Author and Poetry Slam Champion Elizabeth Acevedo Visits Free Minds Book Club at the DC Jail

The author and self-proclaimed spoken word artist Elizabeth Acevedo, who is no stranger to titles (National Poetry Slam Champion and author of New York Times bestselling novel-in-verse The Poet X), made a guest appearance to discuss her novel, The Poet X, and promote determination, resilience, change, and healing for these young men affected by systemic racism and mass incarceration. Our Jail Book Club members took away the importance of sharing your story, perseverance, and using your creativity to create paths to success. Read More

Best-Selling Author Jason Reynolds Speaks to Youth at the DC Jail

We cannot be what we cannot see. – Jason Reynolds, New York Times best-selling author

What would be your first purchase if you signed a major book deal at 21 years old? New York Times best-selling author Jason Reynolds remembers spending his first check for When I Was the Greatest on every pair of Jordans in a size 12, treating his closest friends to Red Lobster dinners, and paying all of his mom’s bills—only to discover he had exhausted a check in 2 weeks that was supposed to last him 2 years. Working every odd job to make ends meet (including hustling his own book) and even losing his home, Reynolds continued to find redemption in writing, stating, to the juveniles of Free Minds DC Jail Book Club, “the most expensive and valuable thing you own is your story.”

On Tuesday, August 14, Free Minds had the pleasure of hosting author Jason Reynolds at the DC Jail to meet, speak with, and inspire the juveniles of the Jail Book Club. The Jail Book Club is just one of Free Minds’ three programs uniquely tailored to empower boys and young men of color who are critically disadvantaged from the effects of mass incarceration, racial-economic disparity, and racism. Visiting the DC jail on a weekly basis, Free Minds actively engages the 16- and 17-year-old members, all charged as adults, in reading, book club discussions, creative writing exercises, and author visits. Having already read Reynolds’s Long Way Down and When I Was the Greatest, members highly anticipated his visit. Read More

Free Minds Celebrates Congressman John Lewis Fellowship

On July 17, Free Minds staff, Poet Ambassadors, and friends gathered at Pepco Edison Place Gallery to celebrate the new Free Minds Congressman John Lewis Fellowship, a one-year paid position for a formerly incarcerated young adult to use poetry and storytelling to promote nonviolence and racial equity. The Fellow serves as the lead Poet Ambassador, facilitating the Free Minds nonviolence program, “On the Same Page: Free Minds Poetry in the Classroom and Community.” Read More

Free Minds staff on the Atlantic’s “The Art of Re-Entry” panel for Justice in America!

Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop was invited to amplify our members’ voices at the Atlantic’s “Justice in America” event in May. Grateful for the opportunity to fulfill our mission of uplifting marginalized voices, Executive Director Tara Libert and Poet Ambassador James Allen spoke on the panel “The Art of Re-Entry,” with fellow panelists Stephen Belber (Writer and Producer, O.G.) and David Domenici (Executive Director, Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings). Together, Tara and James powerfully spoke on the work and impact of Free Minds, creativity as it relates to self-expression and self-worth, and bibliotherapy (the therapeutic use of books to distance the self from one’s own reality). Read More

All the World’s a Stage: Shakespearean actors bring theater to the DC Jail


These are just some of the words shouted out by more than 20 orange-clad men crowded onto the floor of a tiny basketball court inside the DC Jail on recent Thursday. Members of Free Minds Book Club, they were responding to Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29, “When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes.” Read More