Dear Free Minds Friends,We have had a busy spring here at Free Minds, and we can’t believe how the time is passing! Recently, formerly incarcerated Free Minds members led their 8th poetry reading as part of our booming Community Outreach initiative, “On the Same Page: Free Minds Poetry in the Community and the Classroom.”Free Minds Reentry members are committed to education, awareness, and to stopping the cycle of youth incarceration. Using poetry as a tool for healing and preventing violence, “On the Same Page” unites diverse audiences in DC and begins a vital dialogue to find community based solutions. Reading works from our literary journal They Call Me 299-359: Writings from Incarcerated Youth of Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop Free Minds members lead participants in a discussion on the causes of youth entering the criminal justice system. Recently our Free Minds poets took their powerful message to youth in the juvenile justice system at DC’s Youth Services Center. The ability to share from their past experiences to help others has been life-changing. Free Minds member Dashon describes why he facilitates “On The Same Page” sessions: “It allows me to help youth avoid the same path that I was on when I was their age and gives them a start on a new road. I show them that doing positive is always more fruitful.” Recent “On the Same Page” events have also been held at Bell Multicultural High School, Booker T. Washington Public Charter School, and Georgetown Law Criminal Justice Clinic. But that’s not all we’ve been up to! Some of our other recent activities include:
We are continually awed not only by the achievements of our members but also by the breadth of support in the community. We could not do as much nor reach as many people without your generosity and belief in the transformative power of writing. Thank you so much!
Dear Free Minds Friends,
We can’t believe it’s already turning into spring! Free Minds has had an active few months in the Reentry phase of our program. We couldn’t do it without your support, and we’re excited to share a few achievements with you here:
Your support not only helps us to provide opportunities for members returning home from prison, it sends a powerful message of your belief in their abilities to choose positive new life paths. We are so grateful!
You can stay up to date by liking us on facebook, visiting our website, and reading new poems every week on our writing blog.
Free Minds has been staying busy this fall, with new initiatives both inside the jail and out. We want to share with you a few highlights from our Reentry Support phase, which has been supported by this project.
We are so grateful for your commitment and support that sustains us and makes these programs possible. Consider making a donation to Free Minds as a gift for someone this holiday season. The majority of members in our program had never read a book cover to cover before meeting Free Minds- sharing the gift of reading is a wonderful way to honor a loved one!
Be sure to like us on facebook and for more information, you can always go to our website.
Free Minds Reentry Support Summer Update!
It’s been a hot summer in DC, but Free Minds has been up to good things, and it's all thanks to YOU! Our friends and supporters have truly allowed us to share incredible experiences with our members, from the new Harry Potter movie to a meditation event aimed at relieving stress.
A few weeks ago, we were lucky enough to be featured as a grantee in a DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities video! Two of our members appear in the video, and they also had the opportunity to learn firsthand about the process of shooting a film. You can see the short video here!
Two reentry support members have recently completed the one week paid internship program, an important step in equipping youth with job readiness skills. As part of the internship Brian McEwen, a Free Minds mentor, came to give a presentation- you can read about Brian’s wisdom on our homepage www.freemindsbookclub.org (scroll down), and see a supporter profile of him here.
We’ve aso been lucky enough to have a reentry support member interning in our office through DC’s Summer Youth Employment Program. Among other activities, he has been helping us design curriculum and games for book club, typing up the poetry of youth currently in DC jail, and researching new venues for Free Minds to present writing.
Free Minds has been attending events outside of the office, as well. Several members and staff attended the eagerly anticipated final Harry Potter movie, and even brought their own wands! More recently Free Minds went a different kind of book event: an evening of chant and meditation, in conjunction with Sharon Salzberg's new book "Real Hapiness". Free Minds uses a basic meditation technique as a way of centering at the start of Book Club at DC Jail, and thought that these techniques might be useful for members working to adjust to lives home in the community. After the event, Free Minds member Eric affirmed that “I learned a lot about meditation and chanting,” and was so impressed he recommended that chanting be offered as a routine part of Book Club. He also said he hoped to continue to practice it in his own life. “It's going to be good for me. The chanting made me feel really relaxed.”
We also recently hosted a reentry workshop at Sankofa Bookstore Cafe where members came to sit down, listen to music, talk with friends, and write poetry for our new Literary Journal, which will be published later this year.
Finally, we are developing a new project for support on GlobalGiving- we’re inspired by this initiative, and we hope you will be too. Keep a look out in the coming weeks for the Books Across the Miles project (we like to call it BAM!).
Thank you so much for all of your support. We’re so excited about our recent events and initiatives, and for you all to be a part of them!
With gratitude and appreciation,
The Free Minds Team
Free Minds Reentry Support Spring Update!
First, a giant thank-you is due to all those who participated in the one day matching funds challenge, as well our continued donors- we are honored and humbled by your support, and we truly couldn’t do it without you.
Free Minds has had a busy few months with events in our reentry support program- Book Club members home in the community have read their poems for a conference of school principals from across the country for the Department of Education, participated at open mics across the city, completed internships in our office, dialoged with students in the public policy program at Cesar Chavez Charter School, and more.
Our latest reentry event was a joint workshop with Free Minds members and their Probation Officers. This was, as you can imagine, an unusual proposition, but by the close of the evening everyone was energized by the results.
Will, our Reentry Coach, led an exercise in which the Free Minds members pretended they were Probation Officers, and the PO’s pretended that they were recently home on probation and struggling to find employment. There was a lot of laughter, and surprising results. We concluded by all writing poetry together, and the Free Minds members were especially moved by the poem of one of the officers:
I Used to Work at the Jail
by a Community Supervision Officer
When you say I want to see you locked up,
what I want to say is that I used to work there
and I would never want to see you go back there.
what I want to say is that your family deserves for you to be in the community,
but I can’t make those decisions for you.
what I want to say is that your past does not have to dictate your future,
but you have to learn the lesson for yourself.
what I want to say is that I used to work at the jail
and that experience is why I’m your Community Supervision Officer today,
to see the change beyond the jail.
Needless to say, it was an eye-opening experience for everyone! Probation Officers and recently returned citizens can often find themselves in an antagonistic relationship, but these creative writing exercises helped them to understand each other and build a collaborative partnership. Your support helps us provide the basics like metro cards for youth who are home in the community to travel to and from these workshops. Each workshop helps to foster self-awareness within our members, root them further in the larger community, and to build a network of positive peer support that is so integral to preventing recidivism. We will be posting more updates with photos soon, so stay tuned!
With deep gratitude,
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