The 2019 Day of Peace Celebration was a festival of music and healing featuring dynamic outsider performers and San Quentin talent.
“This music brings tears to my eyes. It’s touching my soul, lowering my anxiety and depression,” said inmate J.O. Chisom. “It’s saving me from my inner thoughts as we speak.”
“I feel blessed every time I come here”
The celebration on July 13th opened with prayers from Native American chaplain Hector Heredia, Christian Chaplain Mardi Jackson, and Islamic Community member Roosevelt Askari Johnson.
First on stage was rock band Continuum and after comedians Jesse Ayers and Jonathan Chiu brought laughter and applause.
Next, Hip Hop/R&B group AM/PM ignited the crowd with hard-hitting raps and smooth, jazzy pieces.
“My dad…performed in a talent show here. So this is like talking to my ancestors right now, talking to my father,” said AM/PM front man Just Dizz, “This is where I’m supposed to be. This is community.”
It was this type of unified gathering that a group of San Quentin men had in mind when they came together to form the Day of Peace Celebration. After a race riot in the recreation yard in 2006, the group decided to do something about what they saw as senseless violence.
“I’ve been to nine Day of Peace Celebrations. I was at the original,” said longtime volunteer and self-described Healer, Jack Omega. He said the guys put it together “to commemorate the fact that we can all get along. The village can come together.”
Many in the crowd were drawn to AM/PM lyricist Ashanti’s neo-soul and rhythmic swaying. In an Afrocentric head wrap, she held the crowd captive with her newly released single, “Lovin.”
“If you like what you hear, don’t be afraid to get up and rock with it,” she encouraged the men, her body swaying rhythmically.
While some inmates and guests enjoyed the music, others visited information tables set up by self-help groups or numerous art pieces displayed through- out the yard.
Curb Service headlined the show for their second San Quentin performance. Formerly incarcerated lyricist Rob Woods leads Curb Service.
Woods, with his extra thick dreads crowning a slim goateed face, worked the stage with a mix of hip hop, soul, and jazz. In the song, “Tiny Table”, Woods raps about writing an al- bum in his cell.
“It was deeply moving,” Louis Salaam Gibson said of Woods’ performance, “The Day of Peace…can inspire even the most wretched of men to change their heart. As I always say, heal, bless, and prosper.”
During Curb Service’s performance, an emergency alarm sounded, causing the recreation yard to “go down.” All inmates sat in place, wait- ing for the alarm to clear. His audience frozen in place, Woods launched into his song “So Far From Perfect.” On his knees, mic in two clinched fist, he belted out the lyrics:
“I admit that I done did a lot of #@$! and I ain’t never been perfect, been through it all but I feel like it was worth it. Not a perfect man, but I feel like I’m worthy, and if I’m worthy, then Lord please have mercy on me – Lord please have mercy on me!”
“I feel like I’m at a real music festival right now, just like it is on the outside,” said Ear Hustle podcast producer, Bruce Wallace. It was his first Day of Peace Celebration.
Guitarist Maxx Cabello Jr. and drummer Jeff Minnie weather took the stage next. Maxx tore up the strings and the duo took listeners through an audio odyssey of rock, soul, and blues.
“I feel blessed every time I come here. It helps keep me grounded and I think I bring a little hope,” said Cabello Jr., who has performed at San Quentin before.
Minnie weather said he hoped to bring good vibes and spirits to San Quentin with his music. “Nobody likes to think all day; they like to feel something, too. I try to bring something good to that,” he said.
At the Non Violent Communication stable, volunteer facilitator Sheryl F. talked to men as they passed. “I’m hearing about the progress of guys who have went through our program and what they’re doing now. Many are students now or moving forward in other positive ways. I love hearing that,” she said.
When asked about how guys find peace within themselves, Sheryl said, “Knowing self, having compassion for self, and caring for others is a good place to start.”
After giving San Quentin performances to remember, the outside groups left the stage to more of San Quentin’s own great talent. Rapper and lyricist Maserati-E performed his insightful crowd favorite Break the Mold, with the crowd joining in on the chorus:
“We can change the world forever if we come together… we can change the mode.”
San Quentin resident David Jassy finished the show.The rapper and producer worked the stage delivering lyrics that reflected his professional experience before incarceration.
“Money makes the world go round, but real music makes the world go forward. And my message has always been about unity. You can speak about the problems, but you need to bring the solutions, too. When you speak the truth, you’re going to touch someone that feels the way you do,” Jassy said.