About American Prison Artist C-Note

Donald “C-Note” Hooker is an award-winning American prison artist whose work provides a powerful perspective on incarceration, the human condition, and the transformative power of creativity.

C-Note is a multifaceted artist celebrated for his prowess in poetry, playwriting, performance, and visual arts, earning him the moniker “King of Prison Hip Hop.” Born in Los Angeles in 1965, C-Note discovered his artistic talent while in solitary confinement in 2000. His creations have been showcased and appreciated globally, from Alcatraz to Berlin. Recognized by Google Search in 2017, he holds the distinction of being labeled both America’s and the world’s most prolific prisoner-artist.

His impactful art has transformed lives, rescued souls, and generated substantial funds for rehabilitation and reparations. Moreover, he has left an indelible mark on the fashion industry and achieved a significant milestone as the first incarcerated artist to have his artwork featured on two Silicon Valley billboards in 2021 and 2022, solidifying his legacy in the heart of the tech world.

Transforming Lives

In 2015, C-Note wrote and performed “Birth of A Salesman,” the captivating opening act of Redemption in Our State of Blues, a theatrical production staged by prisoners at California State Prison, Los Angeles County. C-Note’s visionary leadership not only sparked an encore performance but also ignited a chain of events that led to the establishment of a groundbreaking prisoner re-entry program, fueled by a stream of funding running into the millions—a testament to the enduring impact of his inspiration.

The inception of “BREAK IT TO MAKE IT (BITMI): Busting Barriers for the Incarcerated Project, Los Angeles, California,” heralded a new era in prisoner rehabilitation. This pioneering initiative offers two years of free housing courtesy of the Los Angeles Mission, coupled with two years of complimentary education at Los Angeles City College. Furthermore, participants have the unique opportunity to engage in paid theatrical work through the jails to jobs program, collaborating with the esteemed theater ensemble, The Strindberg Laboratory.

The ripple effect of this program extends far beyond its immediate beneficiaries, touching the lives of countless individuals—both those directly impacted by the criminal justice system and those who have remained unscathed.

Rescuing Souls

In 2017, Category 5 Hurricane Harvey struck Texas, causing massive flooding, including at Correctional facilities. However, correctional facilities are restricted to the public, so Harvey’s devastation was recorded. Hurricane Harvey, along with Hurricane Katrina, a decade early inspired C-Note to create a Public Service Announcement (PSA), During the Flood.

During the Flood has been used as an evacuation, PSA, for prisons by grassroots activists during Category 5 Hurricane Dorian in 2019 and Category 4 Hurricane Ida in 2021.

Generating Substantial Funds for Rehabilitation and Reparations.

(2021) California Coalition for Women Prisoners Headquarters, D. Hafash Al-Amin and Anna D. Smith with a wood block of C-Note’s 2018 paintoem, “Today We Are Sisters.”

In 2017, while listening to his local public radio station KCRW, he learned about California’s forced sterilization law, 1909-1979, and that officials were seeking out victims to give them reparations. During the course of the broadcast, it was revealed, from 2006-2010, 150 California women prisoners had been forcibly sterilized, but no effort was being made to give them reparations.

This sense of injustice spurred C-Note to create the 2018 paintoem (painting + poem), Today We Are Sisters. The premise for both the painting and poem was the temporary unification of Pro-choice and Pro-life advocates in the service of the women prisoners to fight for them receiving reparations. 

Today We Are Sisters, the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Film producer Erika Cohn’s 2020 documentary Belly of the Beast, along with other advocates, became the catalyst for the California legislation to pass a $7.5M reparations bill that was signed into law in 2021. It became the first time in US history that women prisoners were compensated for forced sterilization in the form of reparations.

Indelible Mark on the Fashion Industry

From 2019-2020, C-Note collaborated with Makenzie Stiles, a senior fashion design student at the prestigious Columbus College of Art & Design (CCAD), for her thesis final, a fashion line called Mercy. It was the first time in the CCAD’s 145-year-old history that a fashion line was created using Prison art. 

Covid-19 indoor health restrictions in the spring of 2020 canceled fashion shows, including the CCAD 2020 Fashion Show. This prevented Stiles and C-Note from making Catwalk history by having models walk the runway dressed in a fashion line that has Prison art incorporated into the clothing line.

Artwork featured on two Silicon Valley billboards in 2021 and 2022

(2021) “Look Up!” billboard art exhibition, featuring C-Note’s, “Incarceration Nation”
(2022) “Look Up!” 2, Hope & Beauty billboard art exhibition, featuring C-Note’s, “Colored Girl Warholed.”

Besides billboards, C-Note has had his work featured on a mural, and on the cover of a book.

(2021) Denver, Colorado, Art for Redemption mural. The mural features C-Note’s 2021 work Paula Picassa.
(2022) Art for Redemption’s Prison art coffee table book features C-Note’s 2021, “Paula Picassa” on its cover.


Donald “C-Note” Hooker’s journey is a testament to the indomitable human spirit and art’s extraordinary power to transcend boundaries. From within the confines of prison, he has not only transformed his own life but has ignited a movement of rehabilitation, activism, and justice. His art serves as a window into the complexities of incarceration, offering both poignant commentary and a beacon of hope.  

Whether it’s rescuing souls from the devastation of natural disasters, generating funds to heal past injustices, or breaking barriers in the fashion industry, C-Note’s impact reaches far beyond prison walls. He has proven that art can be a tool for change, reparation, and ultimately, redemption. And with his art etched onto the billboards of Silicon Valley, his message resonates with the very heart of innovation and possibility. C-Note’s story reminds us that even in the most challenging circumstances, creativity can illuminate a path towards a better future.