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

Tacenda Literary Magazine Publishes Free Minds Poets

Now my hours feel longer, I’m just trying 2 make it 2 another spring
That means goodbye winter, my days are getting warmer
I’m getting older, my physical telling signs of aging
It’s the small things I pay attention 2 lying dormant
Like which way the wind blows, or how far up the sky goes

– My Window by Alfred “Spoken Truth”

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First Free Minds College-Level Course Behind Bars

In 2015, Free Minds launched a pilot course in African American Literature for a new project called Free Minds University, a non-accredited correspondence course for Free Minds members in federal prison. Two Free Minds members, HF and CW, have successfully completed the class. Read More