Bobby ready to set sail on graduation day
Hello Free Minds Friends!
Since our last report, we've been extraordinarily busy here at Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop! Our members continue to amaze us with their creativity, resilience, and motivation to achieve positive goals. As always, we could not do what we do without your support. Here are just a few of the things we've been up to this summer:
- Free Minds’ violence prevention initiative, On the Same Page, continues to thrive. Since June, we have presented at DC’s juvenile justice detention center, a summer youth activism program, a homeless shelter, and the grand opening of a new DC Public Library. On the Same Page brings together Free Minds poets with the DC community to begin a dialogue on solutions to stop the violence plaguing our streets. We use poems from our literary journal They Call Me 299-359 and first person narratives of childhood experiences and time spent incarcerated in federal prison to promote understanding, empathy and healing. In the words of Ms. Keela, our new Program Manager, "The power of poetry bridges a gap between the Free Minds members and the youth that we are engaging. The youth feel a common bond between themselves and the poets, and a connection is made. The youth begin to open up and express themselves candidly because they see themselves and some of their life experiences in the poems. They come away with a sense that they themselves can use poetry as a way to creatively express their thoughts and feelings." The audience walks away with the knowledge and understanding that creative expression can be an alternative to violence. With all of us on the same page, we can create a stronger, healthier community! Read more about On the Same Page here.
- In July, Free Minds welcomed Reentry members LaTrae and Dashon as summer Apprentices. During their week-long Apprenticeship, Latrae and Dashon worked in the Free Minds office providing much-needed program support and developing their own office skills. They practiced writing, computer skills, job interviews, networking, and office etiquette. They also provided support to Free Minds members still incarcerated and helped at the Volunteer Write Night, where they presented their work to a diverse group of DC residents.
- In August, Ms. Keela organized the first-ever meeting of the Free Minds Parent Support Group. We have always wanted to get the families of our members more involved, and are very excited about the first meeting. Mothers of Free Minds members gathered to share resources, stories, and support in order to forge a stronger community to help our members when they come home.
- Free Minds Reentry member Bobby recently graduated from the Alexandria Seaport Foundation apprenticeship, in which he learned how to build a boat and sail it! The Alexandria Seaport Foundation has been a longtime partner of Free Minds, and we are thrilled for Bobby. While at Seaport, he took a sailing course and was their first ever apprentice who learned how to sail and compete in a sailing race. Bobby was even selected as the Apprentice of the Month, and was featured on their website! We are incredibly proud of him. He’s ready to sail on with even more success!
- An exciting new partnership will officially begin this fall. The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) contacted us and asked if our members home from prison could speak to DC area middle and high school students encouraging them to stay in school and take advantage of the business skills they learn in their entrepreneurship classes. Free Minds members will also share their childhood experiences and the struggles they faced during incarceration. As part of a pilot last spring Free Minds members spoke at a high school in Virginia. The student response to their personal stories and message of hope was emotional and powerful. This is from a NFTE teacher after the Free Minds visit:
Dear Free Minds, The words I am typing cannot relay the emotions I have been experiencing today since your visit to my class. I am taken back by the sharing from Michael, Antwan and Lamarzs. You were so touching .I cannot wait to see my students in class on Wednesday to talk about their thoughts on the morning. Thank you so very much. I will be in touch to work together more to help our young people stay on the right track...
None of these exciting new developments would have been possible without support from dedicated members of the community such as yourselves! We'd like to share a few words from the Free Minds members:
"Free Minds has really changed my life dramatically for the better. I overcame a real life struggle with Free Minds right behind me the whole way through. I was a young man (15) when I first met Free Minds. I didn't know what way my life was headed, facing over 30 years at a young age. I lost my whole family to this thing called life (three brothers killed in the streets) so I really didn't have no hope or motivation for life but Free Minds really showed me I am still here for a reason. They told me we going to overcome this sentence and they did it day by day. When I came home, they employed me. My work in Reentry helps me strengthen myself and strengthen others with the On the Same Page events to let young men who are in the same shoes I was in at that age know that there's more to achieve." – Antwan, age 22
"I’ve decided to change my life. I loved all the books you sent that got me thinking a new way. I did a lot of violent things in the past and I want to start over. I can’t tell you how grateful I am that you are here to help me when I’m home. I’ve been locked up for 4 ½ years and so much has changed and I need help. Thank you Free Minds." – Mark, age 21
We are incredibly grateful for and humbled by your generosity and your belief in our work. Thank you for everything that you do!
FM members sharing poetry at a library opening
On the Same Page event at DC Family Shelter
Ms. Keela helping Maurice perfect his resume
Mark, eager to read an autobiography of change
Outreach team speaks at youth detention center