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Rudy Bankston

Founder at i am We Coaching and Mentoring

Roderick “Rudy” Bankston is a committed educator, entrepreneur, Restorative Justice practitioner, and writer. His powerful story describes his experience as a survivor of the school-to-prison pipeline and surfaces and explores intersecting themes of identity, equity, justice, trauma and resiliency. Wrongly convicted and sentenced to life in prison at 19 years old, Rudy spent 20 years in prison before winning back his freedom on appeal.

After his release from prison in 2015, Rudy began working for the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD); first as a Community Liaison at Memorial High School. He added a second position, guiding students within ‘Restore’, the district’s expulsion abeyance program. The following year, he transitioned into a Central Office position as a Restorative Justice Coach to support Restorative approaches across the District. He left MMSD in August 2019 and continues his work engaging Restorative Justice as a founding member of SmallFire, LLC. and founder of i Am We Classics and i Am We Coaching & Mentoring, LLC. Rudy has served as an adjunct professor at Edgewood College and currently is a consultant with the National Equity Project, serves on the board for the National Association of Community and Restorative Justice (NACRI), and is a member of the Black Educators Network. Rudy’s published works include a novel, Shed So Many Tears; a collection of Haiku, Snippets of Soul in Seventeen Syllables; and a book of poetry, Buried Alive. His books are available for purchase through Finally, March 2020 marked his 5th year of freedom. May 2020 marked another important milestone: the end of his parole.