Doing 'Write' by Juvenile Offendors
On a recent evening in Takoma Park, 57 volunteers crammed into every available seat at the Seekers Church sanctuary, eager to learn more about how they could support youth in the DC Jail through a novel program of the Free Minds Book Club called “Write Night.”
Sponsored by a grant from the Takoma Foundation, the “Write Night” event enables interested residents to meet young poets who have been recently released from jail, many of whom have found work or enrolled in school with the assistance of Free Minds’ re-entry support program. At the March gathering, poets Phil Mosby, Eddie Crist, and David Miller read poems about their struggles and their successes.
Volunteers were then asked to read the poetry penned by young men still in DC Jail, or written by those shipped off to federal prisons around the country to finish serving their sentence. Program Director Seana Drucker talked about how thrilled young inmates are to get this encouraging feedback from total strangers.
Although there is a core group who regularly attends Takoma Write Night, Free Minds representatives were pleased that over half those in attendance in March were first timers, including a contingent from the Adelphi Friends Meeting and Jackie Davison, representing Takoma’s senior housing community, Victory Towers. There was also had a large and diverse group of students from Montgomery College/Takoma and University of Maryland, as well as high school foreign exchange students from Indonesia, Kuwait, and India.
Takoma Park resident Laurie Welch had this to say about her experience:
"There were so many aspects of Free Minds and Write Night that were special to me. For one, meeting Poet Ambassadors like Phil made personal the stories we hear about so many young black men going to jail, and then struggling to find work when they come home.
"The program’s founder, Tara Libert, told us that the young people writing poems find it hard to believe that strangers would care enough about them to spend the time to read and respond to their work. Since my time spent on the poems is a small gift from me that means a lot to the poets, I'll keep on doing it, and I will invite my friends. If everyone one of us who has health, safety, a supportive family and other such riches can give a little time and effort to others, we can build a community to support these young men going forward."