The second annual San Quentin News Journalism Guild Graduation took place in the Garden Chapel on Jan. 17. Twelve graduates from November’s class combined with this current class of 11 to celebrate finishing the six-month course.
The event honored the graduates, recognized advisors and brought attention to the impact of programs like the guild on rehabilitation.
Richard “Bonaru” Richardson, SQ News’ Executive Editor and winner of the Arnulfo T. Garcia Leadership Award, spoke about the importance of the guild.
Having worked every position from print to layout to Editor-in-Chief, Richardson reflected how words began to change his life.
“At my last prison, a guy called me pessimistic, and I wanted to beat him up—even though I really didn’t know what the word meant,” said Richardson.
Inmates across the country can thank Richardson’s curiosity and intellect when he looked the word up and realized his own talent with words.
“Words mean a lot; we communicate with each other; we all have the ability to grow. Our newspaper allows people to grow—and will continue to do so,” said Richardson.
“Our graduates—know you were journalists before you picked up a pen. Remember, if no one tells your story, who will?” Richardson said. “Please use your voice; it’s the most powerful asset (weapon) you have.”
Lisa Adams, the newspaper’s development manager for two years, called her career journey from state and federal prison “empty, until I found my niche helping others.”
Adams is collaborating with Wells Fargo Bank executive Amanda Weitman to generate philanthropic donations for the news agency. “Inside and out, we give the world access to the understanding and awareness of social reform and its impact. This news agency reduces recidivism by giving hope to the incarcerated throughout the nation,” said the philanthropic executive.
Today, San Quentin News is a leading voice for incarcerated people in the country.
San Quentin News’ editor-in-chief, Marcus “Wali” Henderson, remarked upon the journalism program’s capacity to build bridges. “(SQ News and Wall City) journalists tell stories that people are afraid to tell.”
Henderson, who used to chair the Guild, then introduced keynote speaker Tracy Brumfield.
Brumfield has transformed from “a heroin addict in and out of jail and then prison” to founder of a women’s news agency called RISE.
She inspired the crowd, speaking about her addiction, “I’m beating its ass.” For the graduates she said, “The power of words—storytelling—includes talking about our journey. I found it extremely empowering to tell my journey…Write about what you know…your testimony!”
The Department of Juvenile Justice’s Ericka Mutchler celebrated the success of the incarcerated female population in California. Mutchler gave praise to Wall City’s third edition, which featured incarcerated females.
“The women featured on the back page of Wall City were my [juvenile] clients who co-wrote articles for the edition. I am pleased to announce all of them have been released with jobs,” said the counselor.
Henderson introduced former San Francisco prosecutor Marisa Rodriquez after he spoke about the social reform symposiums at San Quentin. The latest forum with the San Francisco Police Department was a “Blue on Blue forum [which] improved communication between law enforcement and incarcerated persons. It [forums] will allow us continue to build bridges that no one else can,” said Henderson.
In 2012, Rodriquez took a suggestion from her father to visit San Quentin.
“Now, I can’t shake this place,” said the former D.A. “It [the visit] was very, very moving, and I didn’t expect that. I shared the experience with my supervisor, San Francisco D.A. George Gascon.” She told Gascon there was something very special happening at San Quentin, and he needed to go in and see what was happening himself, if we are going to change justice.
Gascon’s office then collaborated with the late Arnulfo Garcia to create the first symposium. It focused on San Francisco Community Court prosecutors’ desire to investigate what drives youth to commit crimes.
The symposium was such a success, today the forums are a core of the news outlet’s brand.
Rodriquez said after Police Chief (Del Scott) brought in his team, it led to the creation of the nation’s first Formerly Incarcerated Advisory Board. The board includes San Francisco prosecutors and formerly incarcerated men and women, many of whom had life sentences before being paroled.
CDCR administrators who ensure accuracy and analysis for SQ News include), Terri Hardy, Krissi Khokhobashvili, and Ike Dodson. They received plaques of recognition and said, “No matter what happened in your past, who you are when you come out on the other side is what matters.” Henderson also praised the group of Wall City advisors in attendance. Kate McQueen, Sarah Horowitz, Doug Levy and Dan Fost represented the magazine’s advisory board of 12.