Mar 3, 2021

A Hopeful Look at 2021

Released on January 12, 2021, Dream Catchers, the seventh anthology from POPS the Club, is an enlightening and inspiring collection of art, prose, and poetry by high-school students with a unique perspective in dealing with the carceral system. In its second press run after quickly selling out the first, the anthology represents a year of reconfigured community building, self-expression, and resilience. Each book sold supports the clubs and its members to continue to have a safe space to express themselves, form friendships with other club members, and relationships with adult mentors.

Over the past year, many students have been tasked with providing financial assistance or childcare for their families. This has led to feelings of isolation and disconnect. Though POPS regular club meetings were unable to be held, donations have allowed more staff to refocus their time into direct student contact, personally reaching out to individuals to keep them engaged. Social media has also played a large part in keeping students involved and connected as not all students have access to wi-fi and computers for Zoom events.

As a celebration of the hard work and perseverance of club members, POPS the Clubs is honoring members with an online book launch event. An Evening with the Dream Catchers will include imaginative performances and a silent auction featuring artwork by club members and POPS teaching artists, offering you an opportunity to show your support by purchasing a piece of unique artwork. If you would like to hear directly from the students and see what they have created, please consider joining us. 

Looking ahead, we will continue to engage with students in any way we can, making sure that they still feel connected, heard, and supported. Upcoming initiatives include preparing for the next anthology, mini-fundraising via t-shirt sales, and other online events. Your support will allow POPS's to continue to create a safe and empowering community for youth impacted by the prison system.

"Confusing Journey" by Nicole B.
"Confusing Journey" by Nicole B.
"Close" by Alba N.
"Close" by Alba N.
"In the Room" by Chris W
"In the Room" by Chris W
Photo by Reggie H.
Photo by Reggie H.

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Nov 3, 2020

We Are the Dream Catchers

Vulgar by Jason, from Dream Catchers
Vulgar by Jason, from Dream Catchers

This fall our POPS clubs once again began to meet with their schools--it may be Zoom, but we discovered once again how much it matters to provide a safe space for young people to gather together. We miss seeing everyone's faces, and we miss being able to hug. We miss being in rooms altogether, and we miss sharing lunch. And still we feel the power of community and the importance of nurturing talent and hard-won wisdom.

The big news at POPS is the addition of clubs in Juneau Alaska under the powerful leadership of teacher Devin Tatreau and Kaitlyn Conway, Director of Zach Gordon Youth Center where the youth meet. Whenever POPS is first introduced to a new school, it takes some months for young people to feel safe enough to show up each week, but we are looking forward to getting to know our newest members, students of Thunder Mountain, Yakoosge Daahakahidi and Juneau Douglas High Schools.

The other exciting news is this: Each year we hear from readers about how much our POPS Anthologies  mean to them. Those who know the POPS anthologies come to understand how much young people have to teach us all. And particularly in this trying time, with Covid unsettling lives everywhere around the world, we believe these are the voices that matter. 

At POPS club meetings, the safe space provides an opening for young people to speak and write and create without fear of judgment. Safety inspires openness, openness inspires creativity, and creativity inspires still more creativity as each of our anthologies has shown. This year POPS has launched a publishing arm, Out of the Woods Press and now has a national distributor to expand our audience for these powerful works. 

And the beauty of the work this month is being recognized by the renowned review journal, Kirkus Book Reviews. 

"Birds sing outside cages," the reviewer writes. "Overall hopeful selections inspire a desire to rethink justice and enact change." 

We are so proud, especially, of recent POPS graduate, Donaji, whose powerful poetry is singled out in this review. Although she is now in college, Donaji continues to come to POPS club meetings, and each Saturday she joins the POPS Writing Workshop led by POPS co-founder, retired teacher and author Dennis Danziger. Here's a sneak preview of Donaji's lyrical voice, an excerpt from her poem Dear Freedom:

Document your fragrance and mention my polytheistic tongue.

Oh my long lost friend, whom I have not spoken to because you betrayed me fully, and

Without knowing the consequences of your actions.

You come in the form of butterflies, crisp with energy eloping the conquered

Fire breathing through lanterns of prayers dancing the raven sweaters of linking arms

Cupped with courses of beauty in manacles giving its last show and tell

Gripped my innocence apart into this puzzle of time that quickly gathers its migration

With miles and miles distant I feel anguish at her sudden skin with bathing tattoos

Forgetting the tone of her skin or the person she was before.

I have a love and hate relationship with you.

And that is just one example of the more than 85 entries in Dream Catchers, titled because we know that that is precisely what POPS youth are. 

Leahnora dances at POPS book launch
Leahnora dances at POPS book launch
Palms by Alba, Dream Catchers
Palms by Alba, Dream Catchers
JannaRae, Ancestors, from Dream Catchers
JannaRae, Ancestors, from Dream Catchers
A Dream Catcher, by Venice teacher, Chris Wright
A Dream Catcher, by Venice teacher, Chris Wright
POPS grads and performing artists Caleb and Kylon
POPS grads and performing artists Caleb and Kylon
Jul 5, 2020

Zoom in on Love

Dream Catchers, POPS Anthology VII
Dream Catchers, POPS Anthology VII

 

In this strange new world, with schools closed down, POPS the Club knew we wanted to remain connected to our youth, to continue somehow to provide them support. And so in late March we pivoted from in-school meetings, to Zoom meetings and what we call our Pops Pop-Ups.

We know how hard social distancing is for everyone, but we are vividly aware of how daunting it has been for youth cut off from friends, broader communities, teachers and counselors. For POPS youth it is especially painful as visits with loved ones who are incarcerated have been shut down and as the virus devastates those institituions.

We long to provide as much support as we can, and dozens and dozens of volunteers have stepped up to provide their guidance, their wisdom, their talents, and guidance. And to listen to the wisdom of our youth.

We are grateful for all the love and generosity from POPS Pop-Up guests who range from mindfulness and yoga instructors like Kate Savage and Casey Velasquez to world-renown photographers like Laura Grier and Ciro Coelho; from professional athletes like Jamari Traylor to improv artists like Maya Gwynn; from activists and mental health providers like Maagic Collins to writers and teaching artists like Tyler WetherallRobbie Pollack and Lisa Manterfield; from artists like Tom Miller to filmmakers like the young people of Echoes of Incarceration...and so many more. 

And as we mourn so many losses, and as we march in protest for a more just world, and as we wait to see when/if schools will re-open and when POPS we can return, we also celebrate our youth's voices and visions in our 7th Anthology, Dream Catchers, coming from Out of the Woods Press later this fall. 

And we celebrate our opportunity to overcome barriers. Zoom POPS-Ups have allowed our youth from across the country to meet each other in one room, have brought speakers from across the country and across oceans. And so, when we do return to school, we'll add to our programming a POPS Pop-Up meeting each month. That is a silver lining.

We wish you all safety, good health and thank you for continuing to follow our journey.

from Reagan's Journal
from Reagan's Journal
Freedom of Speech by Janna Rae
Freedom of Speech by Janna Rae
Let's Dance, photograph by Hiromi, Dream Catchers
Let's Dance, photograph by Hiromi, Dream Catchers
POPS youth onstage, back in the day
POPS youth onstage, back in the day

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