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Washington, DC Non-Profits are Unlocking Opportunities for Returning Citizens

Updated: Sep 9, 2023

Sylvia Bullock and Free Minds Book Club
My visit to Free Minds Book Club Headquarters with Aneka Nelson, Prison Book Club Coordinator, & Melissa Majano, Member Experience Manager.

The saying, "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." – is true.

The beauty of collaborating with similar organizations is inspiring and rewarding on so many levels. As the Relationship Manager at Flikshop, the summer of 2023 was awesome as I visited several social justice organizations located in the DMV. While varied in their work, each one seeks to make the lives of those in our community safe and sustainable. In this post I will share with you two of these amazing and talented groups that are doing powerful work you need to know about.

Flikshop Postcards Neighborhood+
Flikshop postcards displayed on wall from Free Minds to members inside correctional facilities.

My first visit was with the Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop located in NW, DC at the Thurgood Marshall Center. Free Minds uses the transformative tools of books, and writing to:

  • Create a community of support

  • Assist incarcerated youths and adults to achieve their education, career, and life goals

  • Write new chapters in their lives

  • Become powerful voices for change

I met several staff persons, toured their workspace, and left with a greater understanding of the important work of the organization.

Civil Rights Honor Roll
Civil Rights Honor Roll placard inside historic first African-American YMCA.

Special thanks to Melissa, Aneka, and your furious leader-Tara Libert, and staff for the great work you do in our community. Free Minds is an organization Flikshop truly enjoys collaborating with. Additionally, the headquarters for Free Minds Book Club was the first African American YMCA! It opened in 1912 and became a meeting place for some of the early civil rights and legislative work that transformed the country in the middle of the 20th century. The pictures and historical memorabilia reminded me of my visits to my grandparents’ home in Virginia. What a powerful homebase to continue transformative work in our city!

I also visited The DC Justice Lab located on U Street, NW WDC this summer. Director of Policy, Naike’ Savain shared the operations of the DC Justice Lab offices. SCJL incorporates policy experts researching, organizing and advocating for large scale changes in the District of Columbia’s criminal legal system. The goal is to build a District in which Black people (who are the most impacted by the criminal legal system) can be both safe AND free. Reimagining a safe community in our own city requires a holistic approach that addresses the underlying social, economic, and psychological factors contributing to crime and insecurity.

Flikshop Nike' Savain DC Justice Lab Sylvia Bullock
Taking a tour of the DC Justice Lab with Naike' Savain, Director of Policy.

On July 29th the DC Justice Lab showcased their work at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. Several Community Activist addressed issues that affect the community:

Flikshop National Reentry Network for Returning Citizens
Travis Register of 'National Reentry Network for Returning Citizens'
  • Fifty-seven percent of people who are homeless in DC have been incarcerated (Coventry, 2020). The number of homeless adults, including those who are returning citizens, grew by 35 percent in DC in the last year (Washington Council of Governments, 2022-2023).

Travis is advocating that DC should use the District Opportunity Purchase Act (DOPA) to purchase vacant buildings and give them to community-based organizations that will create affordable, immediate, and stable housing.

Flikshop Herbert Robinson More Than Our Crimes
Herbert Robinson with 'More Than Our Crimes'

Herbert Robinson, More Than Our Crimes (MTOC) reported:

Herbert Robinson is advocating for Congress to pass H.R. 3339 – Improving Reentry for District of Columbia Residents in the Bureau of Prisons Act of 2023 with an amendment to limit the distance to 150 driving miles.

Flikshop Aisha Jackson Mothers of Power
Aisha Jackson with 'Mothers of Power'

Aisha Jackson, “Mothers of Poweris using her voice to advocate for children in foster care. Children in foster care and their parents/caregivers suffer unnecessary trauma when they are separated and only get to visit for one hour a week under supervision. Aisha is advocating for:

  • Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) should change the default of visitation from one supervised hour per week to daily and unsupervised unless contrary to the best interest of the child. DC should require that visitation be in the most natural setting possible unless contrary to the best interest of the child.

  • DC should give CFSA enough funding in Fiscal Year 2024 to:

    • Hire more family support workers to transport children and families to daily visits

    • Create a natural home-like environment for families to spend time together.

The DC Justice Lab had over twenty activist advocating to improve the life of its residents at the Community Day Fair. The Lab believes by fostering a sense of community, trust, and mutual support, we can build safer and more resilient neighborhoods for everyone.

Visiting these organizations and learning about the great work they are engaged in has been a rewarding and enrichment learning experience.

Together we all can become real agents of change in our community. Watch this space for more information and how you can get involved.

To Be Continued…

Sylvia Bullock Flikshop DC Justice Lab
All smiles at the DC Justice Lab's Community Day at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library.



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