POPS the Club cultivates an inclusive space for youth who have been stigmatized and silenced by their experiences with the carceral system. Our clubs build positive self-identity through peer and adult support and understanding fostered by shared experiences. We empower students to achieve their full potential by creating a loving community and encouraging self-expression.
The young artists and poets in Dear Friends, the eighth anthology from POPS the Club—a nonprofit serving youth impacted by the Pain of the Prison System—forged their work largely during the pandemic and in isolation. Though they were separated by screens from friends, teachers, counselors, and peers, their work still brims with hope and curiosity. It is searing, straightforward, sensitive, and sometimes startling in its wisdom and honesty. I’m not someone who’s always right, Mikey Estrada writes, but I always try to be. A kid who likes to read and learn . . . a kid who grew up in violence and in gangs . . . where others were waiting for me to fail. Instead, this volume speaks of their success and of all they have to teach us.
“This collection reflects the deeply troubling times we live in, where we’ve so callously thrown away so many of our nation’s families. And it is an honest and careful and loving reflection, presenting the joys and pains and passions and losses and hopes and dashed dreams this era represents. This is a deeply human work. In a word, it is a gift.”
—Reuben Jonathan Miller, author of Halfway Home: Race, Punishment and the Afterlife of Mass Incarceration
“I am left nearly speechless—just in total awe—by the wisdom and pathos that leap off of every page of this moving collection. An extraordinary window into a world of pain, hope, and, yes, wonder.”
—Julia Sweig, author of Lady Bird Johnson: Hiding in Plain Sight
“Dear Friends’ youth contributors understand the impact of mass incarceration and its collateral consequences on a cellular level. Their artwork, poetry, and stories offer a unique and relevant lens into a world that more of society must begin to care about if justice and equity are ideals we genuinely aspire to.”
—Sylvia A. Harvey, award-winning journalist and author of The Shadow System
“The wisdom of young people will amaze and inspire in POPS the Club’s latest anthology. Their work is a pointed reminder that every one of us deserves to stand boldly in our lived experiences. The young people of POPS the Club are more than an inspiration—they are incredible artists, thinkers, dreamers, and doers. Through community, POPS the Club combats shame, facilitates healing, and reduces the isolation that so many young people impacted by familial incarceration are forced to experience. As the work in the latest anthology shows, POPS is more than a club—it is a community committed to elevating and listening to the voices of young people who are far too often silenced.”
—Brandon Cardet-Hernandez, Executive Director, Ivy Street School, and former Senior Education Policy Advisor, Office of the Mayor, City of New York
Pain Becomes Power
WHAT WE DO
We operate clubs in 19 schools in 5 states