From the Desk of Amy Friedman
POPS the Club Executive Director and Co-Founder  

A few weeks ago I sat down with one of the POPS students from Culver City High. As she told me her story, a quotation from Eleanor Roosevelt kept rolling around in my mind—“ When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it.
Alexandria Baiz, Allie as she likes to be called, has a light, joyful energy that does not dim even as she speaks of struggles she has faced in her young life. Her father, she tells me, was in and out of jail from the time he was 13 years old. From Allie’s earliest childhood until she was 9, her dad was in prison, spending years in solitary confinement at Pelican Bay. “Even when I was six,” she says, “I remember how mad I was about the crazy prison dress code. I couldn’t wear certain colors when I visited my dad. It seemed so stupid! I was six!"

Meanwhile back home, her mom was working, raising Allie and her three siblings and attending night school. “I was really independent even when I was a little kid because my mom was so busy and my dad wasn’t there,” Allie says.

Meantime, at school, Allie thought her father’s incarceration was on her own permanent record. She recalls just one teacher in third grade at Farragut Elementary, who spoke to her compassionately about her dad . Mostly Allie says she lived a kind of double life, hiding what she thought must remain a secret from others. When her class made Father’s Day gifts, she joined in and each year took those gifts home and placed them in a box she saved to give to her dad when he came home.

And he did come home, which brought its own challenges. “ You can have a great relationship with someone if you only talk to him once in a while ,” Allie says, “but when I was 9 and he came home, he brought some of the mentality of prison with him.” Allie loved listening to his stories, but it was hard for her to suddenly have a dad in charge. At home she and her father battled on many fronts.

One day when she got to high school, her good friend Solana told her about POPS. “I didn’t want to go,” Allie says. She grimaces. “I wasn’t going to talk about prison…” And then one day I was upset, and for some reason I decided to go, and I decided I had to write a poem. Allie wrote, “It’ll Never Be the Same” (published in In the Key of Love ) about how things changed when Dad came home.

An excerpt:

As I child, I felt like my innocence was taken
At five years old, during winter break when everyone else was going to
Big Bear
I was going to state prison to visit my dad, picking out specific clothing—nothing red, blue or tight
I grew up fast, very fast…
…A young, independent and scared 9-year-old was what I was
when my dad came home.
He came home with tattoos on his eyes, neck and arms.
These tattoos were nothing I had not seen already seen on him, but seeing them in the midst of a family-oriented city was different
I was ashamed, in a sense, to call him my father
After Allie wrote the poem, she showed it to her mom, and Mom showed it to Dad. “ He was angry and hurt when he read it,” Allie says, and he told me I couldn’t publish it. But I fought them, and I published it. She beams, that beautiful smile.

“And then I invited them all to come to the book launch where I read it in front of everyone—that was so liberating. They liked seeing me being so strong, and I knew we had reached a new understanding. When he heard my side of things, it helped us grow and change .”

Another surprise came about as a result of that poem.
A teacher Allie had in sixth grade happened to be at the book launch, and after the reading, she came to Allie and embraced her and said, “I wish I knew that about you back then—we need to know each other’s backgrounds…” It turns out Allie  didn't have to keep that secret after all.

This season, I hope you’ll consider a gift to POPS the Club to help us continue our work, sharing our stories, opening our hearts, and making the world a little kinder, a little gentler, a little more tender.

With boundless gratitude,
Amy Friedman
Executive Director and Co-Founder
POPS the Club
Established in 2014, POPS the Club is a 501(3) with a "Silver Level of Transparency"
on Guidestar , EIN number 46-4535915. All donations are tax-deductible.
If you prefer to make your donations offline , simply print out this letter, fill in the relevant information, and mail to address below.
P.O. Box 10461
Marina Del Rey, CA 90295