Join Reginald Dwayne Betts, poet and legal scholar, in a conversation with Elizabeth Alexander, renowned poet, educator, memoirist, and president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, on Thursday, July 30th at 5 pm EDT for the special event “The Million Book Project: The Power of Freedom Libraries” about the launch of The Million Book Project and the liberating power of literature.
Please RSVP for this virtual event by clicking HERE. (Registration required!)
The Million Book Project, spearheaded by Mr. Betts, marks the first major grant since the announcement of the Foundation’s new strategic direction – one that grounds all its grantmaking in the arts, culture, humanities, and higher learning in social justice. This vital initiative will distribute a curated 500-book collection to 1,000 medium- and maximum-security prisons in every state across the US over the next three and a half years.
The discussion will address what it means to extend access to literature across the American prison system, and to affirm the right of those who are incarcerated to engage in the exchange of ideas and stories that invigorate American society.
About Reginald Dwayne Betts
Reginald Dwayne Betts is a poet and lawyer. Betts is the Director of the Million Book Project, a nationwide effort to transform access to literature in prisons across the United States. For more than twenty years, he has used his poetry and essays to explore the world of prison and the effects of violence and incarceration on American society. The author of a memoir and three collections of poetry, his latest collection of poetry, Felon, explores the post-incarceration experience and lingering consequences of a criminal record. In 2019, Betts won the National Magazine Award in the Essays and Criticism category for his NY Times Magazine essay that chronicles his journey from prison to becoming a licensed attorney. He has been awarded fellowships from the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Studies, New America, Guggenheim, and the National Endowment of the Arts. Guggenheim Fellow. Betts holds a J.D. from Yale Law School and an M.F.A. from Warren Wilson College.
About Elizabeth Alexander
Elizabeth Alexander – poet, educator, memoirist, scholar, and cultural advocate – is president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the nation’s largest funder in arts and culture, and humanities in higher education. Dr. Alexander has held distinguished professorships at Smith College, Columbia University, and Yale University, where she taught for 15 years and chaired the African American Studies Department. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, serves on the Pulitzer Prize Board, and co-designed the Art for Justice Fund. Notably, Alexander composed and delivered “Praise Song for the Day” for the inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2009, and is author or co-author of fourteen books. Her book of poems, American Sublime, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 2006, and her memoir, The Light of the World, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Biography in 2015.