Book Club for Incarcerated Youth and Adults

by Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop
Book Club for Incarcerated Youth and Adults
Book Club for Incarcerated Youth and Adults
Book Club for Incarcerated Youth and Adults
Book Club for Incarcerated Youth and Adults
Book Club for Incarcerated Youth and Adults
Book Club for Incarcerated Youth and Adults
Book Club for Incarcerated Youth and Adults
Book Club for Incarcerated Youth and Adults
Book Club for Incarcerated Youth and Adults
Book Club for Incarcerated Youth and Adults
Book Club for Incarcerated Youth and Adults
Book Club for Incarcerated Youth and Adults

Project Report | May 15, 2023
Finding Balance Within Expectations

By Aneka Nelson | Prison Book Club Coordinator

The latest issue of the Free Minds Connect
The latest issue of the Free Minds Connect

Our most recent Connect Magazine, Free Minds’ bimonthly publication written by and for our members, focuses on the theme of Expectations. In the Expectations Connect, we explored the differences between setting realistic and unrealistic expectations. In the criminal legal  system, stability can be difficult to achieve. Whether in jail or prison, awaiting trial or transferring facilities, or preparing for reentry, many of our members build expectations for the future. In this magazine, we opened the door to a healthy conversation about setting realistic expectations. 

Free Minds member Dewand wrote a poem about expectations vs. reality:

Expectation vs. Reality
By Dewand

When a person is doing work for a salary
expectation will conflict with reality.
Conviction and passion produce purpose
Which it clashes against expectation
because it goes past the surface on purpose.
Reality is created from the perspective of our lens.
And we need others to rub against our skin. To help kill
the conflict at times that rage within.
My lens can be obscured from my point of view,
so I always need you.
Humanity inspires me to be complete.
And true purpose produces salary.
That's expectation vs. reality 

Thank you all for your continuous support and contributions to Free Minds. Because of you, Free Minds can continue to provide our members with a safe space to express themselves and to learn from each other. Setting realistic expectations can help to create balance in a chaotic environment, which leads us to our upcoming Connect theme: Balance. Stay tuned for our next update to hear more about that!

Books Across the Miles: An American Marriage & You Are Here

In our last update, we introduced our upcoming Books Across the Miles (BAM) book, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. This story follows the journey of newlyweds Celestial and Roy, who are just beginning to build their new life together when they are ripped apart after Roy is arrested and sentenced to 12 years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Through the Connect magazine, our members participate in written discussion about the book’s characters and themes. 

In response to a question about the two main characters’ families in the book and how families can impact our identities, FM member Ronnie answered: “Our families and where we’re from have a profound impact on who we are at the beginning of our lives, but as we mature that affect lessens and we come to a point where we’re able to make a choice to evolve beyond our circumstances of family and environment or we can choose to be what our environment and past dictates. That choice; to evolve or conform is the core decision everyone has to make in life.”

FM member Shawn emailed us after receiving An American Marriage and other books saying in all caps, “I GOT THE BOOKS!!!! ALL OF THEM. I JUST WANTED TO SAY THANK YOU & THE FREE MINDS FAM FOR HOLDING ME DOWN. IT REALLY MAKES ME SMILE WHEN I GET A BOOK IN THE MAIL, IT'S LIKE A GIFT TO ME, I LOVE READING SO THIS HELPS ME DO THIS TIME, BOOKS ARE A WAY FOR ME TO LEAVE PRISON! I GO WHERE THE STORY IS & I AM THERE! AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE WAS REALLY GOOD! I LIKE HOW SHE PUT THAT TOGETHER. THE FAMILY ON BOTH SIDES REALLY WAS ON ROY SIDE & THAT MADE ME FEEL GOOD BECAUSE I HAVE BEEN IN HERE FOR 30 YEARS NOW & MY FAMILY IS STILL HERE & THEY WILL NOT LEAVE ME, BECAUSE OF THE LOVE WE HAVE FOR EACH OTHER!” 

Messages like these are why we do what we do!

The most recent BAM book that over 600 of our members are currently reading is You are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment by Thich Nhat Hanh. A renowned Zen monk, Thich Nhat Hanh uses this book to provide the reader with insight into how we can use mindfulness to overcome suffering and achieve joy. Even though he writes from a Buddhist perspective, his perspective can be applied to everyday life, regardless of religious/spiritual belief. Be sure to check out our next update to see how our members respond to the new BAM book! 

Meeting on the Same Page: From Letters to Liberation

Our unique approach to corresponding with our members creates a circle of support that allows them to write to the organization knowing that they will always receive a personalized response from different volunteers with unique perspectives. Through our weekly Letter Writers Circle (LWC) we are able to maintain continuous correspondence with all of our members. Members build their social capital by engaging in meaningful exchanges with community members who come from a variety of backgrounds and have a wide set of experiences. For Free Minds member and Poet Ambassador Antoine, he not only had the opportunity to write to the volunteers multiple times throughout his incarceration, he was also able to see them and speak to them during the virtual LWC orientation meeting after being released from prison! 

At the monthly LWC orientation, new volunteers join the regular weekly volunteers and learn about LWC and get to hear from a Poet Ambassador about the importance of receiving mail in prison. A Poet Ambassador is a formerly incarcerated FM member who represents incarcerated members by amplifying their voices at On The Same Page (OTSP) community outreach events and sharing a little of their story to the volunteers. During Antoine’s Q&A, he mentioned the letters he received from 2 particular volunteers and how those letters allowed him to find similarities between himself and the writers and showed him how many bridges can be built with people who you may not normally come into contact with. After hearing that both volunteers were on the LWC video call, Antoine was able to finally put a face to the names that made an impact on his life. It was so nice to be able to see them meet and express their appreciation for each other! Antoine then advised new volunteers to simply be genuine and describe experiences and anything from daily life. He described how many in prison live vicariously through letters, and painting pictures with words is particularly important when words are their only way to experience the outside world. See the link below to join the Letter Writers Circle. 

Bringing Free Minds Poets to Gateway Community College

This past April we were honored to be invited back to Gateway Community College in New Haven, Connecticut for the second year in a row! Once again our Poet Ambassadors were able to share about how writing, reading, and poetry were tools that supported them throughout their incarceration. Due to the increase in student participants, our Poet Ambassadors facilitated eight sessions over the course of two days versus last year's five sessions in one day. During each session, after the Poet Ambassadors' panel discussion, students responded to poetry from our incarcerated members, and read poems aloud. Gateway uses our third anthology, When You Hear Me (You Hear Us): Voices on Youth Incarceration, as part of the curriculum in their English classes. Students shared their favorite poems from the collection, before reading them to the group. One student particularly connected to the poem “I Know Pain” by Free Minds D’Angelo.

I Know Pain
By D’Angelo

I know pain like the back of my hand
I’ve felt it on my skin like wind from a fan
I’ve cradled it like a baby and rocked it to sleep
Spilled it all over my clothes and all over my sheets
I’ve loaded it into guns and forced others to accept it
I’ve harmonized with its voice and drove it in every direction
It walks when I walk and breathes when I breathe
Yeah I know pain and pain knows me
It mimics my behavior and dares me to get mad
It wants me, haunts me, and taunts me when I’m glad
It made its way into my life and won’t let me be
Yeah I know pain and pain knows me

As always, we left the event knowing that we’ve successfully impacted our audience and that we will continue to work towards bridging the gap between incarceration and society. Thanks to you, our community will continue to grow. Thank you for your continued support! 

What Free Minds member are reading
What Free Minds member are reading
The Free Minds team at Gateway Community College
The Free Minds team at Gateway Community College
Gateway Students connect with Free Minds poetry
Gateway Students connect with Free Minds poetry
A Gateway student reads a Free Minds poem
A Gateway student reads a Free Minds poem

Links:

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

Jan 13, 2023
A Great End to 2022

By Aneka Nelson | Prison Book Club Coordinator

Sep 19, 2022
Reading as Healing

By Yamini Rajan | Project Intern

About Project Reports

Project reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you can recieve an email when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports without donating.

Sign up for updates

Organization Information

Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @FreeMindsDC
Project Leader:
Tara Libert
Washington , DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA United States
$35,040 raised of $40,000 goal
 
1,032 donations
$4,960 to go
Donate Now

Help raise money!

Support this important cause by creating a personalized fundraising page.

Start a Fundraiser

Learn more about GlobalGiving

Teenage Science Students
Vetting +
Due Diligence

Snorkeler
Our
Impact

Woman Holding a Gift Card
Give
Gift Cards

Young Girl with a Bicycle
GlobalGiving
Guarantee

Get incredible stories, promotions, and matching offers in your inbox

WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.