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Blog - Free Write


FW Sound & Vision / Peach Party!

Beginning in April, our close production partners Black Thread Agency are lining up a rad season of The Peach Party. Free Write Sound & Vision will be on site running sound for all four events in the series. Last year was amazing and we cannot wait to rock with you again this year. Check the specs…


Peach! Your favorite event series that celebrates ALL LGBTQ+ women & femme family has returned for 2018. We are back and more queer than ever!

Peach Presents the 2018 4-event series…’The Elements’ (Air, Water, Earth, & Fire)

Join us as we explore the resilient spirit, beauty, and power of our queer community through our interpretation of the elements.
The series begins with a breath of fresh “Air”. Reminding us that as long as we are breathing we will never stop fighting for our rights and thriving! We deserve a night to just to let loose, celebrate each other and just…breathe.

We are floating to the scenic 6th floor of the Ace Hotel for a night of airy art installations curated by the talented Chris Tuttle, sonic sounds, and tasty libations! Come unapologetically fierce in your best white attire (white attire encouraged, but not enforced at all).

With The Wife of Wrath (Petty Crocker) and DJ Rae Chardonnay slaying on the decks, and your main Peaches Hannah KateMorgan Higgins, and Bre Berry hosting, this will be one breathtaking launch party at the Ace Hotel.

Full bar available, but cute curated cocktails will be available all night long to keep you levitated and dancing! We recommend sipping on some Tito’s Handmade Vodka though and here’s why…with EACH Tito’s Handmade Vodka drink purchased $5 will be DONATED to Howard Brown Health (up to $1,000!)! Yes…drinking Tito’s vodka = a stack to Howard Brown Health Women’s services. *Sips*

This is the series’ launch party AND the official after party for Howard Brown Health’s ChiQ event, and therefore tickets will sell very quickly. Individual “Air” ticket sales will begin Monday March 19th, but ‘The Peach 2018 Series Pass’ (includes all 4 events) is on sale NOW starting at a steal of $40! Grab your tixs at

Other very important details…
All 21+ are welcome.
This event celebrates queer women and all femme bodies, but Peach encourages all friends, family, allies and identities to enjoy our welcoming, safe, and inclusive environment
The Ace Hotel is wheelchair accessible
Restrooms are gender neutral

We have MANY surprises in store as we get closer to launch date, so make sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram to be the first to know!

Photo/Creative Credit: Andie Meadows
Video Credit: Manuela Schreiber
Event Design: Chris Tuttle

Who is involved?
Peach: A national event brand for LGBT & queer women and femmes born & raised in Chicago. Peach’s successful inaugural series, ‘Peaches through The Ages’, launched April 21, 2017 in partnership with Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

Black Thread Agency:
Black Thread Agency, a culture marketing/events company, was founded on a simple premise: enabling passionate people to produce memorable events. With a core team composed of people from diverse backgrounds, Black Thread serves as the connecting thread between the experimental and the established. By assigning staff to projects personalized around their passions, Black Thread is committed to building authentic experiences for all those involved, from participants to sponsors. We believe in the power of event curation, and the value it can add to both lives and a brand’s staying power. By keeping a pulse on the culture, Black Thread is dedicated to styling spaces and collectives to help create community and togetherness.

Tito’s Handmade Vodka:
Tito’s Handmade Vodka is produced in Austin at Texas’ oldest legal distillery. Love has always been at the heart of this company. Back in 1992, years before he sold his first case, Tito started making vodka to give as gifts. Its popularity quickly spread among his friends and family, and he soon became known as “the vodka guy.” When Tito decided to really make a go of it in the spirits business, he started supporting charity events around Austin one bottle at a time, and gave away, by all reasonable standards, a ridiculous amount of vodka.

Free Write Sound & Vision:
Free Write Sound & Vision provides full-service sound reinforcement and production support for all sizes and styles of events. Our expert project managers and technicians work closely with our partners to execute their vision and offer world-class experiences for their audiences.Unlike similar services, Free Write S&V is committed to social justice and employment equity in the arts industry. We hire and train alumni of Free Write Arts & Literacy and other young, primarily African American and Latinx adults with barriers to employment. We then support them as they make their way into an arts industry that is in need of a diverse, young workforce.

Howard Brown Health
Howard Brown Health is a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer organization based in Chicago, United States. It was founded as a healthcare provider, and now provides health and social services in several locations in the Chicago area

Stomping Grounds Open Stage – Feat Calid B.

Stomping Grounds is a free monthly open stage event for young creatives to develop performance, curation, and exhibition skills while connecting to the Chicago creative community. Hosted by Free Write Arts & Literacy in collaboration with Kuumba Lynx and Elephant Rebellion. Sign up to perform is on a first come first serve basis – so come on time!
This months feature performers – Calid B.
Calid B. is a Chicago based producer/emcee that is pioneering his own sound in which he describes as Afrobang. After making his mark in the industry as a manager for BrandUn DeShay, and an ad man at some of the world’s top ad agencies, this time around Calid is ready to share his musical talents in more of a lead role.
Afrobang is inspired by his upbringing which is firmly rooted in what it means to be a black man in America today, but also reaches back to his father’s Cote D’Ivoirian origins. The energy behind Afrobang fuses together contemporary hip hop production elements like trap drums, synths, and 808s with the tribal percussions and chants from west Africa. However, Afrobang is more than music – it is a necessary culture and a community that Calid plans on cultivating.
Afrobang Vol. 3000 is the first EP of a series that Calid B. plans to release. It includes features from Chicago stand outs Sam Trump, Adad, and Cori Munro, in addition to a rap debut from the Party Noire collective.

Smiling Behind the Sun: An Interview with RL Exclusive

Sixty Inches From Center journalist Michael Fischer sat down with Free Write Associate Jaren Hampton aka RL Exclusive.

“On his 18th birthday, rapper and spoken word artist RL Exclusive was transferred from the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center to Cook County Jail, having been tried as an adult at the age of 16. When new laws governing juvenile sentencing recently passed in Illinois, RL was freed and his sentence retroactively thrown out. Now, facing an upcoming retrial for his case just as his third mixtape is set for release, RL sat down with me to talk about his new music, the unique power of the Free Write Arts & Literacy program, and why labeling someone “troubled” has the potential to ruin their life.”

Read the full article HERE




Produced by The Community Justice Network for Youth (CJNY) in coordination with TRUE Skool, Elephant Rebellion, Kuumba Lynx, Free Write Arts & Literacy, and Emergence Media. This compilation was released at the 19th annual Allied Media Conference in Detroit.

The YOUTH FIGHTING FOR JUSTICE MIXTAPE presents music and poetry by and about youth moving through the system, affected by the police state, and fighting to change the current systems through creative community alternatives and solutions.

Stomping Grounds Open Stage

Stomping Grounds Open Stage
Hosted by Free Write Arts & Literacy in collaboration with Kuumba Lynx and Elephant RebellionChicago Art Department
1932 S. Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60608
ThursdayJuly 27 | 5:00 – 9:00 pm

Stomping Grounds is a free, monthly, open stage event for emerging performers to develop skills and connect to the young Chicago creative community.


Ace da Vinci, a man that was raised by the stereo, is a Chi-Town MC & producer, who has been at his craft since the age of 16. The Windy City dreamer develops his sound with pure lyricism & unadulterated spirit. As the creator of SmartMouf Ent, da Vinci is establishing a sound in Hip-Hop that is incomparable to most & rivaled by none. Now working with SireSound, together they’re making the future of music, now.



The Baldwin Protocols Reading Series

No Way Forward: Poems, Art and Dismantling the Carceral State
Hosted by Free Write Arts & Literacy and The Baldwin Protocols Reading Series

Connect Gallery
1520 S. Harper Court, Chicago, IL
Sunday,  July 23 | 4:00 – 7:00 pm

FEATURINGQuraysh Ali Lansana
Educator, Author, and Gwendolyn Brooks Scholar

Tyehimba Jess
2017 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry winner

Kristiana Rae Colon
Poet, Cave Canem Fellow, Playwright, and Founder of Let Us Breathe Collective

Angel Pantoja
Free Write Associate, Poet, and Activist 

Artwork by Free Write students and alumni

After the performances, community members will be invited to participate in a conversation examining the psychic and emotional debt of incarceration to the American people, moderated by Free Write Associate Director Mathilda de Dios, and Free Write associate Cortez Williams.

This event is the first of a new collaboration between Free Write Arts & Literacy and The Baldwin Protocols Reading Series.


Congrats to Our Pulitzer Prize Winning Colleagues Tyehimba Jess and Heather Ann Thompson

Last week we learned that two of our close collaborators were awarded Pulitzer Prizes for their writing.

Tyehimba Jess, pictured above performing at the opening of our Mitigating Evidence exhibition of student work at Chicago Art Department in September 2016, was awarded the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry  for his book Olio, “a distinctive work that melds performance art with the deeper art of poetry to explore collective memory and challenge contemporary notions of race and identity.”

Dr. Heather Ann Thompson, pictured above in conversation with Free Write staff and alumni at Connect Gallery in Feburary 2017, won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in History for Blood In the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and it’s Legacy, “for a narrative history that sets high standards for scholarly judgment and tenacity of inquiry in seeking the truth about the 1971 Attica prison riots.”

Congrats to both of these amazing writers, thinkers, and colleagues! Thank you for your work with the Free Write community.

Founder Ryan Keesling & Alumnus Jaren Hampton on Vocalo 91.1 Fm

Ryan Keesling, Founder and Executive Director of Free Write Arts & Literacy, and Jaren Hampton aka R.L. Exclusive, a poet and Free Write alumnus, join Jesse and Jill on the MorningAMp to talk about Free Write and their event Lessons in the Cycle, featuring youth voices and verses on best practices in violence prevention and trauma-informed care. Free Write Arts & Literacy engages incarcerated and court-involved youth in the performing, visual, and literary arts so that they become the narrators of their own stories.

The Morning AMp airs M-F 8-10 AM on 91.1 FM (CHI) / 89.5 FM (NWI) and streaming at

Best Practices for Violence Prevention and Trauma Intervention

The Urban Youth Trauma Center has partnered with Free Write Arts & Literacy to feature youth voices in order spread awareness about simple things everyone can do to create safer, healthier, and more resilient communities.

Free Write alumni work-shopped, created & performed their pieces on camera, each responding powerfully to one of five Best Practices for Violence Prevention and Trauma Intervention. #IfYouthCan

Please view and share the videos here:…/uytc-youth-videos

Lessons in the Cycle: Trauma Informed Care Best Practices

To kick off National Youth Violence Prevention Awareness week, we’d love if you joined us at our upcoming event, Lessons in the Cycle, featuring youth voices and verses regarding best practices in violence prevention and trauma-informed care. In partnership with UIC’s Urban Youth Trauma Center, the Free Write Alumni workshopped, created & performed their pieces on camera, each responding powerfully to one of the five trauma informed practices Best Practices for Violence Prevention and Trauma Intervention.

This feature the world premiers of the five short videos, a panel discussion about the best practices, an art exhibition and performances by Free Write Arts & Literacy students and Project Fire, direct action on issues of violence, food, and much more.
Space is limited! Please RSVP here ->
Thursday, April 6th 2017
Doors Open at 5pm
Performances & Panel Discussions 6-7pm
Socializing & Networking 7-8pm
The Chicago Art Department
1932 S Halsted St. #100, Chicago, IL
Hope to see you! Please share with other interested folks in your professional and personal networks.

Chicago Public Radio: Free Write brings arts programs to Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center

Free Write Arts & Literacy facilitates one-on-one literacy tutoring, workshops in creative writing, visual art, audio engineering, as well as publishing and public presentation opportunities for youth detained in the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. Free Write believes that recidivism can be reduced and students can find meaningful pathways to self-expression and further education through increased literacy, written self-expression, exposure to and study of the performing, visual and literary arts. Program Directors Roger Bonair-Agard and Elgin Bokari along with program alumnus, writer and performer Marshawn Knight joined Jesse and Jill on the AMp to talk about the organization.

Chicago Tribune: Program gives juvenile detainees in Chicago freedom to create

by Lindsay Weber for the Chicago Tribune

I’m in.

The phrase has so many meanings for the detainees at the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in Chicago. The four walls they’re in. The situation they’re in. The amount of time they’re in. And temporary is a very loose term that can sometimes mean years.

For the students of Free Write Arts and Literacy, for two hours, they’re in — as they declare at the start of each class. They’re in for the challenge, they’re in for the opportunity, they’re in to tell their story.

Since 2000, Free Write has facilitated creative writing workshops, one-on-one literacy tutoring, and arts programming for those detained in the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center and court-involved young people in the community.

Continue reading the article on the Chicago Tribune’s website!