In a Free Minds first, we are proud to announce that five Book Club members have been named winners of The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers 2012 Regional Scholastic Writing Awards.

A highly respected panel of Washington DC writers, teachers, and literary professionals selected the poetry and essays of our young members from over 700 works submitted this year as among the most exceptional in our region. Two of our members received Scholastic’s “Silver Key Award” recognizing outstanding achievement for poetry. Three more young writers received “Honorable Mention.” All five young men are still incarcerated.

Family members and the community celebrated their achievements with a reading at Busboys & Poets on February 26th. An enthusiastic audience packed the venue’s Langston Room to hear the teenaged writers read their work. The mother and father of two of our winners read on behalf of their sons in performances that clearly touched audience members, bringing more than a few to tears.

Awards ceremony

Demika and Briaynna, mother and girlfriend respectively of Free Minds member Alonzo, at the awards ceremony

Demika, mother of Free Minds member Alonzo, read his poem “Momma Told Me.” When asked what it was like to read his poem at the awards event, she replied, “It was so emotional. I was shaking. All his life people have said to me that Alonzo isn’t serious because he’s always smiling and joking. I’ve had to explain to them that Alonzo smiles as a cover up but he speaks through his poetry. He’s real when he writes. Once you read his poetry you know him. You can look into his soul. Alonzo and I are so connected now through his poetry. Poetry brings people together.”

Upon learning of his achievement, Alonzo wrote us a letter saying: “OMG! I won the Silver Key…Wow! I’m so happy and shocked. You wanna know something? I never thought I’d ever be writing poetry, but now I feel as though I could become a well-known poet!”

We agree with you, Alonzo!

A big congratulations goes out to: Alonzo, DeVonte, Larry, Christian and D’Angelo.


Read some of their award-winning poetry:

Momma Told Me
By Alonzo

Momma said it would be better days
The sun would replace the shade
And we would no longer be treated like slaves

Momma told me one day it would be change
Shoes would be worn by my friend
Not tossed to hang

Momma told me the pain would go away
But since the loss of Kyree
The pain been here to stay

Momma always told me I was her vision
But now I’m in a cell
All because I didn’t listen

Momma told me family over everything
But I listened to my friends
And now my friends are missin’

See, I always knew to look both ways
Before crossin’ the streets
But I never knew I would lose Kyree
Momma never told me
Now he’s gone
Control, alt, delete

By Alonzo

Run little black boy
Run away, run away
But my legs wouldn’t move
I felt like my legs were glued to the pavement
My little 10 year-old eyes shouldn’t have seen what I saw
I could almost taste the blood as it was punchin’ out of him
Screams and screams and screams was all I could hear
But da’ sound of da’ gun
Caused me to close my eyes
Some ask what did I see?
Well this is what I saw
It was me, the bullets were rippin’ through
But why me?
It was like a creature was comin’ out of my soul
It caused me to open my eyes
And there it was…
A lifeless body, just layin’ with his eyes open
Was he alive? Was he dead? Why where his eyes open?
I wonder if he saw me?
Did I know this human being who was killed right in front of me?
Was God sendin’ me a message?
I guess this da’ reason why I can’t cry at night
Because I see the ones that are dead
And not the ones that are alive
My Mommy once told me
Everything happens for a reason
But for what reason was it for me to see a life taken
So as I walked slowly to da’ person
I saw his eyes begin to close
And words began to drift out of his mouth…
“Run, Shorty, run!”
So I took off runnin’
But then it was dat’ sound again
The gun
This time it was even louder
Almost as if it was right beside me
And there I was, stuck again
To where you ask?
Right there on the pavement where it all started
I watched da’ killer take the last breath out of a human I barely knew
Seven years later, a wonderful lady gave me the challenge to tell her what danger looks like
Danger is black
Danger is loud
Danger is life
Danger is death
Danger is a human who would take another human from this earth
Danger is right in front of you
Just open your eyes and take a look

The Way Home
By DeVonte

Waiting for someone to find me
All alone with no one beside me
I’m stuck with a broken compass
And an intoxicated mind
I can’t tell right from left, up from down
I been placed in the lost and found
But one day a caring heart
Came to show me my way
Fixed my broken compass
Detoxed my mind
And showed me my way home

Who’s There?
By DeVonte

Who’s there?
Who sees?
A lot of strangers judging me
Knocking and banging
But no one replies
Just birds singing
When I have questions
No one answers
I ask, “Who’s there?”
But just see some stranger
He don’t talk, he don’t grin
Now I’m beseeching
For an answer again
Who’s there?
Who’s listening?
It echoes
Is my life a big collision?
Don’t know but I wonder
Where will I go
When I’m six feet under?

Black Boy
By Larry

Black boy, black boy
What you gon’ do when they come for you?
You better run, you better hide
You better try and save your life
But you better not fight
You will die, there’s no might
Do you really want to sleep forever tonight?
But if you run and you hide
They will find you
They will kill you
So what is there to do, Black boy?
Know when to run and know when to fight
But don’t run, ‘cause you’re scared to lose your life
And don’t fight ‘cause you want to take theirs
Black boy is the call that you’re known by
You hit that pac cause you wanted your own high
You listen at night
But you’re frightened by your own cry
Tortured by your own life
But you know you can win
Just hold it in
Black boy, black boy
You would leave, but he’s already there
In fact, he’s everywhere
It’s okay
You listen and hide
Black boy, black boy
Oh you run
But there’s no where to hide
Black boy, black boy
It ringin’, he’s already here
Okay, you’ll do it
You face the enemy
You look around
A weapon is nowhere to be found
The place you were in starts to spin
Then you look up and it’s a mirror
Black boy, black boy
You were runnin’ and hidin’ all along
The enemy was the inner me
Black boy, black boy
What you gon’ do when they come for you?

By Larry

Endless fame and a pot of gold is what he promised for your soul
All you have to do is hold the Glock and slang that crack rock
Glistening diamonds and girls to go
But this life goes deeper
All you have to do is be a deceiver
Make a crack head a believer
Sell death to your people
But what happens to ‘I am my brother’s keeper?’
Do you keep your brother down so you can get paid for a pound?
You cook your beef with a hundred rounds
So you think you should wear a crown
But they didn’t tell you someone’s bigger and some one’s badder
Or when you fall in love that someone else had her
But now you want to fight ‘cause you love her
So you step wrong
And never make it home
This is what happened to my man Thomas
But all along that was the street’s true promise

Please Don’t Shoot Me Down
By Larry

Please don’t shoot me down
‘Cause I’m flyin’, I’m flyin’ higher
My wings are made of lost hopes
My soul is filled with dead dreams
Life looks good
But it’s not how it seems
I’m tryin’ to stay together
But I break at the seams
I’m tryin’ to make it out
But I destroyed all my dreams
I’m dodgin’ these bullets
While I’m tryin’ to get free
But it looks like the only thing I’m dodgin’ is me
I keep a good head
I got to look deep
I know I’ma make it out
So I feel like I’m asleep
But I’ma see the day

It Won’t Go Away
By Christian

I wish my lifestyle could be erased like an eraser
When you make a mistake you can correct it when you notice it
But this time, it won’t go away
I try and try to get away from the people
That got me stuck to these old habits
But they won’t go away
But when I touch down it will all go away
Because I’m a changed young man
That serves the man upstairs called God

Handcuffs and Shackles
By Christian

Every where you go when you locked up
You get handcuffs and shackles
It reminds me of slavery
Back then people that was slaves
Couldn’t go nowhere without handcuffs and shackles
Sitting here in jail
I think about being freed of these handcuffs and shackles
I can’t take it no more
I feel like a tied up dog
That can’t leave the dog pound
I pray night and day to the man upstairs
To let me get another swing at life
This time when I touch down
I’ma be wiser and mentally stronger
Cuz’ I freaking hate these damn handcuffs and shackles

Why I Am Here
By D’Angelo

I stole from the rich and gave to the less fortunate
I knocked on the devil’s door just to start something
Allah looked down and said I gotta’ put a stop to this
So he took me off the streets and put me in a cell
He ain’t ready to see my dead
So he put me in jail and I’m grateful that he did
I bow my head and think about him before I go to bed
When I go home my next play is to say was’ sup to the teacher man
And goodbye to the menace man

My Sentence
By D’Angelo

I stand here today before my final hour
This is not to talk my way out of anything
Because I accept full responsibility for my actions
I came to you hungry and tired
Hoping that you would give me food and let me sleep
You called me a sheep and led me to the pastures
Only asking that I focus in between the chapters
You gave me the word and hoped that I would interpret
And over the time I gained the eyes to recognize the serpent
Even though I’m not perfect, I would like a chance to try
And by all means I’ll keep going until I die
All I saw was black and all I felt was rain
It’s you who knew everything was dark, because my eyes were closed
And you have the light to let me bask in glory
But only if you see the message or the trueness of this story
There was something I had to see, so I could do what’s expected of me
And I think I’ve seen it ‘cause I don’t feel the same
And now I give up the controller to this game
I think of how some people did me like violence was the remedy
And because I think of that now I pray for my enemy
Not because of what I’ll do
But because they don’t know there’s something better after here
If I’m given that opportunity then I won’t abuse it
Start over, take that chance and use it
Because behind them cell doors I feel I might lose it
I work harder and confess to you daily
I know that you see, but I’m hopin’ you hear me too
I’m not used to this process but I ask for you to bear with me
I’m thinkin’ like this now but wasn’t when I was doin’ time
So the time that I spent was like nutrition that was properly digested
And if I receive another chance, I’ll show your word was well invested

By D’Angelo

Fear explodes from her eyes
As the bullets explode from an AK47
Disbelief finds voice in her cries
As she watches the streets
Take away her firstborn son
She tried to warn him
But she didn’t get through
And now he like:
Ma, I should have listened to you
Because the streets got me arrested
And you just wanted me to go to school
She says:
Don’t blame the streets son
The one who got arrested was you

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