Support for DC's Previously Incarcerated Youth

 
$15,762
$4,238
Raised
Remaining
Dec 1, 2011

Reentry Program Activities this Fall

Free Minds members speak at On The Same Page at AU
Free Minds members speak at On The Same Page at AU

Dear Friends,

            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.

  • This fall, we were proud to release a new literary journal, “They Call Me 299-359: Writings from the Incarcerated Youth of Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop.” To celebrate we had a “Happy Hour for Word Power,” which was packed with Free Minds fans! Free Minds members read excerpts from the new book and spoke with audience members about their experiences coming home and working to create positive futures for themselves and their community.
  • Members, staff, and supporters gathered for a “Write Night” at the Free Minds office, writing feedback on the poetry of members still incarcerated. This regular volunteer event provides a unique way for volunteers to encourage the writing and reflection of young authors, and for Free Minds members who are home to experience a community of support.
  • In collaboration with Benevolent Media Festival and American University’s Center for Social Media, Free Minds sponsored a showing of “The Interrupters,” a powerful film about violence intervention. After the film Free Minds members spoke on a panel about how these issues related locally, sharing stories from their own experiences.
  • Through a collaboration with Redskins replay, Free Minds members attended a football game at Fedex Field between Maryland and Notre Dame- and loved it!
  • The poignant and powerful documentary “Young Kids, Hard Time,” offering a rare glimpse inside the unit of a prison for youth charged as adults, was premiered at the National Press Club- and Free Minds was in the audience! It then debuted on MSNBC November 20th. Free Minds members enjoyed the film and especially the honor of being the first to see it.
  • As part of a collaboration with American University’s “DC as a Third World City” class, Free Minds members led a poetry reading and discussion on the root causes of youth violence. Students left moved by the event, especially by the personal stories of Free Minds members shared through their poetry.
  • Free Minds member and reentry coach Michael will be receiving an activist award next week from the Washington Peace Center, honoring his work supporting others coming home from prison. Michael’s favorite saying is “a good example is better than good advice,” and we are so proud to see him living his motto! Michael also spoke two weeks ago at a DC Council hearing on reentry issues, educating others about the challenges of reentry.
  • Last, but definitely not least, Free Minds Reentry Support members have been working in the office doing “apprenticeships,” our employment training model. In these apprenticeships, they provide program support for the very program they participated in! Through planning book club sessions for the jail, sending our newsletter to prison, and other tasks, they can give back to younger members while solidifying a new life path form themselves.  

            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.

FM member showing off our new literary journal
FM member showing off our new literary journal
FM member speaking at the Interrupters screening
FM member speaking at the Interrupters screening
FM volunteer at our most recent Write Night
FM volunteer at our most recent Write Night
FM members at premiere of "Young Kids, Hard Time"
FM members at premiere of "Young Kids, Hard Time"
Aug 5, 2011

Many New Projects! Summer 2011

Brian (center) with Reentry Support members
Brian (center) with Reentry Support members

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

Tara and Wilbert showing their love of books!
Tara and Wilbert showing their love of books!

Links:

Jul 26, 2011

Free Minds Reentry Support Continues! Spring 2011

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.

 

When you say I want to see you locked up,

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.

 

When you say I want to see you locked up,

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.

 

When you say I want to see you locked up,

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,

 

The Free Minds Team

Dec 14, 2010

What We've Been Up To! Fall 2010

Members and staff at a reentry workshop!
Members and staff at a reentry workshop!

Free Minds members participate in Reentry Internships, Book Festivals, and Poetry
Readings

Within the last few months, Free Minds has been able to host several events geared
toward our recently reentered youth. Because of your support, the previously
incarcerated youth in our program have attended reentry workshops, job training
programs, and outings focused around books and poetry. Thank you for your donations
thus far!

Free Minds members enjoyed the opportunity to travel to Baltimore in October for
the Baltimore Book Festival, where they explored new book releases and met authors
including Wes Moore, author of The Other Wes Moore. Later that month, Free Minds attended an open mic night
poetry reading in downtown DC, where they met local poets and experienced a variety of
spoken-word performances.

One member, Chris, spoke about the ways that activities with Free Minds can promote positive peer support: "Free Minds brings together a lot of kids from neighborhoods together that really don't along- we come together and work together, and that can prevent a lot of future problems. We're going through the same thing, so we rely on each other. We all work together like a mini family."

Due to a generous offer from the Washington Redskins, six Free Minds youth were able
to watch their home team face the Minnesota Vikings live at the stadium for the first
time. “It was a privilege to attend the game,” said Wilbert, “Sometimes you never know
who has a surprise for you and that people really do care about helping you recover back
into society.”

Free Minds received press attention this fall for the book club phase of our program that happens inside the DC Jail, with an article in the Washington Post, and two members of our reentry program were interviewed on the radio! They spoke poignantly on what it feels like to be away from your family for the holidays, and the ways in which Free Minds (with your support) helped them in a successful reentry.

Two Free Minds members, Kenny and Darrell, joined the Free Minds office for a week-
long paid internship as part of the initial stages of their reentry process. Kenny and Darrell
performed administrative and clerical tasks, created their resumes, practiced job interview
skills, and attended employment fairs during their week in the office. “It’s been great
working with Free Minds” Kenny said at the end of the week, “because it allowed me to
learn new job skills and prepared me for the jobs I want in the future.”

 Each opportunity for a previously incarcerated young person to expand their horizons beyond the streets and
into professional, educational, and recreational activities drastically reduces their chances
of recidivism. Our youth depend on the support of generous donors like you to give them
these invaluable opportunities to continue to make positive strides in their life path.

Thank you again for your support!

Presenting at a conference on youth violence.
Presenting at a conference on youth violence.
During a reentry workshop on filmmaking.
During a reentry workshop on filmmaking.

Links:

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Project Leader

Tara Libert

Washington, DC United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Support for DC's Previously Incarcerated Youth