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 6, 2024
"A room full of poets is where I belong"

By Makenna Lindsay | Communications Intern

The cover of the latest Free Minds Connect
The cover of the latest Free Minds Connect

We are well into 2024, and springtime at Free Minds and our Prison Book Club has ushered in new opportunities for growth, community building, and creativity. The spring season serves as a revival from the long winter months, inspiring new beginnings and reflection. The Free Minds family thanks you for your continuous support and belief in our members as they continue to engage in bibliotherapy (using books and writing for healing and mental health), and stay connected to a world beyond incarceration. 


Dreaming Big: Tapping into desires for ourselves, our future, and our communities

Last month Free Minds published the latest issue of our magazine, the Free Minds Connect, with the theme of “Dreams.” The Connect is a magazine written by and for Free Minds members and staff, distributed across the country to over 700 incarcerated members in over 100 facilities. In this issue, Free Minds Dreamers shared goals for themselves, advice for keeping those dreams alive and in motion, and reflections on past achievements. In the section “Members Connect,” FM member MAR shares, “I humbly remind my Free Minds brothers & sisters, as I constantly remind myself on those days when the going gets rough, at all costs, keep the DREAM alive!! And don’t fail to turn over every stone in its pursuit!!” 

To keep one’s dreams alive, especially within the dehumanizing confines of the carceral system, requires a great deal of self-determination, courage, and strength. Below are two powerful poems featured in the “Dreams” issue:

Dream by JS

A dream is only a dream as long as you don’t make it a reality. 

I'm sure someone else has said it, but this is a truth I’ve learned from the short 27 years that I’ve lived,

and the things that I’ve seen and come to understand. 

I have things I want to accomplish and goals that I want to reach that manifest itself into a dream, but not just one dream, 

multiple dreams that I put together to envision what I want, 

what it's going to look like when I get it, and what I'm going to do when I get it.


Dreams by AB

Dreams are something that are created in order for them to become a reality 

You have to believe in those dreams. 

Dreams are your own creativity, 

You are the only one who can make them come true… 

Dreams must not be kept asleep, 

So wake up and see your dreams come alive. 


Books Across the Miles: Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

In our last update, we shared that our last Books Across the Miles (BAM) book was an anthology of poems titled Felon: Poems by R. Dwayne Betts. Betts reflects on his experiences while incarcerated and how incarceration continues to impact an individual even after they’ve left prison. Felon: Poems was well received after being sent to hundreds of incarcerated members throughout the country! We asked our members which poem stood out the most to them and why:

“The poem that stood out to me most was ‘Going Back After Mim.’ He takes us through all the struggles at points in our lives that we have went to or through things that we have experienced, felt, saw, or done. It’s like seeing yourself through those words.” CS.

“The poem ‘For a Bail Denied’ stood out the most to me. It stood out the most to me because when I’m released, I would like to represent and advocate for youth.” MC

“The poem that stood out to me was ‘Behind Yellow Tape.’ It makes me think of my youth, how we all saw and did things that we regret later in life while seeing all the death and violence early on that put us on the wrong side of our choices we made to navigate into manhood in a treacherous environment.” AHA

“My favorite poem was ‘Blood History’ in which he 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…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.” KM.

Our current BAM book is Washington Black, which tells the story of an enslaved 11-year-old boy in Barbados. After being chosen to work with his enslaver’s brother as a manservant, the boy, George, and his new partner, Christopher, escape together after a series of events. Their travels span the Caribbean, to the Far North, London and Morocco–telling a story of adversity, redemption, connection, and renewal. The book has been sent to hundreds of incarcerated members. As we read along with our members, we’ll be asking for their thoughts about the book and responses to discussion questions. Stay tuned!


On The Same Page: Community Building with DC Youth

Free Minds’ On the Same Page (OTSP) racial equity education program uses poetry by our incarcerated and formerly incarcerated members to build community, bridge the divide between people inside and outside of prisons, bring system change, and share the message that reading and writing can help through difficult times. During On the Same Page workshops, formerly incarcerated Poet Ambassadors engage the community in reading and responding to poetry by our incarcerated poets—providing written responses to be mailed to the poets in a mutual exchange that builds resilience and understanding, and is an essential source of affirmation and encouragement for our members. 

In 2024 alone, Free Minds has completed 60 community building events with high school students, college students, and workplaces. This month, Free Minds conducted a workshop with the DC nonprofit Latin American Youth Center for their wellness day event, facilitated by staff and Poet Ambassadors Keonte, Deon, and Antoine. Middle and high school students had a chance to listen to poetry, provide feedback, and respond to a few writing prompts. One student shared that she never knew she would be interested in poetry until the workshop, while others expressed their gratitude for having a space to practice creating writing in a group. Antoine shared his poem, “Where I Belong,” about the community connections forged through poetry exchange: 


Where I Belong by Antoine C. 

Late night, dark hallway, an illegal profession... 

Weary eyes, vigilant, felonies in  my possession... 

Living life on a razor blade, but too scared to have fear 

Looking out of a dirty glass door, I'm surely not happy here 

I peer up at the full moon, glowing amongst countless stars 

I think of a giant pearl, set in diamonds devoid of flaws 

Beauty I see, but can't feel, it's past time to call it a night 

Before I knew it, I'm driving under Downtown city lights 

I see a small crowd, compelled, I followed them into a lounge 

Heard something about "On the Same Page: Write Night,” I found a spot and sat down 

Powerful words filled my ears, profound enough to draw tears 

Deep expressions of what I've felt in my heart all of these years 

Seeing I am not alone encouraged me to stay strong 

Not in a hallway, but in a room full of poets is where I belong 


Free Minds members are excited to be “on the same page” with DC community members and encourage healing through creative expression!

Free Minds Prison Book Club allows incarcerated members to connect to outside communities through reading and writing. Thanks to your continuous support, our members are able to share their experiences with the wider world, connect with diverse communities, and continue to free their minds through the transformative power of reading and writing. 

Mailing poetry feedback to incarcerated poets
Mailing poetry feedback to incarcerated poets
Free Minds members read and discussed Felon: Poems
Free Minds members read and discussed Felon: Poems
The next book club selection: Washington Black
The next book club selection: Washington Black
A collage by incarcerated artist Muhammad
A collage by incarcerated artist Muhammad
Artwork by incarcerated artist Arnoldo
Artwork by incarcerated artist Arnoldo


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Jan 8, 2024
End of Year Reflections and Inspiring Resilience

By Sofia Dean | Community Engagement Coordinator

Sep 11, 2023
Community Ties Far and Wide

By Sofia Dean | Program Assistant

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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
$35,185 raised of $40,000 goal
1,041 donations
$4,815 to go
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