Book Club for Youth in Federal Prison

by Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop
Apr 18, 2014

"I bundle up these emotions and put them on paper"

Alisha accepts the Best Poem Award from BleakHouse
Alisha accepts the Best Poem Award from BleakHouse

Happy spring from Free Minds! The cherry blossoms are in full bloom here in DC, and with the warming weather we are reminded of one of our favorite Free Minds themes—renewal. Free Minds is all about transformation and the possibilities of change, and we are happy to share our recent achievements with you all.

BAM! Books Continue to Inspire

Our Books Across the Miles! (BAM!) initiative continues to inspire Free Minds youth incarcerated in federal prisons across the country. Though they are far from their families and communities, the BAM! program provides a means for Free Minds members to connect through a common book. Our last BAM! selection, The Pactby Sampson Davis, George Davis, and Rameck Hunt, tells the true story of three young men from the streets of Newark who became successful doctors. One Free Minds member, Alvin, wrote us a long letter about what the book meant to him. He told us:

“I have many words to describe [The Pact], but the main two words are ‘Challenging’ and ‘Motivating.’ Truly what these three guys went through and overcame to be successful was totally mind-blowing. Throughout all their success, they never forgot where they came from. This book showed me that you don’t have to let your childhood struggles determine your future. Instead, you can use it as a stepping stone and beat the odds against you.” –Alvin

Our upcoming BAM! title is Bronxwood by Coe Booth. The novel tells the story of Tyrell, a young man trying to navigate difficult choices with a father just out of jail and brother in foster care.

Incarcerated Youth Honored for Their Poetry

This spring, Free Minds members were honored with two different awards for their poetry. Four Free Minds members were published in Tacenda Literary Magazine, a publication dedicated to sharing stories about incarceration. Free Minds member Alisha won a “best poem” award for her poem “Colors.” In the annual Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, 17-year-old Muquan received a “Gold Key” designation for his poem about a friend who was killed by gun violence. The Gold Key is the highest award you can receive in DC before moving on to the national level of the competition. Muquan, who is currently incarcerated, wrote a letter to be read at the awards ceremony on his behalf. He said:

“You don’t know how excited I was to learn that I won this award. I just can’t describe the feelings in words! This poem is very important to me, due to the fact that it’s about one of my best friends. I lost my friend back in 2010. It’s a shame when we lose people we love the most to violence and petty crime. That’s why I love writing. It helps me to express all of the anger, the hate, the joy, and the pain. And when I bundle all these emotions up and put them on paper, the outcome is all beautiful.” –Muquan

Write Night Expands to Satellite Locations

We are excited to announce that our Write Night program is expanding to new venues! Write Night, our popular volunteer event that brings the community together to respond to poetry written by incarcerated youth, has outgrown our monthly meeting space. We are thrilled to be partnering with community groups such as Seekers Church and companies such as The Advisory Board to bring the voice of Free Minds poets to wider audiences.

As we continue to expand and improve our programs, we want to extend a special thank you to all of you who have contributed to our success. Thanks to your support, more incarcerated youth are sharing their stories and writing new chapters in their lives.

Muquan's "Gold Key" certificate from Scholastic
Community members respond to poems at Write Night
Community members respond to poems at Write Night
Our next BAM! selection, Broxwood by Coe Booth
Our next BAM! selection, Broxwood by Coe Booth
A page from our newsletter to prison, The Connect
A page from our newsletter to prison, The Connect
Write Night poems with feedback from supporters
Write Night poems with feedback from supporters



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Organization Information

Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Tara Libert
Washington, District of Columbia United States
$17,230 raised of $20,000 goal
369 donations
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