The Real World of Work: Damon’s Story

By Free Minds Book Club | May 16, 2023 |
A close up of a young man kneeling on the ground. A woman is next to him with her arm around his shoulder. They are smiling widely at the camera.

I came home in 2019, after being incarcerated for 24 years. I didn’t know how to monetize my skill sets, which were mostly soft skills since I hadn’t been able to take a lot of classes or earn certifications. I felt like I was coming home with nothing and had nobody who would finance me, so I had to get to work. I kept beating myself up about not having the things of other people my age. Eventually, I just had to embrace being at the bottom. The biggest challenge was having to adjust, adapt, and build all at once. I began working with different organizations, taking classes, and leveraging resources. Eventually, my Free Minds coach referred me to the Building Futures Construction Pre-Apprenticeship Training program, where I earned certifications and got a job offer in the trades.

Shannon’s Story

By Free Minds Book Club | February 15, 2023 |

“It’s a great responsibility, but I think all of those years that I was in those cells, this is what I was really meant to do. I always wanted to give back to the community.” said Shannon, Free Minds’ Advocacy & Leadership Development Specialist. When he came home, Shannon became an active Poet Ambassador, where he used his talent for storytelling and poetry to educate the community on the root causes of youth violence and incarceration. He was then selected to be the Congressman John Lewis Fellow, a 6-month paid position for Free Minds members to build on their professional and leadership skills.

The Real World of Work with Coach Antwan

By Free Minds Book Club | September 22, 2022 |

An interview with Free Minds member Antwan, by Zoe, Free Minds Intern. This interview was originally published in Volume 11, Issue 2 of the Free Minds Connect.

Antwan: I always played football and had a passion for football. Always. Even throughout my incarceration, I played football. So, when I came home I had a son who was seven at the time when I came home. We tried basketball, but he wasn’t too big at basketball. We gave football a try. We went to the field and saw a lot of other little kids playing with the school. When I picked him up from school I saw them there. So my son joined the team. My son would have bad moments at practice, but whenever I was there he had an excellent practice. So I started to stay on the field more and more. A lot of the other kids would adapt to how I was coaching my son. So I started to coach them too. After one season, all of the parents wanted me to be the head coach. So, I became the head coach. 

The Real World of Work with JoJo

By Free Minds Book Club | May 5, 2022 |

Free Minds member JoJo was arrested at the age of 16 and served five years. He was released in 2015. He is the Co-founder of #WeFitDC, a company dedicated to closing the health and wellness gap in the District, and shining light on native DMV wellness professionals. He is currently a fellow at the Georgetown Pivot Program, a one-year business and entrepreneurship program created specifically for formerly incarcerated individuals at the Georgetown University School of Business. Recently, Kelli sat down for a conversation with JoJo about his life and his life’s work.

Carlos’s Story: When Freedom Means Deportation to a Country You Barely Know

By Free Minds Book Club | April 12, 2022 |
A man in a light blue dress shirt with a striped tie. He has short dark hair and a neat mustache and beard. He is smiling at the camera.

Free Minds member Carlos served 25 years of a 35 years-to-life sentence. In 2020, he was resentenced under the Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act (IRAA). Because he was not a US citizen though, rather than returning home to DC, he was deported to his native country—a place he hadn’t seen in 33 years! Kelli caught up with Carlos over Zoom to talk about his experience.

Jordan’s Story

By Free Minds Book Club | July 24, 2019 |
Three people stand in a row holding a book called The Untold Story of the Real Me

For most seniors, graduation and prom are some of the most stressful moments of a high school career, but for Jordan, it was making a call to a disappointed mother…

Rod’s Story: Cooking with Love Provides Food for the Soul

By Free Minds Book Club | December 11, 2017 |
Rod sitting on a stoop in front of flowers

Interview by Kelli Taylor I love cooking! I really do! I enjoy putting the plate together, being creative with it, knowing that somebody I don’t know from a can of…

Nick’s Story

By Free Minds Book Club | November 22, 2017 |
Nick stands in front of the Washington Monument

If you had asked me what I wanted out of life when I was 16, I would have just shrugged my shoulders at you. I wouldn’t have had any answers…

Varvie’s Story

By Free Minds Book Club | October 24, 2016 |
Marcus, Varvie, Keela

Varvie was just shy of his 18th birthday when he was arrested, charged and convicted as an adult. He spent the next 11 ½ years in federal prisons across the…

Malik’s Story

By Free Minds Book Club | September 15, 2016 |
Malik Success Story

Malik was not surprised to find himself charged and incarcerated as an adult at the DC Jail when he was just 16 years old. “I knew by the choices I…