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

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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Valeria performs at POPS Book Launch 2019
Valeria performs at POPS Book Launch 2019

Valeria is one of more than 1,000 teens across the U.S. who are treasured student members and graduates of POPS the Club.

Back in 2015, Valeria’s fears surrounding her family’s struggles with immigration drew her to visit a POPS club for the first time. In that nurturing space, she experienced transformation. 

Before joining POPS, Valeria hid her fears and anxieties from teachers, counselors, peers, even her closest friends. POPS helped her understand she was not alone and empowered her to open up. In doing so, she discovered that her personal story is her strength!

It is estimated that more than 10 million children have experienced parental incarceration at some time in their life. And these kids face unique difficulties. In addition to the trauma of separation, behavioral consequences can be severe. 

Children impacted by incarceration and detention are disproportionately more likely to have higher dropout rates, higher incidences of depression, ill-health, and anxiety. Parental incarceration disproportionately affects people of color and low-income populations, and a system of laws and regulations enacted to profit off the families of the incarcerated imposes still more burdens.

And yet these children have remained nearly invisible.

POPS the Club was founded to change all that, to provide support, hope and dignity for this too-often ignored population, and to amplify their voices.

After graduating from high school, Valeria stayed connected to POPS, and this year we were able to hire her to be our Volunteer Coordinator, even as she continues her college studies and holds down a second job.

One day at that second job, a customer offered Valeria a tip. She asked if instead he would consider a donation to POPS, the organization that had so critically impacted her life.

After he read about POPS’ mission, the gentleman made an extraordinarily generous donation.

It was second nature for Valeria to share the story of POPS the Club because she knows that those who have participated in POPS have experienced:

·     a reduction in depression and anxiety

·     an increased desire to graduate high school and go on to college

·    a decision to leave behind gang associations

·     trading violence for artistic expression

·     an overall optimism about life that they did not have before

Each week POPS receives calls from schools, teachers, principals and community leaders wishing to bring POPS to their schools. We're ready to launch at new sites in 2020, but we need your support as we seek to raise $50,000 to support our expansion. 

You are part of our village, and your support means so much, so we hope you'll consider a donation this holiday season! 

With deep appreciation,
Amy Friedman,
Executive Director

P.S. Your gift makes it possible for a POPS provide each club with a nutritious lunch, a trained leadership team, our self-empowerment, self-expression and community engagement curriculum, publishing opportunities, and the kinds of other support members need to grow, heal and thrive. 

John performs at the 2019 Book Launch
John performs at the 2019 Book Launch
POPS is Family!
POPS is Family!
Katherine & Karen, POPS Grads and Ambassadors
Katherine & Karen, POPS Grads and Ambassadors
Necey and Jennifer
Necey and Jennifer
Mikey performs at We Got Game Book launch
Mikey performs at We Got Game Book launch
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Organization Information

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
$21,881 raised of $50,000 goal
 
337 donations
$28,119 to go
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