Donté Clark returned to San Quentin last November for a spoken word session and to rap with students seeking to earn their GEDs and go to college. Clark is a poet, who mentors young writers in Richmond, Ca.
The Academic Peer Education Program (APEP) hosted Clark’s visit.
Peer educator James Metters talked about incarcerated educator, Bobby Evans, who envisioned opportunities for students to have access to GED studying after they get off work, and that’s what’s started APEP.
When Metters asked APEP students to address the class, an enthusiastic Charles Brandon told the group that San Quentin changed his life.
“I’m in computer literacy and on the waiting list for PUP. I want to learn coding, so I can work at Google,” Brandon said. “I want to rap, learn filmmaking and real estate. I want my own clothing line and hopefully one day, I’ll own a Starbucks.”
Michael Kirkpatrick added, “There’s a lot of positive talk around here. We don’t
tear each other down. We build each other up.”
Derry “Brotha Dee” Brown spoke about Clark’s influences on him.
“It’s what he’s doing for the community. He knows us well — he blends in with us,” Brown said. “There’s a few individuals that know poetry, and I see they will enjoy his work.”
Prior to Metters introducing Clark to the class, Brown and Raiveon “Ray Ray” Wooden performed a skit based on bullying, suicide and violence. Ray Ray’s part was that of evil while Brother Dee played the voice of reason. After a standing ovation Clark took the stage.
Wearing a bright sun yellow beanie tilted slightly back to cover shoulder-length dreads Clark performed one of his poems.
He began by pacing back for forth in front of the class- room with hand gestures that shuffled the air. Then he spoke the lines with the hook, “Life sings me sweet songs. Love is a sweet song.”
“Donté’s second visit to San Quentin motivates people and lets them know how far education and resilience can go, like he does as a writ- er—literacy helps us achieve our goals,” peer educator, James Metters said. “To me, he is a perfect example of what could be achieved de- spite stratified communities, drugs or violence.
Clark works with the youth in Richmond and encourages young writers to put on performances.”
“I just gotta write,” Clark said. “It’s hard to talk about. I just got to demonstrate it. Then people who see it, and they want to help.”
After high school, one of Clark’s college classes gave him the opportunity to work with youth. Writing was involved and “everything just fell into place.”
“When people told me that I was a gifted writer, it was inspirational,” Clark said. “I research a lot, read a lot and talk to people a lot. I also do a lot of listening and compare it to what I’ve read in books.
“Knowing how to connect with people makes me a better teacher.”