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Eight Forty-Eight

Inmates Find Freedom Through Poetry

More than 100 youths in Illinois are currently serving life sentences, with no possibility of parole. But tonight, the words of these incarcerated kids will be unlocked at the spoken-word event, Until I Am Free. The presentation is the work of many, including Young Chicago Authors. At the event participants from the Louder Than A Bomb poetry competition, other Chicago poets, and family members of the incarcerated will read the works of young offenders. Also joining in on the readings is Eight Forty-Eight's own Poet in Residence Kevin Coval. Patricia Soung is a staff attorney at the Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern University's School of Law and she talks about the event.

Until I am Free: A Poetry Reading and Chapbook Release of Works by Youth Sentenced to Life Without Parole 
Featuring Guest Poet Haki Madhubuti Tonight at 6 
Hull House Museum, 800 S. Halsted


A Child Taken Away
My foundation is shaken. My whole world taken.
Friends gone. Family members no longer here.
Home is so far, so near. Being locked up is bad
but being locked up for something you didn't do
is hell. Going through your story over and over
but nobody sees. Look for help, but all it seems
to be, a lot of faces. Faces and faces and faces. You pray
just one can get you out. You go from having no care
in the world to fighting for your life, freedom and sanity.
From an innocent boy to an innocent man
I am!

Terrill Williams was 16 years old when he committed the homicide for which he received life without parole. He is now 29 years old.

Problem Child
A beatnik loanished to the land of bawoly bastard
Welcome to the kost of my life.
Freedom mynewmesis, truth is a trick, and pain is my wife.
The final hosting place of domains differed no such
Thing as resting in peace
Calloused knees, darkened foreheads from submitting
To the lord of the east.
Rehabilitation's a joke to the throw away kids
Societies forgotten about.
Job security trailer trash nigga shut your mouth
Reckless eyeballing, an actual punishment
For eye contact.
No programs, no education we'll be right here when you get back
Society breeds killers but I'm the problem child.
Mrs. White drown five of her own kids
Who's the problem now.

Michael Bell grew up on the Southeast Side of Chicago and was two months past his 18th birthday when he committed the murder for which he is serving life without parole. In addition to writing, Michael spends much of his time studying and practicing spirituality.

The Real Me
The real me is a lost little boy
who hurts like everyone else hurts
who cries like everyone cries
but only on the inside.
The real me is irrelevant.
I don't matter to most

have been forgotten by all
as I do time for a crime I didn't commit
behind this prison wall. The real me
hardly ever receives any mail, hasn't seen a birthday
card in years. Holidays seem to evade me as well
father's day cards don't make it either.
You have never seen, nor have I ever been
the person GOD gave life to, the man
my mother raised me to be, the one
that wrote this poem.

John Horton grew up in Rockford, Illinois and was 17 years old at the time of offense for which he received life without parole. John is now 34 years old and continues to maintain his innocence. He earned his GED while incarcerated, and has worked steady jobs. He misses his daughters the most.

Fighting for my Freedom
At a young age I was convicted of a crime
Murder was the case that they gave me
I was sentence to life by a hanging judge
To spend my last days behind these walls.
For the most part of my days
I gaze out my cell window with a silent prayer
I ask for forgiveness for pass deeds
which I know is the true reason
For why I am here.
Day after day I put in slips at the law library
To continue legal research to get home
To those who love me and those who I love.
Science has shown I didn't do this crime
I continue to show the courts it wasn't me
Until I turn blue. It doesn't change
The courts rule against me but I keep on
Fighting for my freedom.
I constantly file appeals to the courts.
Clearly they should see the truth.
Instead of doing the right thing by law
I must spend decades in the house of mad men.
As they continue to up hold my conviction
I stay the sane from the crazy lies that keep me here.
I keep the faith God will walk me free.
I keep fighting for my freedom.

Mark Coleman grew up on the South Side of Chicago and was 15 years old at the time of the offense for which he received life without parole. Today he is 31 years old and continues to fight to prove his innocence.

Music Button:  Clutchy Hopkins, "Truth Seekin'" from the CD The Story Teller, (Ubiquity)

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