Every year, hundreds of the country’s most celebrated authors come to our nation’s capital to share their work with thousands of excited readers. This year, the authors of Free Minds were invited to be there, too, to share their own important book, The Untold Story of the Real Me. We couldn’t be more proud of these young men for serving as Poet Ambassadors and for representing the unheard voices of incarcerated youth.
We met two such Poet Ambassadors for the first time at the festival, Terrell and D’Angelo, both recently returned citizens. Terrell is currently working for Free Minds, about to begin their signature apprenticeship program, and D’Angelo has recently completed his apprenticeship, and is about to begin Job Corps in West Virginia. D’Angelo told us: “When I was in prison, I was always telling myself, I’m going to do better. When I get out, I’m going to make a good life for myself. And now, seeing these books, and our words in these books? And people reading them, hearing our stories? It gives me hope. That’s hope right there.”
Free Minds works to affirm dignity and hope for incarcerated youth through books, creative writing, and peer support. At the National Book Festival, they shared poems written by young people in prison and invited festival attendees to read, consider, and respond with positive messages of support.
“It was so special for our guys to be here, as authors, at the country’s most prestigious book fair. Every time someone responds to a Free Minds poem, through Write Nights or through events like this, these young people understand that someone is hearing them, that people care. That can be a lifeline. It is so necessary.”
We’re proud to partner with Free Minds, to carry their important book, and to know and support these young people who are powerful voices for violence prevention and the power of self-expression. Check out their poetry collection here, and consider sharing their important and unheard voices with your book club, classroom, or community group.