabbit and Jonny 5 challenge us to see how communities thrive because of, rather than in spite of, the diverse stories and experiences of the people in them. See how sharing our hearts does not have to be derailed by the clashing of viewpoints, and join in recommitting ourselves to the human family and holding a deep reverence for the possibility of human transformation.
THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING [Creativity]
It’s 2018 and everywhere our lives are mitigated and managed by screens. We are more connected and yet more lonely.
For artists, technology has lowered barriers of entry and made it easier than ever to share with one another: to be watched, seen, and assessed. This presents tremendous opportunity for each one of us to have a transformative impact on the world. And yet it can also be overwhelming. How do we avoid the biggest pitfalls of the internet age and let our lights shine truest and brightest?