By Michael Knight – Contributor Corcoran State Prison, IAC Chairman
Many tears were shed when prisoners, guests, and staff celebrated HopeFest 2022 at Corcoran State Prison on the Facility 3A yard.
The early April event was to honor and support Project Hope, a non-profit organization that provides community support, gang prevention and intervention and access to employment ready documents.
The incarcerated population raised $5,446 for the organization, and presented a check along with art projects during the event.
“This was good to see, despite the numerous setbacks and several roadblocks,” said Chris Jergerson, who regularly donates to such causes. “With little to no programs in the past three years, I was grateful to see the incarcerated population make this happen for the Project Hope charity.”
The event was hosted by Project Hope co-founders Jaime and Roberta, along with actor Danny Trejo. The co-founders spoke about how difficult it is to raise funds in these economic times, and that to receive so much from the incarcerated population was energizing. Trejo, the “Machete” movie star, shared with the crowd his own prison experiences and how he overcame obstacles to become the success he is today.
The rest of the festivities consisted of words of wisdom, a DJ, a comedian and singing and dancing. DJ Cheatos had the crowd going with his music selection, while comedian Concrete provided much need laughter.
Trejo’s Angels — which consisted of singers Amoraa, Twixxy, and Tarah New — energized the audience. Amoraa sang “Como La Flor,” a song by the late great Selena, that had the crowd singing along. Twixxy’s performance had the audience up and dancing. Sleepy Malo and Bad Vic of Los Yesterdays bought back memories with their song selection. It was a celebration like none the prison has ever seen before.
“This yard has the potential for greatness,” said LaQuan Parker, Inmate Advisory Council (IAC) vice-chairman. “Our struggle is getting others to see the same vision we see as for rehabilitation programs taking place here on Facility 3A.”
An added bonus came when everyone viewed the donated artwork. Trejo was excited to discover a pair of Vans slip-on shoes that were decorated with his portrait. He officially declared that those were the best looking pair of shoes. There were also shoes with artwork of skull faces surrounded by a clock, a ship and a colorful octopus, and an Aztec warrior princess. The artwork will be auctioned at a Fox Theater event to support community activities.
“Project Hope staff really liked our art and were happy to see us using our talents to support those in need,” said Joshua Palomino, who donated artwork. “That made the whole event worth it. Danny Trejo thought that the art was amazing, and I got to take a picture with him.”
With institutional count time fast approaching, Pastor Octavio of Living Word in San Gabriel Valley gave the crowd a moving message of hope, love, and forgiveness. He then held a prayer circle for those who wanted to participate. The Project Hope staff, Trejo, and the rest of the performers closed the event by signing hats and t-shirts for the population.
The IAC organized the event with the help from Corcoran’s administration and the prison’s Community Resource Manager’s office. The IAC said throughout the year the incarcerated population has donated to support the local community, including the Corcoran Unified School District and the Fresno Skateboard Salvage. The population also held a Christmas Toy Drive.
The IAC statement added that the incarcerated population has made a firm commitment to rehabilitation and making amends with their communities.
“Corcoran has a notorious reputation for violence and corruption, but we’re trying to change that narrative,” said Jergerson.