By Juan Haines and Miguel Quezada
San Quentin News Staff
More than 400 inmates and about two dozen Bay Area volunteers mingled on San Quentin’s Lower Yard at the annual Day of Peace celebration to showcase the various self-help programs available at the prison.
The May 7 event recognized the late Audrey Auld who performed at last year’s celebration. Pam Delgado and Jeri Jones of Bread & Roses performed in her honor.
The Day of Peace is in response to a 2006 interracial riot that occurred just before a scheduled yard event. Afterward, a multiracial group of men, most serving life sentences, came together and went to the administration asking for a Day of Peace.
“Since a lot of youngsters are being sent to San Quentin, the Day of Peace Committee recruited some of them to show prison isn’t all violence and drugs, like what’s on TV,” said committee member Chris Schumacher.
The prison’s Lower Yard was dotted with more than two dozen signup tables for the various programs.
As Prince’s Purple Rain filled the air so did a light rain. By noon, the rain was heavy, soaking the participants.
Some drenched participants began filing back into the cell blocks; however, more than a hundred remained on the yard, continuing the celebration. In the end, the musicians were forced to pack it in because of the rain.
Each year the event holds a sidewalk art contest sponsored by William James Association. Prior to the rain, the pavement in the Lower Yard was divided into 2’ X 2’ squares where 31 artists created imaginative chalk-drawings.
The judge is artist Patrick Mahoney, a volunteer. He carefully observed each of the 31 entries, drawn with “peace” as its theme. Mahoney chose Ronell Draper’s piece drawn on square #43 as this year’s winner. In second place was Cook’s #27, and C.Y. Baker’s #29 was third. He gave an honorable mention to Christopher Christensen’s #7.
By thetime the rain became a downpour, the judging was over; the chalk drawings slowly became more abstract and finally faded.
Prison artists Guss “Lumumba” Edwards and Antwan “Banks” Williams, who worked in a more permanent medium, displayed their oil paintings that represented various self-help groups.
“The painting for Project LA, Shields for Families, offers everything Joe Paul, its manager, wants to do, which is to help people be with their families,” Williams said. “Shields for Families is what a man is supposed to be as a protector and backbone of the family.”
For the third year in a row, Natalie Tovar, customer service representative of Walkenhorst’s, donated more than 2,500 snack bags for inmates to enjoy while listening to Bread & Roses.
“Day of Peace is something we in the company would like to see in all prisons,” Tovar said. “When an inmate is doing good and rehabilitating, that affects the family. That’s what the company is about, family.”
“We take a whole year to organize the one-day event,” said Stephen Pascascio, Chairman of the Day of Peace Committee. “We get together every Friday in the chapel to discuss what we need – such as who is going to give prayers, the gift bags and bracelets, along with the art work for the programs and sidewalk art contest.”
“Thanks to the administration for letting us have this event,” Schumacher added. “It shows they’re behind us for peace.”
By Juan Haines and Miguel Quezada