The Brave Six

Lockdown continues, going on six months now, so I don’t have my writing classes to teach. Fortunately, Professor Tom Kerr, who teaches writing at Ithaca College in New York, contacted me to do the Brave Six project with a new batch of young students at his school. Tom and I first orchestrated this essay/letter correspondence with his Ithaca college students and my New Folsom writing students in 2008. We have done this project now three or four times.  It has been an enlightening journey for both free world students and my incarcerated writing classes.

Just this week Tom wrote me with a new batch of questions from both his persuasive and argumentative writing classes. Because of the lockdown, I cannot contact my students, so I answered all the questions myself and sent them in.

The Brave Six projects started when my friend Margot, from Switzerland, sent me a printed-out copy of Tom Kerr’s web page and his address. She wondered why, though I had many projects going on with people in Europe (mentoring students as well as film, book and song writing projects) I had few in the USA and she suggested I write Professor Kerr. I read that Tom had worked with well-known writers on Death Row at San Quentin and that he saw them as human beings. I felt there must be some realness there inside Tom, some courage – an honest appreciation for the power of words, forgiveness, love, service, redemption, change, education and growth.

I pondered Tom’s information for about a year and then sent him my articles, “Speaking in Poems” and “Shining in Darkness.” I had no expectations and figured he might enjoy the articles, but that I would not hear anything back.

Weeks later I received a letter from Tom telling me how the two articles had inspired and primed him... Read the whole essay at ALT/space published June 12.

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