Residents of San Quentin shared vulnerabilities through creative and spontaneous expressions of music, spoken word, poetry, storytelling and silence at July’s Alive Inside: Open Mic event. The community-involved series is organized by Scott Ferreter, Chelsea Coleman, Morgan Bolender and Ned Buskirk
Residents used this intimate space to explore what it means to grieve and honor what and whom they’ve loved or lost. Buskirk invited the audience to share whatever was on their heart, assuring them they “don’t have to cry, because I am going to cry for all of us.”
Many audience members shared parts of themselves in that vulnerable space. Resident Paul Stauffard read a poem about his spiritual walk. Nicholas “Hippy” Hagerty played a unique bluegrass piece using a harmonica, and Robert Cole talked about the young love and the loss he felt when his love died from an aneurism. “I saw love come into my life, and I saw love vanish,” he said.
Ferreter and Bolender, known on tour as The Feelings Parade, played three songs onstage. The first, “The Tides,” mused about having a safe space and the continued support of a loved one. The second song, “A Lot to Hold,” explored letting go of pain and grief.
Coleman performed the third song, “Let My Heart Be Broken,” which she wrote on her way to visit a female prison facility in Ohio. The words resonated with the incarcerated people in the room as she sang:
“Let my heart be broken by all the love that wants to break free. Let my heart be broken, for all the walls between you and me. Let no chains be squandered, to set each other free. Carving out the valley, where I can rest with ease.”
At this point, the band exited the stage and residents came up to perform.
Dante D. Jones performed a rap about life and love. Jay Kim didn’t expect to participate but felt inspired, so while sitting and listening to the others, he wrote a poem about himself being a kid with low self-esteem. Alex, who did not give his last name, read a poem about his past struggle with reading and his newfound service to help others with the same struggle.
“Now that I am a teacher’s aide, I love to help people in any way I can,” Alex said.
To close out, The Feelings Parade retook the stage and asked the audience to yell out a word and they would play a song from that word. “Resilience” was chosen.
The song started off with Ferreter playing the guitar and Bolender singing. As they played, the incarcerated band stepped up to the stage one-by-one to participate in unity and community building.
The series is tentatively scheduled to run through November 21.