What is POPS the Club? It transforms the lives of teens with incarcerated loved ones. POPS stands for Pain of The Prison System. 1 in 14 children has a parent who has been incarcerated. POPS gives these youth a safe place to grow and empower one another.
The mission of POPS the Club is “to create 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 building a loving community and encouraging self-expression.”
Dream Catchers, the seventh volume created by members of POPS the Club, is an enlightening and inspiring collection of art, prose, and poetry by high-school students with a unique perspective: they have encountered the pain of the prison system–most have incarcerated loved ones, and some have themselves been in detention. By telling and sharing their stories, they not only start the process of healing but also illuminate a world many of us are unfamiliar with. POPS the Club offers a sacred space where those with incarcerated loved ones can connect with each other, creating a supportive and open-hearted community. Students draw, paint, write, photograph, talk, listen, and share their stories, untangling the web of shame, stigma, and sorrow these young people too often face. This collection represents the work of high school students from Los Angeles, Harrisburg, Atlanta, and New York City.
Excerpt from Dream Catchers:
You Are My Home by Stacie Ramirez
“You having to stay away took away my best friend, my favorite good morning and my favorite goodnight, my favorite hug, my peace, my reason to live, and my happiness. I miss you. I miss your meals, your hugs, your smile, your laugh, your warmth, and our cheesy inside jokes. How could I ever replace you? When you were taken from me, and I was taken from you, what could I do but stay away? You are my home, and I have to stay away from you. It seemed so unfair, so unjust. I was upset at you for so long because you put us in this situation, you let it get this far, and to me you were the only one to blame. But I love you, and I just want to be with you…
Order your copy from Out of the Woods Press
Having a parent in prison or jail is one of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) that can undermine the architecture of a child’s developing brain, with lifelong impacts on mental and physical health.
POPS the Club cultivates an inclusive space for youth who have been stigmatized and silenced by their experiences with the criminal justice 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 building a loving community and encouraging self-expression.
PRAISE FOR DREAM CATCHERS:
“My father was in prison throughout my teens and I so often felt alone. I cannot imagine how different the experience might have been if I’d had a community like that offered by POPS the Club. I wish I could take Dream Catchers and deliver it to my younger self, and with it all the solace, triumph, wisdom, and truth found in its pages. But I need it now too. These are the voices of the two million young people in this country with incarcerated parents—full of heartache, hope, insight, and compassion, and we all should listen.” Tyler Wetherall, author of No Way Home
“As a woman who grew up with an incarcerated parent, I know how challenging being a teenager with a loved one in prison can be. POPS the Club gives high schoolers a voice, offering them opportunities to talk about it, write about it, and feel part of an ever-growing community. This collection of memories, thoughts, and ambitions represents the toll that everyone touched by the system knows. Through their pages, the writers and artists have found a rare form of empowerment.” Deanna M. Paul, journalist
“Through writing and art, discussion and community, POPS heals the stigma and shame so often felt by youth whose lives have been impacted by prison. They are the silent victims of our mass incarceration crisis. POPS should be in every high school in America, and its books, like Dream Catchers, should be in every classroom.” Christina McDowell, author of After Perfect and The Cave Dwellers and coproducer of A Survivor’s Guide to Prison
“I found myself awestruck by these writers and artists impacted by mass incarceration. Their power to observe and to transform not only stigma around incarcerated people but their own pain, shame, and longing into something beautiful and lasting is worthy of much praise and thanks. I’m grateful they trusted us with this work, that we can step into their lives, however briefly.” Michelle Franke, Executive Director, PEN America Los Angeles
KIRKUS REVIEW: DREAM CATCHERS: POPS THE CLUB ANTHOLOGY
“An inspiring collection of teen-created poems, prose, and artwork that elucidates the hidden world of young adults living in a carceral state. Created by members of the POPS the Club, a national organization for high school students who have been impacted by incarceration (as the children or other loved ones of the incarcerated), the pieces are emotive but not resigned. Readers will connect to many of the major themes, including navigating change, overcoming adversity, advocating for social justice, and questioning one’s place in the world. Divided thematically into 12 sections, the entries show the daily realities and struggles of the student writers as they deftly navigate multiple spaces. Many of the teens’ challenges present as ordinary angst, like navigating school, while others point to deeper traumas, like parents with substance use disorders. Overall, their contributions are lyrical, haunting, and poignant, and the anthology marches toward hope. While the execution of some reflects the contributors’ youth, others, like “Me Nombraron Después de Ella” (“They Named Me After Her”) by Donaji Garcia, stand out for their mature use of metaphor, language, lyricism, movement, and pacing. Other pieces are a call to action, directly confronting the impact of incarceration on families and challenging adults to fix a justice system that is overburdened with imprisoned people while neglecting children’s emotional health. Birds sing outside cages: Overall hopeful selections inspire a desire to rethink justice and enact change. (Anthology. 12-18)”