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,
Free Minds members participate in Reentry Internships, Book Festivals, and PoetryReadingsWithin the last few months, Free Minds has been able to host several events gearedtoward our recently reentered youth. Because of your support, the previouslyincarcerated youth in our program have attended reentry workshops, job trainingprograms, and outings focused around books and poetry. Thank you for your donationsthus far!Free Minds members enjoyed the opportunity to travel to Baltimore in October forthe Baltimore Book Festival, where they explored new book releases and met authorsincluding Wes Moore, author of The Other Wes Moore. Later that month, Free Minds attended an open mic nightpoetry reading in downtown DC, where they met local poets and experienced a variety ofspoken-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 ableto watch their home team face the Minnesota Vikings live at the stadium for the firsttime. “It was a privilege to attend the game,” said Wilbert, “Sometimes you never knowwho has a surprise for you and that people really do care about helping you recover backinto 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 Darrellperformed administrative and clerical tasks, created their resumes, practiced job interviewskills, and attended employment fairs during their week in the office. “It’s been greatworking with Free Minds” Kenny said at the end of the week, “because it allowed me tolearn 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 andinto professional, educational, and recreational activities drastically reduces their chancesof recidivism. Our youth depend on the support of generous donors like you to give themthese invaluable opportunities to continue to make positive strides in their life path.Thank you again for your support!