As the sun was setting on San Quentin, dozens of incarcerated men and Bay Area citizens gathered in the Protestant Chapel to break bread, on Sept. 14, in celebration of No More Tears, a violence prevention program.
Mick Gardner, executive director of the program established in 2002, revealed that in the last three years, 43 participants of No More Tears returned to the community and none returned to prison.
Pointing to the incarcerated men, Gardner said, “They put it together— the idea came from the heart and mind of Lonnie Morris. The sincere passion that this man has for this organization—he deserves an award, and with that said, this certificate is for the shining success of No More Tears.”
Morris accepted the award as Gardner chanted, “We are community—stop the violence,” and asked the audience to respond with, “We’re community stopping the tears.”
The give and take was repeated several times.
“When I received the appreciation award, I felt overwhelmed,” Morris said later. “We don’t work to stop violence because we look for awards or recognition but because it is work that is de- signed to save lives. However, it’s good to know that your peers recognize the work you do.”
Morris has served more than 40 years in prison on a 7-year-to-life sentence. He was recently denied pa- role in May 2019. His next parole board appearance is scheduled for 2022.
“We recognize the unique perspective of former perpetrators and value their ability to bring solutions to the communities where they once contributed to the problem,” the event program read. “Our work is made possible by the support of community leaders, correctional staff, concerned citizens, and families impacted by violence and crime.”
Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, who regularly visits the program, talked about seeing people who once participated in No More Tears walking around or working in the community.
“We continue to struggle to come in here on a regular basis to provide services for housing and employment,” Carson said. “My instruction and learning is what can I do for your return to be successful. I’m blessed to work with other elected officials that listen to you to understand what you need to return you back home.”
Joey Mason, a former No More Tears participant, left San Quentin to freedom about a year ago.
“One thing that struck me here is that there was a lot of empathy in this room,” Mason told the audience. “We know to keep showing up, keep doing the work. Our lives are being enriched by being here.”
Incarcerated No More Tears facilitator Dwight Kennedy added, “Doing the work—that means getting to know yourself. Don’t do it for the board, do it for yourself.”
While everyone feasted on hamburgers with cake and cookies for dessert, musical acts provided entertainment.
The hip-hop vocals of Jennifer Johns and keyboard of Kev Choice were inspired by “love, humanity, love and community,” Johns said.
Rafael “Nephew” Bankston performed spoken word, highlighting how the No More Tears philosophy affected his incarceration experience by focusing on its workshops aimed to put “a face on violence.”
What no more tears means to me, truthfully
All the workshops combined confined in my sleep Reflecting who I was— not who I be
Allow me to express my no more tears dream.
Ear Hustle podcaster Antwan “Banks” Williams acknowledged the people who inspired and mentored him throughout his incarceration.
“The way that these men have treated me has changed the way I treat others,” Williams said. “It was the people who told me that I was some- body to them. Now that I am somebody, I want to tell somebody that you’re some- body to me.”
Williams then went into a spoken word performance repeating the lines:
I never really felt like somebody
Till somebody told me that I can Be somebody
Now I’m somebody who just wanna tell Somebody that you’re somebody, you’re Somebody to me!