This May, the Writers’ Room at Manual Arts High School introduced the Writers in the Writers’ Room series with readings from the 48th Street Anthology by residents of The Francisco Homes.
Ed Bergman and David Smith (known as “Smitty”) kicked off the series Writers in the Writers’ Room at Manual Arts High School last week. The Writers’ Room hosted the authors as they read excerpts from the 48th Street Anthology: Stories from the Truly Free by residents of The Francisco Homes, a faith-inspired non-profit that “offers hope and multi-faceted, holistic support to formerly incarcerated individuals aspiring to re-integrate back into the community.”
Ed Bergman, a former pilot, was freed from incarceration last year. He started off the event by reading a personal story about a time he attempted to rescue turtles in Mexico. Smitty, the Program Manager at The Francisco Homes, was released from incarceration three years ago. His reading described a visit he took to the LA County Zoo and how similar the cages were to human prisons. Both authors began writing when four professors from the University of Southern California began to host a writers’ workshop at The Francisco Homes over two years ago.
The students at Manual Arts welcomed the writers with pressing questions. When a student named Wendy asked if they had any fears about sharing their stories, Ed replied, “Constantly.” Ed expressed his fear about looking foolish. When he first entered the creative writing workshop at The Francisco Homes, Ed was intimidated by how his story was examined. Despite all efforts to avoid the workshop held in the recreation room, even at times staying in his room to avoid participation, Ed eventually grew to love writing after a few sessions with his newly found mentors. Eager to write his story, Smitty was incredibly excited from day one. After prison, he recalled struggling with stereotypes that dehumanized formerly convicted persons. David saw writing as a way to develop further human connections and debunk this stereotype.
“What does it mean to be truly free?” a student named Mario asked. For the residents of The Francisco Homes, freedom means more than leaving incarceration. Freedom means community, rehumanization. For Ed Bergman and Smitty, freedom meant forgiveness and acceptance. Ed and David thanked the class for asking so many hard questions and having the courage to listen to their stories.
48th Street Anthology: Stories from the Truly Free, featuring Ed Bergman, Smitty, and other writers from The Francisco Homes, will be released this summer. Congratulations on publishing your stories; we can’t wait to read them!
Thank you to Ed and Smitty for sharing pieces of your life with our creative writing class, and to USC professors Emily Artiano, Ben Pack, Stephanie Bower, and John Murray for collaborating on our first ever Writers in the Writers’ Room event.
This is the first of a series of events that will occur during the school year at Manual Arts High School. For more information on how to get involved or become a featured reader, please email T Sarmina at TSarmina@826LA.org
Article by 826LA In-Schools intern Melina Mae Tiotuico Castorillo.
Learn more about our latest project at the Writers’ Room at Manual Arts, the 2018 Young Authors’ Book Project Through the Same Halls, here.