Dear Free Minds Friends,
We can’t believe winter is already upon us! This fall has flown by, and our Reentry members have achieved some fabulous milestones in recent months. This Thanksgiving & holiday season, we are so thankful for the opportunity to work with such resilient and motivated youth and to help them foster new skills, support systems, and leadership. And of course, we are filled with gratitude for supporters like you, who help make our initiatives a reality.
Here’s a taste of what we’ve been up to recently:
Marymount University Learning Disabilities Conference
In October, Free Minds members were invited to speak at Marymount University of Virginia, for the annual Learning Disabilities Association of Virginia Conference. Free Minds members met with the Department of Education, including administrators and teachers. They read poetry and spoke about their experiences with the education system. By sharing their stories with educators, the Free Minds writers are working with the Department of Education to promote a future where our schools can better understand and serve young people in need. Our members wrote poems just for that day about what support they could have used when they were in school. Read an excerpt from Michael’s poem “Don’t Restrain Ur Mind!” about learning differently:
Was drifting off in class so I was labeled not brightWas flushed down the school to prison pipelineThat’s just not right
So before I let them place the label on me as being dumbBecause of a misperception of how I look and where I’m fromI tune out the naysayers and march on to the sound of my own D.R.U.M.Don’t Restrain Ur Mind!
Probation Officers Presentation
In a Free Minds first, members gave a presentation to probation officers. They spoke about the impact of Free Minds, books, and writing. They each read one of their poems, and one member shared a letter from a young man who is still incarcerated. The probation officers were incredibly moved by the presentation and especially the success stories. Free Minds member Latrae commented on the experience:
"All of us talking to the probation officers showed them that people who have been incarcerated can change. That they won't always be doing the same things that they did before as they might think. I think they were happy to see that."
Social work student forms Free Minds Reentry partnerships
This fall, Free Minds welcomed Heather Galbreath to the Free Minds Family; Heather is pursuing her Master of Social Work degree at Howard University, and doing a year-long internship with Free Minds to help expand our Reentry Support program. Heather and Keela, our Program Manager, are working hard to find job training and educational placements for our members. Heather performs site visits with reentry service providers and works closely with our members to determine which programs are a good fit for them. Heather first met Free Minds when Tara and reentry members spoke at one of her classes at Howard University; now Heather is helping us spread the word and form more partnerships with like-minded organizations!
“Although I have only been here for a short time, working with the Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop has been an eye opening experience for me. When you’re a student you often only learn from what you read in a text book or from what you are told by a teacher, but actually being able to work with the population that you’re learning about affords an entirely different education. I’m truly grateful for the opportunity to work with Free Minds...” -Heather
On the Same Page events at schools pick up speed
Our On the Same Page violence prevention program has been gaining more momentum lately thanks to our wonderful partnerships with the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) and the PEN/Faulkner foundation. The program, which brings Free Minds poets into high schools to talk about their writing and the causes and effects of youth incarceration, is an invaluable experience for students and Free Minds members alike. This fall, Free Minds members spoke with nearly 50 students at Washington Metropolitan High School, an alternative public high school. They shared their personal stories of change and inspired students to change their own lives for the better.
Our poets also visited a constitutional law and youth justice class at Cesar Chavez, a charter school located on Capitol Hill. As future change-makers and advocates for youth justice, the students expressed their deep appreciation for the opportunity to hear first-hand about the youth experience in the adult system. After the event, one of the students said, "I appreciate the determination the Free Minds members have, especially towards the community." Our reentry member Mike, who spoke at Cesar Chavez, told us about why reaching out to high school students is so powerful to him:
“I like doing On the Same Page because I get to show the youngin’s how to express their feelings through poetry and talking rather than putting a hand on someone. I share my personal experiences so they can learn from my mistakes and run with it. One of the big problems today is that there are no role models out here for these youngin’s. I like to help other people, and not enough people do that out here.”-Mike
We’ve seen such a change in Mike since he first started in the book club. Then, he was dealing with his anger over his family members’ addiction problems and losing his siblings to the foster care system. Now, with the tools of reading and writing to help him process his own emotions, he is able to help other kids going through similar experiences. Way to go, Mike!
Your generous support provides the resources to help more young men like Mike to find employment or education, express themselves through writing and public speaking, and turn their lives in a positive direction. THANK YOU from all of us at Free Minds for believing in the transformative power of writing!
Hello Free Minds Friends!
Since our last report, we've been extraordinarily busy here at Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop! Our members continue to amaze us with their creativity, resilience, and motivation to achieve positive goals. As always, we could not do what we do without your support. Here are just a few of the things we've been up to this summer:
Dear Free Minds, The words I am typing cannot relay the emotions I have been experiencing today since your visit to my class. I am taken back by the sharing from Michael, Antwan and Lamarzs. You were so touching .I cannot wait to see my students in class on Wednesday to talk about their thoughts on the morning. Thank you so very much. I will be in touch to work together more to help our young people stay on the right track...
None of these exciting new developments would have been possible without support from dedicated members of the community such as yourselves! We'd like to share a few words from the Free Minds members:
"Free Minds has really changed my life dramatically for the better. I overcame a real life struggle with Free Minds right behind me the whole way through. I was a young man (15) when I first met Free Minds. I didn't know what way my life was headed, facing over 30 years at a young age. I lost my whole family to this thing called life (three brothers killed in the streets) so I really didn't have no hope or motivation for life but Free Minds really showed me I am still here for a reason. They told me we going to overcome this sentence and they did it day by day. When I came home, they employed me. My work in Reentry helps me strengthen myself and strengthen others with the On the Same Page events to let young men who are in the same shoes I was in at that age know that there's more to achieve." – Antwan, age 22 "I’ve decided to change my life. I loved all the books you sent that got me thinking a new way. I did a lot of violent things in the past and I want to start over. I can’t tell you how grateful I am that you are here to help me when I’m home. I’ve been locked up for 4 ½ years and so much has changed and I need help. Thank you Free Minds." – Mark, age 21
We are incredibly grateful for and humbled by your generosity and your belief in our work. Thank you for everything that you do!
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!
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.
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