We can’t believe it’s already turning into spring! Free Minds has had an active few months in the Reentry phase of our program. We couldn’t do it without your support, and we’re excited to share a few achievements with you here:
Since our last report, Free Minds has led several sessions of Reentry Apprenticeships, where members returning home from prison work in our office, simultaneously giving back to the community and gaining valuable job skills. Free Minds members consider it such an important opportunity that we now get letters from members still incarcerated who are planning ahead and writing to request a spot in a the next cohort of apprentices! Next week we begin another set of apprenticeships, where, among other work, they will help us with planning the book club sessions they once participated in as 16 and17 year olds.
Following the fall release of “They Call Me 299-359,” Free Minds’ Literary Journal, we have been using the book as a tool to reach diverse audiences across the city and even globally! Free Minds Reentry members have led readings and discussions aimed at understanding the root causes of youth violence and incarceration with international Congressional Fellows, adult GED students, teachers at the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, and members of the Daughters of the American Revolution, to name a few. One Reentry member called the book “"a very good way to bridge the gap between worlds,” and these sessions have truly demonstrated the power of poetry to both connect and educate.
Another initiative begun in 2011, Free Minds’ “Volunteer Write Night,” has continued to blossom. If you’re in the area, consider joining us for this monthly volunteer opportunity- email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information! Free Minds Reentry members gather with volunteers from across the area to write feedback on the poems of members still incarcerated, allowing Reentry members to give back and encourage fellow writers. One recent recipient of feedback wrote enthusiastically: "I would like to thank all the people that showed love to my poems. I didn't know that they were that appreciated. Thanks for the motivation I'll keep 'em coming just for y'all no question!"
Free Minds Reentry members have also been practicing increased civic engagement, attending several DC City Council hearings and writing testimony on their personal experiences of job-seeking after incarceration.
Free Minds Member and Reentry Coach Michael has continued his activism on reentry issues. He continues to coach other Free Minds members returning home, while also discussing his own life story at a variety of public speaking engagements to educate about the repercussions of charging youth as adults. He recently attended SOUL’s National Youth Organizer Training in Oakland, CA, and just had a piece published in the Washington Post!
Your support not only helps us to provide opportunities for members returning home from prison, it sends a powerful message of your belief in their abilities to choose positive new life paths. We are so grateful!
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