FOUNDER OF THE BEAT WITHIN TOUCHED COUNTLESS LIVES, LEAVES BEHIND A POWERFUL LEGACY OF SERVICE, COMPASSION
With his ever-present smile and the power of encouragement, legendary advocate for incarcerated youth, David Inocencio, died July 8 after losing a courageous battle with cancer. As the founder and senior editor of The Beat Within, his service to those impacted by the juvenile and criminal justice systems will live on through TBW’s monthly magazine, and in the hearts and minds of every person whose lives he crossed paths with. These are just a few of those voices.
A legendary advocate for incarcerated youth, David Inocencio, founder and senior editor of The Beat Within, died on July 8 after losing his battle with cancer. His resilience and dedication produced The Beat Within’s monthly magazine, “A Publication of Writing and Art from the Inside.”
David was not only a light at the end of the tunnel; he has also left a light in the tunnel.
The Beat Within creates a network of inspiring volunteers that encourage incarcerated people inside San Quentin. The Beat Within holds weekly workshops facilitated by incarcerated writers and artists. Since 1996, David reached thousands of incarcerated youths in juvenile facilities nationwide. David’s trailblazing 27-year journey reached thousands of hearts — one beat at a time.
When a divine appointment comes our way, and we meet someone who holds us close to their heart, their spirit enlightens and inspires us all for generations to come.
Much has been said, and even more has been felt, as David’s close companions and The Beat Within writers and artists share their memories of this great man. His colleagues and all of his incarcerated writers and artists felt David’s vision and passion.
David’s heart was, and still is, larger than the “heart of a lion.” His smile stretched from a place of love as he fought with compassion alongside others, helping them to find their voices and put them into words. The poetry and short stories from The Beat Within put feelings into words that pulse all around the globe.
David’s loving, wonderful family mourns a father, husband, son, cousin, close friend, and colleague as they say their loving goodbyes. His closely knitted writers and artists bid a farewell to David Inocencio as well.
We love you and miss you dearly Brother David — rest in heavenly peace.
I met David in 2018 at The Beat Within. I was greeted with a warm smile, a gentle yet firm handshake, and with words of compassion.
He carried an understanding of acceptance and a sense of belonging. Brother David did not judge us for our past choices or present circumstances. Instead, from a place of love in his heart, he chose to see the good in all of us. To some, he was one, and to others, he was all.
He was someone who didn’t mind getting in the trenches to fight alongside others, helping them find their voices — words of poetry, song, spoken word, and rap. He shared feelings of laughter, hardship, happiness, joy, pain, and listened to everyone.
I thank God for these past five years he blessed me with him. David shared his life, not just with me, but with so many. His family was also blessed to have had him in their lives.
I love you and miss you my brother David. You have left each of us in a better place than where you found us. You have fought the good fight — now rest in peace my brother.
Beat Within Writer
I have had the great honor to have met and called David my friend these past 12 years. David taught and inspired us here at San Quentin. When I spoke with other Kid CAT members and others who knew David, they all expressed feelings of, “We can’t believe he’s not with us anymore, yet it’s in spirit and inspiration that we carry him now moving forward.”
I honor David and his family in ceremony and in song, to help them in their loss. He was taken too soon.
He grew the vision and goal to give youths throughout the country and generations to come a voice for each other to change and reshape their paths. Now, it is everyone’s vision to keep it moving forward. I give gratitude to all the ones who helped grow his vision throughout California and nationwide.
Thank you my friend and brother David, with love and respect.
—Greg ‘White Eagle’ Coates
Kid CAT Facilitator
Beat Within Writer
I will be honest. I expected David to treat me like everyone else had that I met for the first time.
Yet I will never forget the time I first met David in The Beat Within. He didn’t judge me because I was bald-headed and full of tattoos. David welcomed me with open arms.
He was super friendly and treated me like a human being. David was a down-to-earth person, a man of service, and compassionate to all people. He encouraged me to be the best person I could be.
The world lost a wonderful human being. Both of us had made plans for when I got out to work with at-risk youths in local juvenile halls. This was something we were very passionate about. I will continue to carry on his service in his honor. I will always keep David close to my heart. He may be gone physically, but never forgotten.
Kid CAT Member
Beat Within Writer
David was heart felt listener and a compassionate giant who always treated you like a human — he helped so many lives. He sent vibes of love, peace, and empathy for our community. He always held a space and made you feel at home. In his presence, we felt at home.
My own work with David started in 2019 when he welcomed me into The Beat Within’s workshops, inviting me into bear witness to a group of remarkable humans whose friendships he treasured. I felt incredibly lucky to be part of this extended family. The magic of The Beat Within extends far and wide into places David didn’t even imagine.
This past June, one of our graduating seniors at the high school where I teach spoke about The Beat Within in her graduation speech. She described The Beat Within workshop in her “Voices of Incarceration” class that led her and her peers to an almost magic vulnerability and honesty.
She described her response to hearing such raw, honest, and complex truths from her classmates: “All I could think about were the ways that I would have liked to have shown up for them, to have been a friend in their difficult moments,” she said. “In 27 years, David seemed impervious to burnout or compassion fatigue, or any perils of doing work in this field.
“He didn’t see The Beat Within as ‘work,’ but instead as a community of voices striving to be heard. He gave full attention to every detail, but also to the unmet needs of the person he talked to. David inspired hope, new ideas, storytelling, and creating art with the spirit of courageous vulnerability and humility. David made lifelong relationships marked by trust and gratitude.”
As we reflect back into our own moments with brother David, remember what he always reverted back to keeping hope alive, the beat goes on, and so does the space where we can show up fully and honestly. Thank you David for being a friend to so many, in both the difficult moments and the sweet ones.
High School Teacher
Beat Within Facilitator
Heaven Couldn’t Wait for You
By Sarah Cummings
A vessel for healing, a beam of light
You cleansed souls of their suffering
Like the purest of natural springs
You encouraged us to drink in you hope
You absorbed our toxins
For you can’t pour from an empty cup… How was
yours never empty?
Do you lead with a heart that has no bounds?
Humility needed you but didn’t know how to nurture
God took you back home swiftly
He could no longer allow his angel to suffer
A kiss of death
Sweet surrender and peace
Maybe you’ll come back as a trombone
Deep, deep bravado
Touched by the hands of an adoring musician
For I know how you love the vibration of jazz blues
Maybe you’ll be a Redwood tree
Standing tall with your head blissfully in the clouds
Supporting all life
Above and blue you effortlessly
Your roots grounded, deeply connected to the source
You breathe life into wilted flowers
The last time I saw you I brought you flowers
Almost as colorful as you
Your body was frail and vulnerable
Your eyes being brighter than I had ever seen
I realized, through your eyes,
you weren’t afraid
Maybe it’s because you knew you left this realm more
beautiful than it was before you came
Maybe it’s because you live life selflessly without
Maybe it’s because you were finally able to unburden
yourself of the weight of the would
What I do know now is you had no fear
I saw serenity, I saw eternal love
A love and too grand for a body to hold
As you withered, so did the bouquet of flowers I left
As each pedal fell, a tear dropped from my eye and
cracked my heart
This grief comes in waves
When the moon is for the tides come flooding in
Water flows through my eyes
Softness of silver moonlight reminds me of you
In mourning, good mornings are scarce
Followed by melancholy afternoons
Fleeting memories glimpses of moments with you
Night covers me like a weighted blanket
The kind of paralyzing comfort
Natural habitat for the nocturnal creature which is a
Thank you for teaching us the power of the pen
In the hands of tortured souls
Thank you for showing us
Freedom is only a page length away
By the way of scribbled feelings, thoughts, beliefs,
and revealing Truth.