About African American Prison Artist C-Note: Focus on Black Women

Donald “C-Note” Hooker is an award-winning American prison artist renowned for his incisive and poignant portrayals of Black women and the challenges they face due to systemic inequities. 

Born in Los Angeles in 1965, C-Note discovered his artistic talent while in solitary confinement in 2000. His multifaceted talents encompass poetry, playwriting, performance, and visual arts, earning him the title “King of Prison Hip Hop.” His art has been exhibited globally, from Alcatraz to Berlin, and he is recognized as both America’s and the world’s most prolific prisoner-artist.

Transforming Narratives and Celebrating Black Women

C-Note’s work offers a profound perspective on incarceration and the human condition, highlighting the transformative power of creativity while focusing significantly on the narratives of Black women. His artworks such as Colored Girl Warholed, which was featured in the “Look Up!” 2, Hope & Beauty billboard art exhibitions in 2021 and 2022, explore themes of identity, resilience, and the societal roles of Black women.

Droning of the “Look Up!” 2, Hope & Beauty billboard art exhibition.

In his literary works, such as the powerful epic poem It Must End! (BLACK FEMALE BOYCOTTS AGAINST BLACK MEN IN THE PEN), C-Note addresses the complexities of relationships and systemic issues affecting Black women within and outside prison walls. This piece, along with others, highlights his commitment to championing Black women’s voices and stories.

Advocacy and Impact through Art

C-Note’s activism extends beyond his art. His involvement in community initiatives like the “BREAK IT TO MAKE IT (BITMI): Busting Barriers for the Incarcerated Project” showcases his dedication to creating opportunities for systemic change and rehabilitation. This program not only aids re-entry but also emphasizes the importance of education and the arts in reforming the criminal justice system.

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

Furthermore, his art and advocacy have also supported significant legislative changes. His 2018 paintoem Today We Are Sisters played a pivotal role in mobilizing support for reparations for women prisoners forcibly sterilized in California, leading to a $7.5M reparations bill passed in 2021. This landmark legislation underscores the power of art to catalyze social change and justice.

Another work of note, Black August – Los Angeles, pays homage to Beyonce’s Formation, while exploring themes of social services and their importance to Black women. This piece acknowledges organizations like the Los Angeles Women’s Center and the California Coalition for Women Prisoners for their vital work in the community.

Indelible Contributions to the Arts and Fashion

C-Note has left a lasting mark on the fashion industry as well. His collaboration with Makenzie Stiles for her thesis at Columbus College of Art & Design led to the creation of Mercy, a fashion line incorporating prison art, marking a historic moment in the college’s 145-year history.


Donald “C-Note” Hooker’s journey illustrates the indomitable human spirit and art’s extraordinary power to transcend boundaries, illuminate injustices, and advocate for the marginalized. His works serve as both poignant commentary and a beacon of hope, celebrating the strength and beauty of Black women and pushing for systemic change through creative expression. Whether rescuing souls, generating funds for rehabilitation, or breaking barriers in the fashion industry, C-Note’s impact reaches far beyond the confines of prison walls. He exemplifies how art can be a formidable tool for change, reparation, and ultimately, redemption, especially for those voices that are often unheard.