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Blog - Page 2 of 7 - Free Write


Dismantling Barriers to Life: A speak out on mass incarceration

Dismantiling Barriers To Life

Dismantling Barriers to Life is a speak out about the impacts of mass incarceration. The event will also serve as a space for people to think through ways of collectively building resistance and taking action.

Event Highlights:

  • Audio stories recorded in partnership with StoryCorps
  • Panel discussion on ‘Barriers to LIfe’
  • Peace Circles facilitated by Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation
  • Share & connect to advocacy organizations

MC’ed by Colette Payne and Marlon Chamberlain.

Colette Payne is an organizer, leader, student, mother, and grandmother. Since 2014, Colette has acted as the head of the Visible Voices program for the CLAIM (Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers) Program and now serves as the Community Organizer for Cabrini Green Legal Aid. In 2015 Colette joined the delegation to assess women’s prisons in Illinois, becoming the first formerly-incarcerated woman to serve in this role in the entire United States. Colette was also selected as a 2016 Fellow for JustLeadershipUSA.

Marlon Chamberlain was released from Federal Prison on May 29, 2012 after serving 10 years. Following his release, he began working with the F.O.R.C.E. Project (Fighting To Overcome Records & Create Equality), an initiative of the Community Renewal Society led by people with records, and currently serves as its Organizer. Marlon is also a student at Kennedy King College in pursuit of his Master’s degree in Social Work. He is a devoted family man, who continues to put his faith into action by building relationships with congregations and like-minded people to fight against racism, discrimination, and poverty.

Light refreshments will be served. Doors open at 12:30PM. For accessibility needs please contact To RSVP, please visit our eventbrite.

This is hosted by StoryCorps, Cabrini Green Legal Aid, Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, Community Renewal Society, Growing Home, Free Write and Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois.

Bound by Sisterhood: Women Sharing Stories of Love & Incarceration

Dalia Body Map

Bound by Sisterhood: Women Sharing Stories of Love & Incarceration
An exhibition of art and writing by incarcerated people and their families

Opening reception March 8, 2017, 12pm-5pm

Private viewings by appointment and programmed events at

Art on 51st Street Gallery 1238 W. 51st St, Chicago IL 60609

Bound by Sisterhood tells the personal stories of women impacted by incarceration. In commemoration of International Women’s Day, this exhibit is a space where women tell their stories of life on both sides of the prison wall. In the United States, between 1980 and 2014, the number of incarcerated women increased by more than 700%. Since 2000, Free Write Arts & Literacy has engaged incarcerated and court-involved youth in the performing, visual, and literary arts so that they become the narrators of their own stories and the authors of their futures. PBMR is a Community Restorative Justice Hub located in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood. Motivated by the spirituality of the Precious Blood, we see our purpose as being agents of reconciliation helping our youth and their families experience radical hospitality, hope and healing as they strive to build a future. As most of those we serve are affected by incarceration, violence, poverty, racism and lack of resources, we attempt to restore broken relationships and remove some of these barriers.

Presenting work by participants of Free Write Arts and Literacy and Precious Blood Ministries of Reconciliation, the exhibition centers the experiences of incarceration through the perspectives of women directly impacted by mass incarceration. The exhibit will feature self portraits, a listening station featuring audio recordings of student compositions, drawings, paintings, a a quilt-in-progress juxtaposed by photographs curated by the mothers of children facing life without the possibility of parole. Sister Donna from PBMR says, “We want the public to become informed about the impact of incarceration. To engage with the exhibit and to build with each other through dialogue and action can be proactive in removing the causes of suffering and restoring the relationships harmed.”

Bound by Sisterhood will run from March 8th to April 8th, 2017 and will host weekly programming such as art classes, restorative justice circles, storytelling workshops. Private viewing is available by appointment. For more information, contact Sister Donna Liette at or Mathilda de Dios at Curated by Free Write alumnae Mariela Villanueva and staff members Mathilda de Dios,

Elgin-Bokari Smith, Roger Bonair-Agard, and Ryan Keesling and Precious Blood Ministries Staff Sr. Donna Liette, Br. Juan Acuña, Diana Rubio and Julie Anderson and guest curator Jacqueline Montanez. Links:
Free Write Arts & Literacy –
Precious Blood Ministries of Reconciliation –
Sample Images. For high resolution images, email

Exhibition of Student Work at Connect Gallery

Mitigating Evidence Exhibition
Connect Gallery, 1504 E. 53rd St. Chicago, IL
Tuesday and Thursday 12-3pm, Saturday 1-6pm, and by appointment.

Connect Gallery, a fresh space in the Hyde Park neighborhood curated by Rob McKay of THĒARĒgroup and The Silver Room, is hosting a collection of Free Write student writing and art. The exhibition is a new take on the Mitigating Evidence theme that guided our recent annual exhibition at Chicago Art Department.

Mitigating Evidence is a strategy to interrupt the presumptions, stereotypes and fears about people in detention, jail, and prison. Mitigating Evidence is a space in which incarcerated artists are reclaiming their artistry, authorship, and, therefore, their humanity. Mitigating evidence is presented in legal proceedings, either to impact the court’s decision or to alleviate harsh sentencing. Presenting a curated selection of work made by Free Write Arts and Literacy students, the exhibition offers community members the opportunity to view a wide range of art and writing, learn about issues of juvenile incarceration in Illinois, and respond to the sociopolitical climate that has given rise to the Prison-Industrial Complex.

Connect Gallery’s mission is to take intimidation out of the gallery experience by merging community and culture, creating a space that inspires social innovation through art. Mitigating Evidence will be open until mid-February.

Check out some photos and videos of the space, including a performance by Free Write alumnus Marshawn Knight during The Silver Room’s 15th anniversary party as well as footage from our collaboration with the legendary open mic The Gala.


A post shared by Elgin L O Kari Bokari (@elginbokari) on

Free Write Arts & Literacy holding space for the Gala.

A post shared by Elgin L O Kari Bokari (@elginbokari) on

Gala at connect gallery next to Silver Room .. This gallery is featuring work by youth in @freewritechi.

A post shared by Elgin L O Kari Bokari (@elginbokari) on

Its an honor to seeing this space activated. #freewrite

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Introducing Free Write Sound & Vision

Free Write Sound & Vision employs and trains Free Write Alumni in the field of live sound and video installations for events. Alumni are paid to learn to install and operate sound systems, projectors, microphones, DJ equipment, and other audiovisual components integral to professional productions.

Want your next event to sound and look amazing? Send us a note with your needs and let’s work!

Inventory and Rates 
Price per unit, per day. Package and multi-day rates available upon request:

DJ Gear
Pioneer DJM 600 mixer – $75
Pioneer DJM 900 Nexus mixer – $150
Pioneer CDJ 900 NXS – $125
Technics 1200 turntables – $75
Rane Serato SL1 – $75
Rane Serato SL4 –  $100

QSC K8 2-way powered speaker, 1000w – $75
QSC KW153 3-way powered speaker, 1000w – $100
QSC KW181 18″ powered subwoofer, 1000w – $100

Line Mixers & Microphones
Soundcraft MPM 12 channel mixer – $75
Shure SM58 stage mic w/ stand – $25

Live Audio/Video Recording
Email for price

Projectors & Cameras
Canon D70 DSLR Camera w/video
Epson 3000 lumen projector

Advanced Copies of the New Anthology Have Arrived


Advanced copies of the 7th volume of student writing, entitled Evidence, have begun to circulate. The poems and art therein are culled from approximately three years of work by students in Free Write workshops, and do not represent all that can be said, or even half of what you ought to hear and see from these young people. Poet and author Reginald Dwayne Betts wrote in the introduction to Evidence,

“In determining what can be admitted, the judge, relying on the rules of evidence, determines when the story begins. This is the kind of power that alters lives forever, cabining all that matters in a person’s life to the brief time before or after some tragedy occurred, as if their childhood, their future, should not factor into what we imagine as possible, as needed Mitigating Evidence is the place that subverts this practice.”

Get copies for yourself, your classroom, and the young readers, writers, and artists in your life by sending us a note and contributing HERE.

A Post-Election Strategy

History tells us that when our country uplifts a “Law and Order” candidate to the presidency, the results have been devastating to the US Constitution and disproportionally harmful to communities of color.

The president-elect leaned hard on Chicago when asserting his tough-on-crime stance, saying that Chicago needs to formalize the controversial “stop-and-frisk” police practice to stem violence. His remarks suggest that Chicago would benefit from a formal implementation of ‘Stop and Frisk’ – a practice notorious for violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

On election day, Free Write students discussed access to voting and participated in creative writing workshops. They told us that the “tough on crime” policies unfairly target their neighborhoods. Research tells us that these disproportionate policing strategies hamper democracy for us all.

The young people caught in this cycle of violence are our students, children, and neighbors. Free Write’s work is to empower and amplify the narratives of the young people, a direct challenge to the “tough-on-crime” pundits who wish to render entire communities invisible. Our most recent exhibition, Mitigating Evidence, features the narratives of incarcerated young people who themselves expand and extend the way they are defined, by offering more complete visions of safe and thriving communities.

As Free Write staff and students settle in to experience how this administration applies its world view to the governance of our nation, we are sharpening our focus, honing our skills, and organizing our community of artists and educators. What and how we teach is designed to prepare our students to be community members, students, parents, the narrators of their own stories and authors of their own futures.

We ask that you join our community and support this work.

Make an impact. Contribute to Free Write!

Mitigating Evidence Exhibition, 2016

Mitigating Evidence Exhibition, 2016


As you consider supporting your favorite organizations this holiday season, check out a few of the ways that your contribution to Free Write will have an impact in the lives of our incarcerated and court involved students.

$50 will provide a classroom set of composition books.
$250 will provide an Adobe Photoshop license for one year.
$1000 will provide two new computers.
$5,000 covers a second print run of our most recent anthology of student writing and art.
$10,000 will help Free Write provide arts and literacy programming to twice as many youth detained in the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center.
$25,000 will help Free Write expand arts and literacy programming to court involved youth as they return to their communities.

Donate today and help spread the word!