Brian Holliday, 25, from Orange County, Ca., is serving a six-year sentence for a robbery. Holliday also had issues with race relations based on being placed in a facility where the inmate population self-segregated. Since arriving at The Q and getting involved with the San Quentin Athletic Association (SQAA), his thinking has evolved…
SQN: What’s it been like being a college student here at The Q?
BH: It’s given me an opportunity to be enrolled in college. I wasn’t going to do this on the street. It’s a chance to get a free education, real college level.
SQN: Did you have a high school diploma before coming to prison?
BH: Yes, after I was expelled from the Saddleback school district in Orange County, Ca.
SQN: Which classes are you enrolled in?
BH: English 101A, I had to start from English 99A, then 99B.
SQN: Is that where you read some African American literature for the first time?
BH: Yes. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘Letters from the Birmingham Jail’; I also read Emile Deweaver’s essay.
SQN: How has playing sports at The Q changed your social views?
BH: First off, it was the integrated sports. Before The Q, I never played sports with Blacks or Asians in prison. I came from California Rehabilitation Center (CRC), and it’s still racially segregated. However, here at San Quentin, I have some good people around me. I saw it was cool. Brandon Riddle Terrell, a fellow player on the team, re- ally helped me to adjust and helped me see what this was about…
SQN: What self-help groups are you in?
BH: Criminals and Gangsters Anonymous, Coalition For Justice, and Youth Offender Program.
SQN: What type of work do you do?
BH: Building maintenance, CTE (Construction Technology Employment), and Computer Literacy… I completed that at CRC.
SQN: What’s the program like at CRC?
BH: It’s not integrated except for bunks. Everything else is segregated.
SQN: And how has The Q and the self-help groups helped you transition in your thinking?
BH: I play baseball, softball and soccer, basketball a little, as well as handball. Taught me to deal with personalities and learning patience… I was still having racial issues at first. I had a Black coach and Black team mates and taking orders at first was tough. … But the white guys on the team helped me to see that it wasn’t the skin shade that was getting me. It was me learning to expand my thinking and accepting constructive criticism and look past the color.
SQN: What advice would you give a young person coming into CDCR at this time, under the current changes, who was seeking to get home as fast as possible?
BH: Look, I’m here. I’m on the baseball team. There’s self-help groups… there’s no politics at The Q. At the end of the day, I’m not coming back to prison… so don’t let anybody prevent you from getting yourself in a position to get home. Do your time, put your blinders on, and do what’s best for you.
SQN: You get to speak to a 13-year-old Brian… but you only get one sentence to say to yourself. What do you say?
BH: Be you.
SQN: Thanks for doing this interview.
BH: No, thank you.