In Memory of Piri Thomas

Freedom Voices
Piri Thomas

Piri Thomas was born in New York City in 1928 and died in his home in El Cerrito Califronia on October 17, 2011.  He was 83 and died surrounded by his children and his wife Suzanne Dod Thomas. Piri was Freedom Voices eldest poet and a mentor to many of us. He had a passionate, personal, and spiritual presence which healed  and educated. He remained committed to doing readings and workshops in prisons, in the Tenderloin and in many, many communities until his health gave out a few years ago.If you wish to post a tribute to Piri pleease use the comment form below.Memorial services arrangements are pending and we will announce them here.

As an international best-selling author, with Down These Mean Streets, still in print well after 40 years, Piri influenced millions. In 2006, we were honored when he chose Freedom Voices to bring out a new edition of his wonderful collection of short stories, Stories From El Barrio with five new stories.

The oldest of seven children,he grew up in Spanish Harlem, where he became involved with gangs and drugs. After seven years in prison he returned to his old neighborhood as a youth worker. His first book, Down These Mean Streets, now considered a classic, was followed by Savior Savior Hold My Hand and Seven Long Times. He is the author of a play, The Golden Streets, and numerous articles, many of which have appeared in the New York Times Magazine. He has been the subject of three award-winning documentary films, the latest of which is Every Child Is Born a Poet. He also created two CDs of poetry with music, which feature first rate salsa musicians from NY and the San Francisco Bay Area.

We will miss him--but we will still feel his "flows". The energy he gave to the world is still circulating and in our hearts we can see and feel his mischevous grin.  He was a man who had suffered hard times and good times--but he loved and enjoyed life and shared that joy with us.

We love you Piri!


About Freedom Voices

Some Information

Freedom Voices publishes works that speak to or from communities on the margins. Founded in 1989 in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District the press has grown from its origins as a community publisher to include works from around the globe.

FV works closely with the TallMountain Circle which produces, promotes and distributes Mary TallMountain’s literary works and chooses the winners of the TallMountain Award for Creative Writing and Community Service.

FV also distibutes New Earth Publications imprint such as translations of Nicaraguan Ernesto Cardenal’s Quetalcoatl , Costa Rican activist Luisa Gonzalez’s autobiography and Voice of Fire, Communiques and interviews from the Zapatista National Liberation Army.

Freedom Voices is a project of the non-profit Tenderloin Reflection and Education Center and organizes public readings and writing workshops in conjunction with the Center. Freedom Voices is also a partner in the Encounters in the Americas/Encuentros de los Americas project for popular literacy. The founding editor of Freedom Voices is B. Jesse Clarke. Editorial decisions are made by a collective of writers, activists, and street scholars.