by John Flynn; introduction by Susan Erenrich
30 June 2020
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John Flynn, an American singer-songwriter and grassroots leader, writes a moving first-person narrative of his work with New Beginnings – Next Step, a nonprofit that helps incarcerated and returning citizens to successfully transition from prison to freedom in the U.S. This deeply reflective piece discusses mutuality and hope and the powerful experience of being present in each other’s lives. The article is introduced by Grassroots and the Arts for Social Change corner editor Susan J. Erenrich.
John Flynn is an American singer-songwriter and activist known for his powerful music and tireless efforts on behalf of the lost and the lonely, the shackled and scarred. His career has embodied an authentic troubadour odyssey that moved legendary folk DJ Gene Shay to call Flynn “the most quintessential folk singer in my life,” and Deana McCloud, Executive Director of the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma to write, “John Flynn is the real deal. His work follows in the footsteps of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Kris Kristofferson, and other social justice troubadours as he speaks the truth and gives a voice to society’s disenfranchised. His work fills your heart and opens your eyes as he continues to walk the walk of a true advocate for equality, justice, and peace.” John was recruited by the Franciscans to work as a volunteer with New Beginnings at the Howard R. Young Correctional Institution in 2005. Since then he has overseen the program’s expansion into other facilities, as well as its adoption of crucial re-entry work with returning citizens, and its incorporation as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. John has been recognized by the State Senate of Delaware for his work with incarcerated and returning citizens and is a recipient of the 2019 National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Champion of Justice Humanitarian Award. For more information about John Flynn or New Beginnings-Next Step go to: JohnFlynn.net and NewBeginnings-NextStep.org.
Susan (Susie) J. Erenrich is a social movement history documentarian. She uses the arts for social change to tell stories about transformational leadership, resilience, and societal shifts as a result of mobilization efforts by ordinary citizens. Susie holds a Ph.D. in Leadership and Change from Antioch University and is the founder/executive director of the Cultural Center for Social Change. She has more than four decades of experience in nonprofit/arts administration, civic engagement, community service, and community organizing and has taught at universities, public schools, and community-based programs for at-risk, low-income populations. Currently a professor at American University, she is the editor of The Cost Of Freedom: Voicing A Movement After Kent State 1970; Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: An Anthology of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement and Grassroots Leadership & the Arts for Social Change (a volume in ILA’s BLB series). She is the producer/host of Wasn’t That A Time: Stories & Songs That Moved The Nation, a live community radio broadcast on WERA.FM. Listen on-demand or live every Friday from 1:00 – 2:00 PM Eastern time.