Transform teens who have family in prison

by POPStheclub.com, Inc. (DBA POPS the Club)
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Transform teens who have family in prison
Transform teens who have family in prison
Transform teens who have family in prison
Transform teens who have family in prison
Transform teens who have family in prison
Transform teens who have family in prison
Transform teens who have family in prison
Transform teens who have family in prison
Transform teens who have family in prison
Transform teens who have family in prison
Transform teens who have family in prison
Transform teens who have family in prison
Transform teens who have family in prison
My Earth by Nathalie G.
My Earth by Nathalie G.

On March 6th, we celebrated Dream Catchers, POPS the Club's seventh anthology from Out of the Woods Press, with a book launch and silent auction. Attendees enjoyed an evening of music, poetry, dance, and stories, with imaginative performances by POPS students and grads. The silent auction featured artwork by club members, offering an opportunity to the public to purchase a unique piece. We appreciate everyone who joined us to celebrate our club members' brilliant achievements.

Also, in March, POPS partnered up with SNAP Inc., and volunteers from Snapchat spoke at some of our virtual clubs. Our students were able to get a glimpse into the tech world and ask about the career opportunities available in the industry. Speakers talked about positions in marketing & finance and also about their work experiences before SNAP. One speaker shared that she created her own POPS club at SNAP, where they meet every week and hold a safe space to talk about anything on their mind. Our students loved hearing about the many different possibilities, and volunteers shared that after their experience at Snap, they're ready to go on to college.

POPS held an ALL-DAY Virtual 5K on June 19th in honor of Father's Day and recognition of incarcerated fathers. Participants were able to walk or run at their preferred location at their own pace with the support of donors to reach our fundraising goal. All participants wore customizable POPS runner's bibs to show their support while out in their communities. Our goal of $5000 was met and exceeded by the generous donors in support of participants. We thank all who participated or donated to this vital cause, as this support means everything to us and our club members.

POPS Summer Clubs began meeting virtually on June 22nd and will run through August 10th. Clubs meet every Tuesday and Thursday from 12:30 - 1:30 PM for special marketing and design workshops, mindfulness classes, and more. On July 6th, Miss USA 2020 Asya Branch will join the club as a guest speaker. An advocate for criminal justice reform, Branch was crowned Miss USA 2020 and made history as the first Black Miss Mississippi and the first Miss Mississippi to win the crown.

POPS is currently compiling submissions for the eighth anthology from Out Of the Woods Press, Dear Friends. Current club members and graduates have submitted various works, including poetry, prose, photography, and other artwork that will be released in April 2022. This collection will focus on how club members and graduates are coping during the Covid 19 pandemic.

Love Your Parents by Janna R.
Love Your Parents by Janna R.
Blooms by Kennedy K.
Blooms by Kennedy K.
Turning Head by Rinah G.
Turning Head by Rinah G.

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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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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
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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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Childhood by Janna Rae Nieto, from Dream Catchers
Childhood by Janna Rae Nieto, from Dream Catchers

Each year POPS the Club students and alumni create poetry, stories, essays, painting, photographs and mixed media artwork in their clubs--inspired by our volunteers, our guest speakers, and by their fellow students' work published in our six collections published since our founding.

This year's collection is special for it will be published by Out of the Woods Press. The collection is special in other ways too as it features work by members from 14 schools in four states. As we received submissions, we were astonished--we always are--by the power and wisdom in the work. 

One special submission this year came from a member of the very first POPS club launched on February 13, 2013. For seven years this young man has continued to be part of the ever-growing POPS family, and this year he visited the Venice club to celebrate POPS' birthday with the club members at Venice. When he arrived he said, "I'd like to share my newest poem with you, for Valentine's Day..."

We want to share John Bembry's poem with you, a taste of what's to come in the new anthology, Dream Catchers, to be released in October.

I'm Looking for a New Heart

Mine is damaged beyond repair/It works sometimes or never,

Or when it wants to

It doesn't do well with anger./It will erupt like a volcano burning friendships or itself.

It doesn't show too many emotions./It feels cold in my chest and it tends to make me numb. 

It seems to react to pain more than anything./Having a fun memory can trigger the pain it once felt.

It enjoys darkness and solitude.

I've put a lot of work into it./It was almost completely broken.

Not sure if this is how a heart should feel.

If anyone has a heart and doesn't mind lending it, that would be great./I can't physically take it, of course,

But maybe it can mend mine into what it should be.

It takes so much will power and focus on the future to not let it affect me mentally. 

At least I know my mind is strong.

As for my heart, it's going to take a lifetime of treatment to return it to normal.

If it ever has been.

I just hope to feel true happiness one day.

       Like John's poem, the work our students' produce reflects the power of the bonds they've created, the trust and inspiration created in the clubs. 

[All students and grads] participating in this report and in our publications have provided written permission, either themselves for those over 18 or from their parent or guardian for those under 18, for POPS to use their full names. 

The Days Unravelling by Nicole Bezerra, POPS grad
The Days Unravelling by Nicole Bezerra, POPS grad
Mixed Emotions by Morgan Hamilton, Dream Catchers
Mixed Emotions by Morgan Hamilton, Dream Catchers
Open Heart, Anonymous POPS student, Dream Catchers
Open Heart, Anonymous POPS student, Dream Catchers
In the Beginning, Ellie Perez Sanchez
In the Beginning, Ellie Perez Sanchez
John Bembry, Poet and longtime POPS member
John Bembry, Poet and longtime POPS member

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POPStheclub.com, Inc. (DBA POPS the Club)

Location: Marina Del Rey, CA - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @popstheclub
Project Leader:
Amy Friedman
Los Angeles, CA United States
$22,031 raised of $50,000 goal
 
346 donations
$27,969 to go
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