project leader
Hamtramck Free School .
11627 Klinger Street
(Prisons in Michigan)
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the project

Since 2011, The Writer’s Block is a weekly workshop and space in prison for poetry, critical writing, political and philosophical discussions, activism, and community outreach. For the past six years, The Writer's Block has provided a platform for incarcerated people to share their voices, writing, and art in order to reconnect with their communities, and themselves, in a multitude of ways. The Writer's Block has disseminated their voices via books, audio archives, panel discussions, inside (and outside) public poetry readings, documentaries, exhibitions, postcards, posters, and inclusion in numerous poetry collections and academic publications. Their work has appeared in The New Yorker, Michigan Radio, Washington Square Review at New York University, Jacket2, Critical Moment, Ugly Duckling Presse, and Free School Press, among many others. Participants of Writer's Block have shared their testimony at The International Conference on Penal Abolition, The Allied Media Conference, on DemocracyNow!, Rustbelt Abolition Radio, at Villanueva University, Michigan State University, The Detroit Institute of Arts, Hamtramck Free School, and elsewhere.

Many participants are juvenile lifers, wrongfully accused or unfairly and disproportionately sentenced. In an earlier iteration of Writer’s Block, almost all of the active participants were juvenile lifers, sentenced to die in prison for crimes they were convicted of as young as 15. Though this is now understood as a violation of the 8th amendment – cruel and unusual punishment – many still sit in prison awaiting their fate and many still face the prospects of dying in prison. These traumas and political positions are continuously examined in the poems, essays, and paintings of the Writer's Block and collectively we maintain the spaces where these conversations can flourish.

Our projects currently span across 12 different prisons in the State of Michigan. Two central facets of Writer's Block maintained over the years are related to publishing books and maintaining an audio archive of poetry and testimony. Since 2015, we have published four books by incarcerated writers and hundreds of hours of poetry and testimony from dozens of incarcerated activists, writers, and artists across Michigan in Men's and Women's Correctional Facilities. Our goal is not the completion of a singular project, but rather to sustain our ongoing activities and to ensure we are able to provide the platform to those who need it on a continuing basis. 

the steps

Once we have reached our goal, we will be able to pursue our current activities with less financial stress. Donations received through Ioby will be processed via Allied Media Projects and matched dollar for dollar by the Knight Foundation. Your year end, tax-deductible gift to The Writer's Block will allow us to finish ongoing publishing needs, including several manuscripts that have yet to be published due to costs beyond our means. Many participants are continuously in need of writing materials (pens and notebooks). Your support will allow us to continue to provide these materials. The Incarcerated Archive, an online register of poetry and personal testimony, is only possible through recordings collected through telecommunication services. These services are privatized and costly, so the maintenance and content of the archive is accumulatively expensive overtime. Your support allows us to continue to expand the archive.

why we're doing it

The Writer's Block provides space for open dialog and creative expression in a place where neither are encouraged. Often in prison, these practices lead to punishment and other forms of carceral retribution. We believe it is important to create and maintain these spaces. They strengthen interpersonal relationships inside prison and with loved ones outside, they provide safe spaces for introspection and self-cultivation, and they enable the various communities affected by crime and incarceration to be optimistic about release. We have done all these things out of a love of artistic practice, a love of the idea of and steps toward a world without prisons, and most immediately out of a love of each other. Regardless of money, our love is going to continue growing.



Disbursed Budget (as of 1.2.18):

Money raised will go towards the original budget outlined below. Thank you for your support!

RAISED = $6,956.00
 less ioby Platform Fee  $35.00
less ioby Donation Processing Fee (3%) $201.58

Original Budget:

Money raised with your support will help us on many fronts:

Pens, pencils, and other writing tools ($200)

Paper, notebooks, and typewriter supplies ($500)

Paint, paint brushes, and other art supplies ($1000)

Phone calls, e-mails, and other telecommuncation support ($1000)

Literature and other educational material ($1000)

Transcription and editorial support ($500)

Design software and suppoert ($500)

ISBNs ($300)

Printing and Publishing costs ($2000)

Project Subtotal =  $7,000
ioby Platform Fee  $35
ioby Donation Processing Fee (3%) $210
Total to raise on ioby = $7,245



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