By Bostyon Johnson Managing Editor, Michael Callahan Staff Writer
San Quentin’s No More Tears program has had a significant impact on facilitators, volunteers, alumni and community partners. An appreciation ceremony on June 10 honored them.
The residents of San Quentin created NMT in 2002 to address the rise of violent crimes and reduce the rate of recidivism.
The program has five traditional tasks in each session:
- The welcoming of newcomers;
- The reading of the mission statement,
- The house rules,
- An affirmation, and, finally;
- A chant.
The chant is completed when a speaker calls out, “I’m committed to stopping the violence,” and the group responds in unison, “We’re committed to stopping the tears.”
San Quentin’s public information officer Lieutenant G. Berry, attended the ceremony and spoke on behalf of the administration, sharing encouraging words of how change comes from growth.
“It’s my honor to be among guys who are consistently bettering themselves. I encourage you all to check in with your peers for support,” Berry said, the San Quentin public information officer.
For the first time in NMT history, co-founders Lonnie Morris and Mick Gardner, recognized those who have contributed to the program. NMT shirts were awarded to Program Director Isabel Tayag and Chairperson Cori Thomas. Other supporters and contributors among those receiving recognition were Donald Frazier, CEO of Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency, Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, and his wife.
Carson discussed incarceration numbers and his aim to increase the amount of programs that are available. He talked about the perspective people have once they visit prison in person.
“People have a different perspective from when they came in, to the time they leave. These connections made in NMT keep going and it starts even before the incarcerated men get out,” said Carson.
San Quentin resident Perry “Spike” Simpson has been involved with NMT for 10 years. He acted as master of ceremony of the event and talked at length about how the program drives him to positive action.
“All of y’all is positive and I know that if I come to y’all, I would get some positive feedback. I have not been on the streets in 27 years. Y’all are my community,” said Simpson.
Others spoke about the healing circle, which is a core part of how NMT addresses the rise of crime and contributes to stopping returning citizens from reoffending.
Caleb McLelan facilitated NMT and talked about the way everyone involved in the program allowed him to witness and participate in showing his vulnerability to participants.
“NMT allowed me to right [the] damage I done to my community and to give back — something I never had wanted to do,” McLelan said.
Marvin Cosby declared he had never sat “in the fire,” an intense communication circle within the group, and he commended those who have. Cosby called himself a “young knucklehead” who now understands the number of lives affected by his choices and focuses on giving back. He said that this life change came from the testimonies of survivors of violent crime.
“An identifying moment in NMT was to hear a victim speak; this was breathtaking to see how many people are affected by our crimes [and] the ripple effect … it changed my life,” Cosby said.
Marquez Sherouse discussed the way healing circles had affected him and had changed his life.
“It is amazing how the victims can still be triggered years later. But to see them come in here with those who have hurt people can change the way they feel after the healing circle,” he said.
Jermaine Gurley, who was released from San Quentin in December 2022, talked about how “choice points,” helped him to handle challenges. “Upon my reentry, I learned to be patient — internalize everything you learn and make it your reality. Life is not easy, but if you do the work, you can navigate,” said.
Former San Quentin staffer Addie Kitchens reminded everyone that people on the outside need to help those on the inside.
“I am a big supporter of the direction the institution is going. It is amazing to see what is happening in the prison,” said Kitchens.
Residents enjoyed fired chicken, samosa, fried fish, rick pilaf garden salad, and fresh fruit salad and bottled waters as they mingled with guest, alumni, and supporters of the NMT program.