All posts tagged: ryan keesling

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. …

Featured image: Ryan Keesling leans over the shoulder of Walter, a Free Write Sound and Vision technician, as they both look at audio mixer that sits on a table in front of them. They are outside, under a blue tent, where Sound and Vision is mixing sound for the FEAST festival that took place September 8. Photo by Chelsea Ross

Just Narratives: A Conversation with Ryan Keesling of Free Write Arts and Literacy

“The ‘envisioning justice’ conversation is like – I don’t know, I think people try too hard to think about what it will look like.” Ryan Keesling had just pulled out his phone and was pointing at a photo on Free Write Art and Literacy’s Instagram page as he spoke. It was a flyer for YAS! Fest, the youth art showcase that took place in Millennium Park in September. On the flyer was an image of two DJs who had performed at the festival, Walter and Cortez, a.k.a. DJ 1Solo and DJ Tez. Keesling continued, “That’s not to say that people shouldn’t imagine. But, for me, I have to – I can imagine it, but also when I imagine it I don’t necessarily feel it. But when I see their faces and when I work with our students, both inside and outside, and I see them growing and I see them becoming aware of their abilities, and I see them being able to take control of their lives and I see them being happy and getting …