FM members at On the Same Page event
Dear Free Minds Friends,
We have had a busy spring here at Free Minds, and we can’t believe how the time is passing! Recently, formerly incarcerated Free Minds members led their 8th poetry reading as part of our booming Community Outreach initiative, “On the Same Page: Free Minds Poetry in the Community and the Classroom.”
Free Minds Reentry members are committed to education, awareness, and to stopping the cycle of youth incarceration. Using poetry as a tool for healing and preventing violence, “On the Same Page” unites diverse audiences in DC and begins a vital dialogue to find community based solutions. Reading works from our literary journal They Call Me 299-359: Writings from Incarcerated Youth of Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop Free Minds members lead participants in a discussion on the causes of youth entering the criminal justice system. Recently our Free Minds poets took their powerful message to youth in the juvenile justice system at DC’s Youth Services Center. The ability to share from their past experiences to help others has been life-changing. Free Minds member Dashon describes why he facilitates “On The Same Page” sessions: “It allows me to help youth avoid the same path that I was on when I was their age and gives them a start on a new road. I show them that doing positive is always more fruitful.” Recent “On the Same Page” events have also been held at Bell Multicultural High School, Booker T. Washington Public Charter School, and Georgetown Law Criminal Justice Clinic.
But that’s not all we’ve been up to! Some of our other recent activities include:
- Free Minds member Michael was part of a group that met with Attorney General Eric Holder to promote PREA (Prison Rape Elimination Act). Michael’s group was successful; immediately following the meeting, the Department of Justice issued regulations that take important steps toward protecting vulnerable children in adult jails and prisons from sexual abuse.
- Reentry members joined writer Gabe Feldman at the Free Minds office for a writing workshop. Free Minds members, whose writing has improved significantly during their time in the program, are eager to continue writing and growing once they are released. This workshop provided them with the tools to continue writing as they transition to life in the community. The writing workshop also helps members become more effective facilitators for our “On the Same Page” events.
- We have continued our monthly Write Nights with great success. Reentry members join volunteers from around the community to read poems and give feedback and encouragement to members still incarcerated. This past Write Night included a guest who had traveled a bit farther than usual to attend our community event. Terry, visiting from Guatemala, was touched to hear about H.M., who made the perilous journey to the U.S. from Central America when he was only 8 years old. She wrote back to H.M. in Spanish encouraging him to continue writing and not to give up hope. Terry´s experience this past Write Night epitomizes the connection we try to foster between the Free Minds members and the supportive community outside.
We are continually awed not only by the achievements of our members but also by the breadth of support in the community. We could not do as much nor reach as many people without your generosity and belief in the transformative power of writing. Thank you so much!
FM members at Georgetown Law Center
Write Night volunteers
Sergio picking up books to read
Rapheal learning office skill
Reentry Support writing workshop