A daughter’s struggle for her father’s freedom and for family redemption
As a little girl, Kishana Stiner fought to keep her family together after her father turned himself in to the American Embassy in Surinam. He had escaped from San Quentin Prison 20 years before and surrendered on the condition that his family be allowed to emigrate to the United States. Now she fights to free him from San Quentin.
Larry Watani Stiner scaled a fence and fled San Quentin after his 1969 conviction for conspiracy to commit murder. The charge involved the fatal shooting of two Black Panther Party members at the University of California at Los Angeles. At his two trials, no witness claimed Stiner fired a weapon.
When did you understand that your father was not coming back?
I was 11 and had just been placed in my first foster care home. On a visit, I asked my mother if my father was in jail and if he was coming back. She said keep praying. I began to understand it was possible he wasn’t coming back.
How did your role change in your family when your father left?
Instantly, the need for me to care for my sisters and brothers became critical.
As a young woman growing up in America, what were your challenges once you found out about your father’s socio-political struggles?
I had no real knowledge of America’s socio-political history when I came here; a big challenge was staying balanced while my views were being formed. It would have been easy to have looked at his past struggles, assumed nothing had changed and lived with anger; I didn’t want to do that.
What did you do to cope when times got rough for you?
Prayed a lot for help. I focused on my education and employment. I thought about my father how things would be better once he was released. Sadly, I’m still waiting.
What is the relationship now with your father?
It is as close as ever.
Is it justice to continue to keep your father in prison after so many years being that he turned himself in?
Certainly not! We are talking about someone that turned himself in and has spent nearly 23 years in prison. I feel he shouldn’t have been convicted in the first place.
How are your other sisters and brothers coping with their father’s incarceration?
It’s very hard for each of them. To make things even more difficult, my father is now battling cancer and we can’t stop worrying about him.
Explain how (your father’s) life has influenced your character and morals.
My father’s life has been all about sacrifices. It’s helped me to not be afraid to stand up for others and myself in situations where things are not right.
Education is important to you. Where did that come from?
Our parents always encouraged us all and my father’s sacrifice was done so we would have access to a good education.
What advice can you give to young girls who may be going through troubles of not having their father to guide them?
Love yourself, spend as much time as possible with family, and surround yourself with positive people. Even without your father’s guidance, you can be a leader and succeed in life.