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 | Jan 8, 2024
End of Year Reflections and Inspiring Resilience

By Sofia Dean | Community Engagement Coordinator

A handmade card by an incarcerated FM member
A handmade card by an incarcerated FM member

As we look forward to the start of 2024 here at Free Minds and in the Prison Book Club, we reflect on a past year of connections strengthened and forged, growth as an organization and individually amongst our members, and resilience in the face of adversity. The end of the year and the holiday season can be particularly challenging for our members who are incarcerated all across the country and physically separated from their support systems that are largely in D.C. However, thanks to your generous support, our members were able to stay connected to the world beyond the prison walls and share their own reflections and experiences. Free Minds member, Duane, who is incarcerated in the federal prison system, sent us a poetic expression of his gratitude for Free Minds, expressing how the Connect has helped him in the face of the isolating prison system. His poem “Thanks Free Minds” appeared in our latest issue of the Connect magazine, “Resilience”:


Thanks Free Minds
by Duane aka Wayne Wayne

To my Free Minds family,
you all do so much for me.

Like when I’m in a state of chaos,
Your articles, FM Members’ poems,
and those D.C. photos put me at peace.

Though I’m incarcerated, the Free Minds Connect
keeps me connected to minds that are free.

Those thirty-nine pages in every issue
keep me connected to things I want
and need to succeed.

And I just love the “Just Law,”
as you all let us know the laws aren’t just,

And though we may reside in these cold
and lonely cells, our Free Minds Family
lets us know they’re here for us.

Know the words expressed by Wayne
Wayne is like money in the most secure banks,

So from me, Wayne Wayne, and on
behalf of every Free Minds Member,
I want to say, “Thanks.”

Thank you to the GlobalGiving community for supporting our work!



Meditations on Growth and Experiences of Resilience

In our last update, we shared about our spring and summer issues of the Connect magazine, our bi-monthly magazine written by and for our members that we send to over 700 members incarcerated in over 110 facilities across the country. Since then, we have published two issues on the themes of “Growth” and “Resilience.” For the “Growth” issue, Free Minds community members reflected on the meaning of growth and shared their own evolutions. This issue was quite timely as we celebrated our 20th year anniversary in October, highlighting the growth of our organization and members over the years. Free Minds member Sean, who has been incarcerated for the past 37 years since he was 18 years old, shared his own powerful interpretation of the theme for this issue: “Nothing about you is the same from one instance to the next. We are all in a state of constant evolution, even on a molecular level. On a philosophical level, I appreciate my growth mentally and physically in my writings. I hope to make a difference somewhere down the line in another person's life.”

The “Resilience” issue saw Free Minds members, staff, and friends sharing their experiences of overcoming adversities and displaying mental strength. Here is a vulnerable and impactful poem from this issue, submitted by Free Minds member Zyaire:


Don’t Give Up
by Zyaire

In hard times, don’t give up, keep powering on
You were a winner the day you were Born.
Don’t let them see you give up, you’ve already been through too much.
Remember the ones you’re doing it for
and the days you always wanted more.
It’s not going to be easy, but in the end it’ll be worth it.
Show them what success looks like.
Don’t give up, you’re gonna win the fight.
Give it all you got, go with all your might.
Take it one day at a time, no need to rush.
All the work is going to pay off, just have to trust.
Have faith in yourself, you gotta know that you can do it
Any goals you have gotta get up and pursue it.
Make a plan and stick with it. Be focused and don’t forget



Book Across the Miles: Felon: Poems

As we shared in our last update, our last Books Across the Miles (BAM) book was an inspiring memoir titled The Master Plan: My Journey from Life in Prison to a Life of Purpose by Chris Wilson. Keeping with this theme of BAM books written by formerly incarcerated writers sharing their stories of triumph, our current BAM book is Felon: Poems by R. Dwayne Betts. This book features fierce and emotional poems written by Betts that highlight the impact of prison and incarceration throughout a person’s life, even after they’ve physically left prison. With your support, we were able to send this poetry collection to over 500 of our incarcerated members across the country! Positive feedback has begun to roll in from our members, who are thoroughly enjoying this book. Member Kareem shared a thoughtful personal reflection and analysis on one poem that stood out to him from the collection in the Connect:

“My favorite poem was “Blood History” in which [Betts] illustrated and expressed such a profound insight on how the effects of an absent father could play a central role on the development of a child. A deeply embedded psychological response. It resonated with me not just at the personal level, but also because it’s an area that I mentor young men, as well as older, on frequently here at the facility. The poem was written as saying, “If you have no father, you can’t hear straight.” I believe he is talking about hearing with your heart, not just with your ears, which brings a deeper form of understanding, and applying to one’s life. Notice the letters “e-a-r” (ear) are in hear and heart. Not a coincidence. It’s very spiritual, they all have an intricate connection to each other, and can only be activated and healthy through the relationship with the father that initially sets one up to interpret correctly.”

Our members being able to see themselves and their experiences represented through the literary arts is why we do what we do! Thank you for your invaluable support that allows us to provide our members with books that allow them to feel seen.



Building Bridges Across Diverse Backgrounds and Meeting On The Same Page

In December, we had the opportunity to bring Free Minds to the World Bank through an On The Same Page (OTSP) event. At these unique events, participants have the opportunity to hear about Free Minds’ mission and learn about the power of the literary arts right from our formerly incarcerated Poet Ambassadors themselves. After learning about Free Minds and listening to poetry readings and the experiences of our Poet Ambassadors, participants then have the chance to leave positive feedback on poems written by our members who are still incarcerated. This powerful feedback is then sent to our members behind the prison walls, allowing them the chance to meet on the same page with people of all different backgrounds. The OTSP held at the World Bank was particularly impactful as participants hailed from all over the globe. Participants were from India, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Chile, China, Iran, Ghana, and the Philippines. This gave Free Minds a unique opportunity to share about the injustices particularly faced by those impacted by the U.S. carceral system.

Free Minds Poet Ambassador and staff member, Regina, had the opportunity to share her poem called "THE REBIRTH” which touched participants. Poet Ambassadors Antoine and Lydell also shared poems and spoke about how Free Minds and writing helped them during the adversities they faced while in solitary confinement during their incarcerations. Poet Ambassador Jamal shared the ways he is giving back to the community as an advocate for change in the criminal legal system now that he has returned home from incarceration. He then was able to amplify the voice of a Free Minds member still incarcerated, Ricardo, by sharing his poem "White Walls" with the audience. Participants were truly inspired and impacted by the harrowing experiences and powerful poetry shared by our Poet Ambassadors. Despite coming from a different country, one woman who works with youth in India shared some of the troubles youth face in her country and received advice from our Poet Ambassadors on how to guide them down a successful path. Participants walked away with a new perspective and felt inspired to create global change. Impactful exchanges like this are made possible by your enduring support!

Free Minds members read Felon by Dwayne Betts
Free Minds members read Felon by Dwayne Betts
Free Minds in the community with the World Bank
Free Minds in the community with the World Bank


Attachments: Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

About Project Reports

Project reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to 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
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @FreeMindsDC
Project Leader:
Tara Libert
Washington , DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA United States
$34,990 raised of $40,000 goal
1,030 donations
$5,010 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


Woman Holding a Gift Card
Gift Cards

Young Girl with a Bicycle

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.