Support for DC's Previously Incarcerated Youth

by Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop
Vetted
Isaiah graduates from the Apprenticeship
Isaiah graduates from the Apprenticeship

In August, 12 formerly incarcerated youths and adults graduated from the Free Minds Job Readiness and Personal Skill Building Apprenticeship. Congratulations to Caleb, D’Angelo, Damion, Delonta, Freddie, Ira, Isaiah, JaQuan, Joseph, Kenneth, Lorenzo, and Queyon!

With your support, the Apprentices studied and gained hands-on experience with literacy, goal setting, resume writing, job interviews, civil rights and history, health and wellness, budgeting and financial literacy, public speaking and communication skills, entrepreneurship, computer literacy, and more! Each Apprentice also worked a shift with a local contracting company, gaining valuable on-the-job experience alongside real employees and customers. The Apprentices went on a personalized tour of the US Capitol as well! Despite being born and raised in Washington, DC, this was the first time any of the Apprentices had been to the Capitol.

On August 17, Free Minds members and volunteers gathered to read and respond to poetry by incarcerated writers. At our latest On the Same Page: Write Night event, approximately 40 volunteers wrote feedback for Free Minds members who are currently incarcerated. Meanwhile, Free Minds members home from prison, including August Apprentices, shared some of their experiences with incarceration and reentry. For most of our Apprentices, it was the first time speaking in front of a crowd. They received a warm and friendly welcome home reception and we are so grateful.

Damion and Delonta read poetry on behalf of their Free Minds brothers who are currently incarcerated in federal prison. Joseph, Ira, DeAngelo, and Caleb spoke about the impact of their participation in our Reentry Book Club, and what being at Write Night meant to them personally.

 DeAngelo shared what it felt like to receive feedback on his poetry when he was incarcerated: "Some of us have support from our families, but what Free Minds does, getting support from those who don't even know us? That means so much. Getting just three words on that paper helps us wake up and get through the day in a positive way."

Free Minds members, staff, families, and friends gathered at the end of the month to celebrate the Apprentices’ hard work at their graduation ceremony. Isaiah volunteered to speak to the gathered crowd: “Sometimes when you’re locked up, your family gives up on you. But Free Minds is like a family--a new family. And they are there for you.”

Two senior Free Minds members and past Apprenticeship graduates, Alvin and Gary, also spoke. Alvin shared how much he learned from the mentors he was introduced to during the Apprenticeship, and Gary spoke about how he values being able to give back to his community. Gary is a supervisor at a pet daycare, and he recently hired Free Minds member Gary, who graduated from the Apprenticeship in May!

Free Minds staff placed 100% of the August Apprentices in job opportunities, schools, or vocational training programs. We are now looking ahead and preparing for the next Apprenticeship class in October.

As Ira told the crowd at Write Night, "Hope, Understanding, and Love" is what Free Minds means to him—and that’s what we see in our supporters. Thank you for providing hope, understanding, and love.

Delonta prepping for job interviews
Delonta prepping for job interviews
The Apprentices at the Capitol
The Apprentices at the Capitol
Apprenticeship Trainer Marcus leading discussion
Apprenticeship Trainer Marcus leading discussion
Caleb speaking to volunteers at Write Night
Caleb speaking to volunteers at Write Night
Delonta and Damion reading poetry at Write Night
Delonta and Damion reading poetry at Write Night

Links:

Carlos thanks you for giving him a second chance!
Carlos thanks you for giving him a second chance!

These last few months have been a true spring with growth happening all around at Free Minds! From graduation ceremonies and Write Nights to Harvard Law School and poetry panels, we are grateful for all of the opportunities you have enabled us to have share the untold stories of our members.

 

MAY APPRENTICESHIP GRADUATION

On Friday, June 3, friends, family, and community members gathered to celebrate nine Free Minds members graduating from our month-long Job Readiness and Personal Skill-Building Apprenticeship. From the stage, 3 senior Poet Ambassadors welcomed them to the brotherhood of Free Minds.

During the Apprenticeship, the Apprentices participated in a book club and poetry writing session, practiced budgeting and financial literacy, entrepreneurship, resume writing, job interview techniques, computer literacy, nutrition and fitness, mental wellness, and more. At the end of the month, each Apprentice left with a job placement or vocational program placement.

One Apprentice, Charles, gave the valedictorian speech at the graduation. He said, “The Apprenticeship gave me courage and made me believe in myself. Before, in prison, I didn’t know where I was going or what I was going to do when I came home. I had no direction, no goals for my life. I thought I wasn’t going to be anything. But I came home and joined Free Minds; they showed me that there was more to life than what I was doing before. I can better myself, and I’ve got goals and things that I want to accomplish.”

For some of the apprentices, this was the first graduation ceremony they have ever experienced. One apprentice named Greg shared that because he dropped out of school in 8th grade, he felt like he never really accomplished anything in his life--until he graduated from the Free Minds Apprenticeship. We are grateful to stand side by side with these incredible Free Minds members, as they continue to step into their true potential as change-makers and community leaders.

 

MAY WRITE NIGHT

On Wednesday, May 25, dozens of community members gathered in DC’s Takoma neighborhood to attend Free Minds’ monthly On the Same Page: Write Night.

Free Minds Apprentices and Poet Ambassadors stepped forward and shared parts of their stories. Shadeed shared about the lack of direction he had while he was locked up, and the focus he now has to chase after his goals. David talked spoke about the depression and anxiety he felt before and during his time being locked up, and the joy he is able to experience now. One Free Minds apprentice, Delonté, took a deep breath before speaking. “In prison,” he said, “I felt like I wasn’t wanted and nobody cared. Free Minds taught me to open my mind and change my life.”

The rest of the night, volunteers read and responded to poetry written by our incarcerated members. Ranging in age from 17 to 75, these volunteers spent time writing insightful comments and encouraging feedback on the poems. At the end of the night, the staff walked away with a huge stack of poems, each one filled with colorful comments. We are excited to send the poems back to the incarcerated authors in [x] prisons across the country.

 

VISIT TO HARVARD

In April, Reentry Program Manager Keela and Poet Ambassador Phil flew to Boston, Massachusetts, to meet with a class of Harvard Law students. After a brief introduction to Free Minds from Keela, Phil stood and shared his story of incarceration at the age of 16 and the transformation that followed as a result of the power of reading, writing, and mentorship in his life. Keela and Phil hosted an On the Same Page: Write Night with them. We are thankful for the opportunity to connect with the future generation of lawyers and law-makers, and for the chance to share our members’ voices on such an influential campus.

 

WE CAN BE THE CHANGE: WRITING SOLUTIONS TO VIOLENCE

On April 27, 2016, approximately 100 people filled the Lincoln Hall at the Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital for a very special reading and community dialogue presented by three nonprofits that have teamed up for a unique approach to violence prevention through the power of the written word. Free Minds, PEN/Faulkner Writers in Schools, and Shout Mouse Press partnered to share powerful voices and untold stories from the community. Free Minds Poet Ambassadors read poetry and spoke about their personal stories of youth incarceration and reentry. Then the audience listened to a panel discussion with a Poet Ambassador, two high school students and authors, and an English teacher from a DC Public High School, all of whom have participated in the partnership between Free Minds, PEN/Faulkner, and Shout Mouse Press.

At the end of the evening, Free Minds Poet Ambassador Carlos read the poem “Belonging to Love” by an incarcerated author. Carlos spoke about his own feelings of isolation and loneliness when he was incarcerated, the desire to belong to a supportive community, and the incredible impact of receiving feedback on his poetry from volunteers at Free Minds On the Same Page: Write Night events. Carlos said, “It sows the seeds of that connection that we so desire.”

 

VIOLENCE PREVENTION OUTREACH

Free Minds staff and Poet Ambassadors Carlos and Greg visited Brightwood Center City Public Charter School to speak with a group of sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. After going around and sharing their names, the students listened attentively to Carlos and Greg’s stories of incarceration and reentry. Carlos shared how he would read a book a day while he was in solitary confinement, and how writing poetry saved his life.

The students read their favorite poems from the Free Minds literary journal The Untold Story of the Real Me. A sixth grader read "Memory I Can't Forget" by Free Minds Member Kevin. In the poem, Kevin talks about his younger sister passing away and the pain he feels that he couldn’t protect her. The young student then shared about how her little brother got hurt and she also felt guilt about it.

Some students wrote poetry and stories in response to the pieces in the literary journal. The first student to share, Jalen, wrote a personal narrative in response to Free Minds Member Jonas's poem "Dignity." In a story called "I Want to be A Dignified Black Man," Jalen shared vulnerable and personal details about his childhood and dreams for the future.

At the end of the session, the students crowded Greg and Carlos, literary journals and colored pens in hand, asking for their autographs. When asked whether the program inspired them in their writing or for the future, the Brightwood Center City PCS students had this to say:

"Yes it has [inspired me] because it makes me want to express myself more"

"This program has inspired me to write more, because even though I might not be the best writer, I want to write just to convey a message"

"It has inspired me because I can discuss about my life and what I've been through"

--


Thank you again for standing with us to bring the power of reading and writing to young men and women affected by the criminal justice system.

Charles talks to volunteers at the May Write Night
Charles talks to volunteers at the May Write Night
Audience members at We Can Be the Change
Audience members at We Can Be the Change
May Apprentices at their graduation ceremony
May Apprentices at their graduation ceremony
Poet Ambassador Phil speaks at Harvard Law School
Poet Ambassador Phil speaks at Harvard Law School
"On the Same Page" at Brightwood Center City PCS
"On the Same Page" at Brightwood Center City PCS

Links:

Varvie (center) with staff Marcus and Keela
Varvie (center) with staff Marcus and Keela

This winter has already brought new adventures, new faces, and new stories to the Free Minds family. From the graduation of 11 Free Minds apprentices in January to a sold-out panel event discussing solutions to community violence in February, we can feel a shift in the air. As the weather continues to warm up, the growing momentum of change and inclusion in our community is tangible. Though there is still much work to be done, we are grateful for the chance to look back and celebrate our members’ accomplishments!

 

January Apprentices Graduate with Flying Colors

On February 5, we gathered to celebrate the graduation of 11 new apprentices from our January 2016 Job Readiness and Personal Skill Building Apprenticeship Program. After a short welcome from Executive Director Tara, Free Minds Reentry Coach Marcus took the stage. He shared words of encouragement and purpose with the audience, before introducing Alvin, the selected speaker from the graduating class, who spoke about his passion for writing and the power of community to bring about real change. Next up was Tony Belton, a returning citizen who serves as our Apprenticeship Job Supervisor, who shared all he has learned about perseverance, hard work, and success. We continued to celebrate as each apprentice walked across the stage and received his honorary Poet Ambassador shirt, before gathering together for lunch and some celebratory cake! A couple of months after the official graduation ceremony, 2 graduates are working full-time, 7 are in job programs, and the rest are choosing to continue their education. We are so excited for the continued success of these incredible young men!

Just recently, we started the March Job Readiness Apprenticeship, with our biggest group yet of 13. So far, they have been reading and writing poetry, discussing what makes a model employee, and practicing budgeting and financial literacy. They’ve also gone on field trips to the Martin Luther King, Jr., monument, where they learned about the history of advocacy and civil rights, and to Walls of Books, a used bookstore that recently opened in DC, where they learned about being a small business owner. Walls of Books owner Pablo Sierra spoke to the Apprentices about perseverance and the power of books to transform minds and hearts. Afterwards, the apprentices explored the aisles of books, finding everything from children’s books for their kids to mystery novels to read on their own. We are grateful for Pablo and his team at Walls of Books, and love seeing our members pass on the joy of reading to their family and friends!

We can't wait to watch these young men learn and grow--we know that they will do great things.

 

Reentry Successes: Getting On the Same Page

Recently, several of our members spoke at our Volunteer Write Night event in Foggy Bottom, where they shared their poetry and life experiences with a diverse group of volunteers from the D.C. area, and they read poetry by FM members who are currently incarcerated and wrote encouraging feedback for the poets. As we all know, reentry starts from the inside!

One of those young men is Varvie, who graduated from the Free Minds Apprenticeship Program in January. After completing the program, Varvie continued to participate in outreach with Free Minds, including an event at the Kennedy Center! You can watch a video of Varvie's poetry performance with the DC Legendary Musicians here (3:05). Although Varvie is now working full time for the DC government, he continues to do outreach with Free Minds, and even stopped by the March apprenticeship program a few weeks ago to say hi! We would also love to extend a huge congratulations to January apprentice Antonio, who recently completed the 7-week workforce training program with fellow DC nonprofit Building Futures. Antonio is now trained and certified to work in a variety of fields, including construction and contracting!

Free Minds has also had more opportunities over the past few months to speak with students at high schools around the area, including those at Sandy Spring Friends School and Ballou STAY High School. After sharing their stories and reading a poem or two from our literary journal, The Untold Story of the Real Me, our Poet Ambassadors facilitated discussions with high schoolers on topics like solitary confinement, change, and redemption. Keep up to date with our Violence Prevention Outreach programs--follow us on instagram here!

 

We Can Be The Change

As many families across the world spent their January's making New Year's resolutions, members of the Free Minds family gathered to resolve to end the violence in our city. On Thursday, January 14th, a group of 35 friends and family came together at an event called We Can Be the Change: An Evening Dedicated to Our Fallen Brothers and Sisters. After co-founders Tara and Kelli welcomed everyone, several Free Minds members shared poetry from our literary journal. One read a poem written by FM member Kuron, who was killed in September. Everyone then gathered in a circle around a glass bowl filled with water. One by one, people placed small stones in the bowl as they called out the names of each loved one they were honoring. Marcus, our Reentry Apprenticeship Trainer, explained a new Free Minds initiative called #IVow, a chance for each person to make a personal commitment to rid our community of violence. Marcus demonstrated by writing his vow on an index card, and placing this vow on a board. Dozens of Free Minds members, families, and friends followed, making personal pledges about ways they can reduce violence in our city.

A little over a month later, on Thursday, February 18th, we held our We Can Be The Change: Working to End Violence in Our City event downtown at the Shakespeare Theatre Company. Over 150 people attended the event, with some of our guests standing at the back and sides of the theatre just to hear from our evening’s panelists. Hosted by ABC7’s Leon Harris, the event featured poetry readings from several Free Minds members, along with a panel including author George Pelecanos, author and community activist Tony Lewis Jr., public defender James King, and WJLA/ABC7’s Jennifer Donelan. Guests were overwhelmingly supportive, and had great questions for our panelists on the causes and potential solutions for violence in our community. As guests were leaving, they added their own “vows” to the board started a few weeks prior. We’re so grateful for the chance to continue spreading the message of hope and change in the new year, and are already looking ahead to our next panel event in April. More information on this upcoming event here.

 

We couldn't be prouder of our Free Minds members, and we look forward to seeing what they accomplish next! Thank you for your continual support, and for believing in the power of books and writing to heal communities and transform lives!

The "I Vow" board displaying vows for change
The "I Vow" board displaying vows for change
James (left) talks to Walls of Books owner Pablo
James (left) talks to Walls of Books owner Pablo
The sold out crowd at "We Can Be the Change"
The sold out crowd at "We Can Be the Change"
Antonio at his Building Futures graduation
Antonio at his Building Futures graduation
Charlie speaks at the DC Public Defender Service
Charlie speaks at the DC Public Defender Service

Links:

Lawrence and Marcus at the Newseum
Lawrence and Marcus at the Newseum

We love this time of year as we have so many opportunities to get the word out about all our Free Minds members' successes--from graduation ceremonies, to Washington Post articles, to round tables with DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton! Our Poet Ambassadors' calendars have been packed with events. That's a true gift!

“The Apprenticeship is a Second Chance”

We had many extra reasons to be thankful this November, as we welcomed six new apprentices to the Free Minds family. The sessions covered a range of topics, including resume-building, budgets and finance, computer literacy, entrepreneurship, continued education, interview prep, and fitness. It was also a joy to welcome back many of our guest speakers from previous apprenticeships, including Donald Curtis from SOUL, Larry Carroll from KAAOS Gym, and Derrick Bey from Redefine Your Mind. One of our November Apprentices’ favorite sessions was when they spent the afternoon at the Newseum in downtown DC. While going through the Pulitzer Prize exhibit, Free Minds member Aaron saw a picture and remembered that the same photo was on the cover of a book from Free Minds that he received while locked up titled A Long Way Gone.  He was so excited to recognize the photo that he began sharing the story from the book and how it affected him reading it while he was in the hole.  He said the Newseum was the best museum that he had ever been to and he wanted to come back.

At the end of the month, it was time for another graduation ceremony, and the chairs in our community room were packed. After a short welcome from Executive Director Tara Libert, Free Minds Reentry Coach Marcus Bullock took the stage. He shared words of encouragement and purpose with the audience before introducing Doug, the chosen speaker from the graduating class. Speaking thoughtfully, Doug shared, “Free Minds is extended family. The Apprenticeship is a second chance. I never had a job before. I didn't think I could ... In this Apprenticeship, I learned so much. I appreciate everything. You all were a big help, [and] you welcomed me with open arms. I [even] remember that first book you gave me. Along Came A Spider by James Patterson. I'll never forget that first book!"

Since the graduation ceremony at the end of November, five out of six of our apprentices are working full-time, and the sixth is currently working towards his GED. We couldn’t be more proud of these Free Minds brothers and the 28 other apprentices who graduated from the program in 2015. As we come to the close of one year, we are looking forward to the continued success of the Free Minds Job Readiness and Life Skills Apprenticeship in 2016!

 

Sharing the Untold Story

In early December, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton hosted a roundtable to examine ways to ensure assistance for returning citizens to DC as they transition back to society. Doug, who had just completed the Free Minds Apprenticeship, attended the meeting and spoke about his own experience coming home from prison in October. Although he was initially nervous to speak to the crowd, he got a round of applause after he talked! We are grateful for these opportunities for our members to share their untold stories of firsthand experience.

 

The Power of Art

The same week, Free Minds attended an event at the Public Welfare Foundation in DC called Creating Justice: The Transformative Power of the Arts in Advancing Justice Reform. An evening of visual art, performances, and discussion about the transformative power of the arts in advancing a new vision of justice, the event featured several speakers, artists, performers, and advocates who are leading campaigns across the country to transform the criminal and juvenile justice systems in the United States. The performances included a poetry reading by Free Minds member Malik. A graduate of our September apprenticeship, Malik read a piece from our most recent literary journal, The Untold Story of the Real Me: Young Voices from Prison.

 

The Reason for the Season

Later on in December, Free Minds participated in an Alternative Gift Fair in Takoma Park, Maryland. Instead of selling products, Free Minds joined 15 other local nonprofits to speak about our mission to community members looking for alternatives to the heightened materialism that often accompanies the holiday season. Free Minds Poet Ambassadors Juan and Phil spoke with dozens of people throughout the afternoon, sharing the impact of Free Minds on their lives and the lifeline poetry and creative writing can provide for incarcerated men and women. Community members had the opportunity to partner with us in our 10,000 Journals for Hope Campaign, in which we are raising the funds to send 10,000 literary journals to youth in solitary confinement, juvenile detention centers, and schools across the country (#10000JournalsForHope). Click here for more ways to get involved with the campaign.

 

Free Minds Celebrities

Recently, three of our members were featured in the Washington Post for their work around the city. Will Avila, a Free Minds member since the early 2000s, started a company last year called Clean Decisions to provide returning citizens with jobs and skills in hopes of keeping them out of prison. The Clean Decisions employees deep-clean stoves, countertops, floors, food containers, and more at restaurants around the city. More than providing a service for both business clients and employees, Clean Decisions provides a brotherhood of support and camaraderie. As Graham McLaughlin, co-owner of Clean Decisions, says, “[Will] really created a positive environment, where it’s not just about the helpers and those being helped. It’s a real brotherhood.”

You can read the Washington Post article here.

 

Solitary Confinement on 16th Street

During the second week of December, Foundry United Methodist Church on 16th Street in Washington, DC hosted a full-size replica of a solitary confinement cell, also known as a Special Housing Unit (SHU). Visitors were invited to walk through, sit in, and reflect on the installation, facilitated by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT). On the opening day, NRCAT hosted a panel of speakers to reflect on the use of Solitary Confinement in prisons and juvenile detention centers across the country. Free Minds Poet Ambassador Juan spoke on the panel, and also participated in an interview with PBS on his experience being in solitary confinement for 18 months.

When Juan first arrived at the church, he couldn’t look at the cell, and almost left when he first saw it. In the end, he decided to stay because he realized that the public needs to know what is going on behind the prison walls, and that someone needs to be the one to talk about it.

None of these amazing ventures would have been possible without the dedicated support of people like you. Every time you contribute, you are joining the mission to build a stronger and safer community. THANK YOU from all of us for believing in the power of sharing our untold stories!

Free Minds Apprenticeship Graduate Charles!
Free Minds Apprenticeship Graduate Charles!
Charles admiring a photo in the Newseum
Charles admiring a photo in the Newseum
Doug speaks to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton
Doug speaks to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton
Malik and Tara at the Public Welfare Foundation
Malik and Tara at the Public Welfare Foundation
Juan and Phil at the Alternative Gift Fair
Juan and Phil at the Alternative Gift Fair

Links:

Andrew and his mother at the June graduation
Andrew and his mother at the June graduation

“I joined the Apprenticeship Program to turn my life around."

In our work with returning citizens, one thing that we’ve learned is that reentry begins on the inside--mentally and physically. That’s why we were so excited a few weeks ago when a federal prison invited us as reentry experts to lead a workshop in the prison with over a hundred inmates planning ahead for their release. Our reentry team traveled to the facility where we met approximately 120 inmates, several of whom were Free Minds members, proudly telling everyone about the Book Club! We led the participants in workplace role playing sessions, and Free Minds Reentry Apprenticeship Trainer inspired everyone with his personal story of becoming a successful business owner after being incarcerated at a young age. We shared our new motto about the three most important aspects of reentry: Belief, Action, and Motivation. Believe that you can do it, take action to achieve your goals, and remember what motivates you, such as a loved one or a dream for your future, even when you’re facing difficult odds. We’ve received a stack of letters from the participants telling us how motivated they are now, and the prison has invited us back to do a job fair in a few months!

Meanwhile in DC, our Apprenticeship is going strong!

This past June, six more young men from DC have graduated from our Job-Readiness and Life Skills Apprenticeship and are already on to their next steps to success!

The apprentices worked hard throughout the month, providing program support in the Free Minds office, learning crucial job skills, and gaining practical on-the-job experience with Clean Decisions, a cleaning and contracting company founded by Free Minds member Will, and Perspectives, a contracting company founded by Reentry Apprenticeship Trainer Marcus Bullock and his business partner Anthony Belton. In addition, many of our community leaders and facilitators from previous apprenticeship sessions continued to invest in our apprentices, including Donald Curtis from SOUL (Student-Athletes Organized to Understand Leadership) and Larry Carroll Sr from KAOOS gym in DC. We recognize the importance of having mentors that you can relate to and who understand what you’re going through, which is why we connect our apprentices with formerly incarcerated entrepreneurs such as Will (a former Free Minds member, now founder of Clean Decisions!), Marcus Bullock, Anthony Belton, Donald Curtis, Larry Carroll, Sr., and more!

Other topics of our Monday, Wednesday, Friday sessions included resume writing, job interviews, college preparation, nutrition, physical fitness, entrepreneurship, advocacy, and more. Apprentices also visited the Newseum where they learned about civic responsibility and the Civil Rights Movement. In another session, they discussed advocacy with representatives from the Corrections Information Council (CIC). This was particularly interesting because a Free Minds member currently works for the CIC!

One recent Apprenticeship graduate, Anthony, hadn’t thought about what he wanted to do with his life when he first started the Apprenticeship after being released from prison. But after meeting Reentry Apprenticeship Trainer Marcus Bullock he began to work on concrete career goals. He was particularly inspired by a workshop on decision-making with guest speaker Dave Ungrady from the Born Ready project. As Anthony recalls, “I joined the Apprenticeship Program to turn my life around." Now he has completed additional vocational training programs and is thinking about different careers. He even referred a friend to the Apprenticeship program, giving us his stamp of approval!

Terrell, a current Apprentice, shared with us why he’s motivated to complete the program and change his life: “The Apprenticeship is a real opportunity for me to grow. I’m learning more about me. At first I wasn’t a big people person but I’m discovering that I can deal with all types of people from all walks of life. I want to help people now. Before when I was younger I had so much resentment and negativity toward others. I’m wiser now. I know how to think instead of just acting. I have new goals now. I’m able to learn how to better myself and be more productive. When I was into the lifestyle of the streets it was all about instant gratification...Now I have an entirely different motivation. The Apprenticeship is helping me because everyone needs help, you just can’t be afraid to ask for it.”

Recently, several of our members spoke at our Volunteer Write Night event in Takoma Park, where they shared their poetry and life experiences with a diverse group of volunteers from the D.C. area, and they read poetry by FM members who are currently incarcerated and wrote encouraging feedback for the poets. As we all know, reentry starts from the inside!

At Write Night, our senior Reentry Support members who have been in the program for a long time joined us in congratulating Phil on his 1-year anniversary of his release from prison. Phil has been working steadily for the Corrections Information Council, as well as doing outreach with Free Minds!

Another member, Tony, proudly told everybody about being a firefighter and how much it meant to him to be able to help people and support his community. Free Minds member Khalef brought his entire family to the event to show them the program that he was a part of.

We couldn't be prouder of our members, and we look forward to seeing what they accomplish next! Thank you for your continual support, and for believing in the power of books and writing to heal communities and transform lives!

Marcus Bullock with Andrew at graduation
Marcus Bullock with Andrew at graduation
The Skyland Workforce Center Computer Lab
The Skyland Workforce Center Computer Lab
Major at Impact Hub: Where Change Goes to Work
Major at Impact Hub: Where Change Goes to Work
Delonte pulls his weight at KAOOS gym!
Delonte pulls his weight at KAOOS gym!
Phil and Tony at Write Night
Phil and Tony at Write Night

Links:

 

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Organization Information

Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.freemindsbookclub.org
Project Leader:
Tara Libert
Washington, DC United States
$23,448 raised of $30,000 goal
 
293 donations
$6,553 to go
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