A small array of pink T-shirts filled San Quentin’s Lower Yard as guests, volunteers and prisoners walked 39 miles celebrating the lives of cancer survivors and those who have succumbed to the disease.
The 9th Annual SQ CARES (Compassion, Accountability, Responsibility, Express through community Service) Avon Walk for Breast Cancer was a two-day event, July 8 and 9, in which the men in blue and other participants walked 26 miles the first day and 13 miles the next.
SQ CARES raised close to $2,000 dollars through $5 donations from prisoners, staff and volunteers.
“The great thing about this event is the men inside started it,” said Chris Bailey, volunteer and CARES board member. “To honor the women in their lives who have battled the disease, that pulls on your heartstrings because of what women mean in our lives. And honoring them helps us to be the men in somebody else’s life.”
The incarcerated men sported pink ribbons and pink rubber wristbands in remembrance of their loved ones, past and present. The participants took short breaks to listen to speeches and musical groups, or to sign the many posters surrounding the yard.
“This was really unique,” said Lisa Clark, Prison University Project (PUP) volunteer. “It was so many guys standing in solidarity, walking for their families. It felt more like a celebration of life, than people mourning. It’s so much energy here for so many causes; this kind of positivity needs to be on the outside.”
Singer Pamela Delgado and guitarist Jeri Jones of “The Pam and Jeri Show” performed courtesy of Bread & Roses, a Marin County organization that brings entertainment into the prison.
The group played cover songs like “Shining Star” and “Rock Steady,” but their original songs “Trouble” and “Crossing” spoke to the event.
“There is energy in the voice whether it’s poems, rap or singing.
It’s a war against the evil disease cancer”
“Trouble” dealt with recognizing when you have so much going on in your life that you have to call on your inner wisdom to bring you back into the positive. “Crossing” was dedicated to Pam’s brother who died from cancer.
“The song is about when I will see him again, and when I do, it will be like home,” said Delgado. “Coming here is wonderful. You get to connect with everybody. The volunteers get the experience to know what’s going on and for the people who walked, this is the best healing.”
Philippe “Kells” Kelly, who arrived at San Quentin a year ago, walked for his mother, who died from the disease, and a friend who has survived it.
“We have to be more supportive of each other. Some people are like, I’m not going through it. It’s not my problem. But anything is possible if we come together,” Kelly said.
Prisoners James Metters and Hamisi X. Spears rocked the small crowd with a socially conscious rap song, “Shouting for Peace.” The catchy hook had people singing along. “We fight injustice. We fight the beast. We fight against cancer and every other disease.”
“It’s about the eternal struggle,” said Spears. “It’s about having faith in God, the one who can heal the cancer. I lost my mom, grandmother and uncle. I just hope it’s not hereditary.”
Metters added, “There is energy in the voice whether it’s poems, rap or singing. It’s a war against the evil disease cancer. I dedicate this to my Aunt Janet and Uncle Dave that died from the disease.”
Tammy Appling-Cabading, Academic Peer Education volunteer, walked for her sister, a five-year survivor, and for friends she has lost.
“Each individual here has a complex story dealing with their situation and this disease. This is a way for them to participate in what’s going on in society,” Appling-Cabading said. “Eventually these guys will be getting out. We have to ask ourselves as a nation what will happen if we don’t help them rehabilitate.”