By Marcus Henderson
In the midst of mass incarceration, Black Lives Matter and an election year, San Quentin prisoners celebrated their Second Annual Black History Month program.
“It was a success,” said Shai Alkebu-lan, the inmate program coordinator. “I wish more people would have come, but those who did, I think, would go out and spread the light.”
With the blessing of Father George Williams, the Catholic Chapel hosted the 50-plus prisoners at the Feb. 26 event. The group consisted mostly of older men — the younger generation was noticeably absent.
“Those who were here were meant to be here; truth is not for everybody,” said Bilal Hamilton, who spoke on the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Hamilton used a map to demonstrate the hardship of the journey and how the people were settled in Haiti, Dominican Republic and Jamaica.
From the past issues to the present, Bryant “The Truth” Harrison gave a brilliant spoken word poem called “Hypocritical Oath.”
His poetic words weaved in and out of the hypnotic sound of the band “Just Us.” He called the people to “Wake up, self-destruction is the case.” He touched on issues of greed, disease and the state of politics. “Can you smell the insanity?” Harrison would repeatedly ask.
Ira Perry gave a gripping spoken word on what it means growing up African-American, highlighting police brutality, the names of slain people over the past years and not knowing if you would live from day to day.
Harun Taylor was master of ceremonies and performed “I am 3.0,” a third poem in a series. Using meta-physical word play about positive energy and the principle that everyone is one, and “we are those who came before us.”
“We are Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and the mathematicians, architects and scientist who built the pyramids,” stated Taylor.
He said the men in the audience were black diamonds — those who have been formed under different life pressures.
He stressed that Blacks here are American and that loving Black people doesn’t mean hating someone else.
“The Just Us” band provided soothing melodies throughout the event. It consists of Charlie Spencer on guitar, drummer Paul Oliver, and Terrence Slaughter, bass.
They performed a jazz version of “Living for the Love,” by the Isley Brothers, and a classic Bill Withers tune, “Using Me.”