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Free Minds Book Club’s Virtual Write Night

Conditions at the DC Jail are brutal. After a COVID-19 outbreak infected hundreds, those incarcerated found themselves in a lockdown that is still in effect, according to the Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop. In spite of it, Free Minds is organizing an online event for those in the jail to share works they’ve written while incarcerated with the outside world. The program is meant primarily for incarcerated young people (charged as adults) who are interested in reading and writing. Free Minds started at the DC Jail in 2002, but as dedicated members were transferred to federal prisons, the program spread across the country, with many writers participating remotely. Since the program’s founding, Free Minds members have read Octavia Butler, Jason Reynolds, Jesmyn Ward, Richard Wright, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Khaled Hosseini, and many more. They’ve also written hundreds of poems. Pre-COVID, the DC Jail wing of the program would meet periodically to discuss books and write poetry. Free Minds would then collect the poems, type them up, and post them at Write Night events, where attendees could highlight bits that spoke to them and write messages to the authors. At the upcoming virtual Write Night, attendees will have the opportunity to do the same from home. After a Q&A session featuring one of Free Minds’ Poet Ambassadors, a veteran of the program who will discuss what it was like to receive feedback on his poems while incarcerated, the latest crop of poems will be made available to read. You can provide feedback, drawings, or encouragement to the participating poets. Whatever you contribute will serve as a reminder that even while these writers are trapped at an ugly intersection between COVID-19 and the carceral system, people are still engaging with their work and recognizing their talent. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. on July 22. Registration is available at eventbrite.com. Free. —Will Lennon


D.C. quartet Bad Moves, formed in 2015, again emphasize speedy pop-punk and power pop tempos on their second album Untenable. All of the band members are songwriters, and were previously involved in other rough-edged D.C. pop combos, from guitarist David Combs (of The Max Levine Ensemble and Spoonboy), guitarist Katie Park (of Hemline), drummer Daoud Tyler-Ameen (of Art Sorority for Girls), and bassist Emma Cleveland (of Booby Trap). While the Moves’ blend of fuzz pedal guitar and occasional vocal harmonies seems light and peppy in sound, the busy, rapidly uttered verses address how to survive serious issues, from personal anxiety to the woes of capitalism. In “Party With the Kids Who Wanna Party With You,” the band urges solidarity in the face of trouble: “There’s a genocide of the poor, it just might come in a heatwave, and that’s something no one’s trying to hear,” it goes. “You wash it down with liquor and beer, and spend the night with someone who’s near …” The band also keeps things interesting by frequently switching vocalists from line to line, or by singing together. While some cuts could still use more catchy choruses, others, like “Working for Free,” about exploited service industry employees, make phrases like, “Do ya, do ya want me, want me smiling, cosigned, the worker, the smothered Dickensian sucker” anthemic. The group briefly slows down on “Settle Into It,” which blends late ‘80s Scrawl-style punk-Americana with 21st century wispy indie-folk. The album was recorded before COVID-19 struck, but album closer “End of Time” seems to capture how some are enduring the pandemic, with its classic “wooh-woo” harmonies and the phrase “We’re still having a good time, or maybe it’s the end of time.” The album is available on Bandcamp and streaming services. Free—$7.99. —Steve Kiviat