Authors Coe Booth and Patricia McCormick Share Their Stories at the DC Jail

By Mbachur Mbenga

This spring, teenagers in our Book Club at the DC Jail had the incredible opportunity to learn from two talented and generous authors, Patricia McCormick and Coe Booth.

D.C. native and two-time National Book Award finalist Patricia McCormick visited the jail to discuss her young adult novel Sold. This was followed by Coe Booth, a long-time favorite of the Book Club, who traveled from New York to talk to the teenagers about her novel Bronxwood. DC Councilmember David Grosso (Chair of the Committee on Education) also attended the session with Bronxwood author Coe Booth. Read More

Free Minds Wins Renewal Award

In 2017, Free Minds was honored to receive the Renewal Award for Ingenuity from the Atlantic and Allstate. Free Minds was one of five winners selected from approximately 500 organizations across the country. Free Minds attended the Renewal Summit in Washington, DC, to receive the award. Poet Ambassador Nick spoke at the Renewal Summit. After the event, he said, “I want to thank the Atlantic and Allstate for allowing me to share my story, because I know it will help bring about a change. I hope people will treat someone from my experience with more dignity. That alone will give people from my background hope.” Read More

Former Child Soldier Emmanuel Jal Visits Free Minds Reentry Book Club

“When you are in a poor environment, you go into survival mode. Like me, you’ve all been to hell. But you came back!”

Emmanuel Jal, a former child soldier of the Sudanese civil war and now an internationally celebrated rapper and peace activist, stood before 14 members of Free Minds’ Reentry Book Club. The men, ages 18-56 had all returned to the community after serving time in federal prison. For the previous two weeks, they had read and discussed Jal’s memoir, War Child. Now they were getting the opportunity to meet Jal in person, and learn firsthand from the author, rapper, and activist how he transformed his own life after experiencing horrific trauma as a child. Read More

Free Minds at AWP Writer’s Conference

By Aubry Ellison, Free Minds Intern

Every year, the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) offers the largest literary conference in the nation with over 12,000 participants from across the country. This year, Free Minds was invited to lead the AWP 2017 Service Project at the conference, in addition to participating in a panel and poetry reading.Read More

A Classroom Full of Hope

Guest post by Karen Lausa, Executive Director of Words Beyond Bars and Friend of Free Minds

We pulled into the parking lot of the M.V. Leckie Education Campus, the playground jammed with kindergartners running around in happy packs on a gorgeous, sunny DC morning. I was excited to be accompanying a Free Minds crew to meet with the Lion Heart Book Club, 15 sixth and seventh grade boys, many drawn to acting out because of the absence of a father figure in their lives. Better off participating in a reading and poetry club, they have been recommended by their teachers. The children all shuffled into the annex classroom; with their lunch trays balanced in their arms, excited to eat their pizza and meet the visitors–Poet Ambassadors Terrell and Nokomis, Free Minds staff Tara Libert and Mbachur Mbenga, and me. Read More