All posts tagged: Free Write Arts & Literacy

Free Write Arts & Literacy, and the Work of Justice Within (and Without) the Walls of Juvenile Justice

Author’s Note: This article makes brief mention of Roger Bonair-Agard, a nationally recognized poet and a former program director and teaching artist at Free Write Arts & Literacy. Since 2013, several people involved in poetry organizations that employed Bonair-Agard have come forward to say that Bonair-Agard manipulated his position of power, sexually assaulted, or raped them. In October 2020, Bonair-Agard was fired from Free Write due to, in Free Write’s words, being a “known abuser” and for publishing a poem in 2014 that details a rape he committed. I did not interact with Bonair-Agard during my writing residency with Free Write, and he is not the focus of the writing below. But with such a long history of institutional silence and whisper networks, I believe it important that this reality not be suppressed. I owe immense gratitude to Fatimah Asghar, Itunu Ebijimi, and Plus Sign for publicly addressing Bonair-Agard’s sexual violence and the failings of institutions that employed him, and I am including this note in solidarity with them and with survivors of sexual violence. …

Emerging Community Challenges around Incarceration with Free Write and Restorative Justice Community Court

Surveillance, criminalization, and budget cuts to public services impact communities, environmental contexts, policies, and institutions. These issues affect social needs and challenge community-oriented responses to political issues. All these factors collide in our carceral systems at both personal and society-wide levels, and contribute to recidivism. Communities continue to question and to seek solutions and alternatives beyond state-driven mechanisms. Recently in Chicago, many of the direct actions and conversations at the community, local, and state levels have been related to systemic injustices. Immigration enforcement, budget cuts to mental health services, and surging violence’s purported connection to the morals of black and brown communities, funding allocated to policing within the county have been a few of the topics at the forefront of debate. Located in Cook County, Free Write Arts & Literacy and the Restorative Justice Community Court (RJCC) offer two community-oriented approaches at the intersections of re-entry and incarceration. Both organizations attempt to mitigate the effects of detainment for incarceration-affected youth and adults through creative programming and peace circles which center the harm done from non-violent crimes on …

Whose Visions? Introducing the Envisioning Justice Residency

“On the whole, people tend to take prisons for granted. It is difficult to imagine life without them. At the same time, there is reluctance to face the realities hidden within them, a fear of thinking about what happens inside them. Thus, the prison is present in our lives and, at the same time, it is absent from our lives.” -Angela Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete? Sitting in the heart of the Chicago South Loop is the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a federal prison less than a mile from Grant Park. Every day, thousands of people walking to work, class, the Art Institute, or even a festival like Lollapalooza are unknowingly passing 663 people awaiting trial or serving out their prison sentences. Envisioning Justice, a two-year initiative organized by Illinois Humanities, aims to spur a “citywide conversation about the impact of incarceration in local communities.” To this end, Envisioning Justice was awarded $1,500,000 by the MacArthur Foundation as part of its Safety and Justice Challenge, which “seeks to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about …