Six years ago, several inmates frustrated by the violent nature of prison had a simple idea: All inmates should come together on the yard and observe a day of peace.
“We needed to do something to curb and stem the senseless and idiotic violence,” said Richard Vincent Poma, who was part of the multi-racial committee that organized the event.
A few years after the first meeting, local community members were incorporated into the celebration.
This year the lower yard of San Quentin State Prison served as the stage for the Day of Peace. It was a new experience for the hundreds of prisoners who recently transferred from various institutions statewide.
The April 28 event included concession stands, musical acts from inside and outside San Quentin, speeches, and testimonies from community members who have experienced violence firsthand. Community members and prisoners shared ideas about how to create more peaceful communities inside and outside of prison.
Prisoners also gathered at a large table set in the middle of the yard to sign their names on a banner or to write messages of hope, while others wrote, in memoriam, the name of a loved one.
Each participant was given refreshments and a wristband with a message of peace.
“These types of events generate unity and prepare us to re-enter society. I couldn’t see this happening at Soledad because of the staff.” – S. Wells
“The day of peace allows the public to hear about men acting as they should in the community.” – Luke Fredricks, volunteer
“At Solano, we were looking for stuff like this. We would like to get rid of the old ways and get with the new ways. We were open to rehab, but we had to get over the administration.” – “Just Us”
“I’ve been in prison 17 years, 11 at San Quentin. It’s a privilege to take advantage of all the programs here. There’s a lot of respect between inmates, the staff, and community members.” – Michael Ware
“A lot of people seem hungry to show some type of solidarity.” – Safa, bass player for Rupa and the April Fishes
“They wouldn’t even let us celebrate Juneteenth at Soledad. I didn’t even know there was such an event as day of peace. I support this because if you got peaceful spirits, nothing else gonna bother you.” – Kevin Thomas
“The administration at San Quentin focuses on rehabilitation, and getting us ready for release to society. Even though there are no jobs here, there’s plenty to do with all the programs.” – Ken Polk
“The new people I saw were excited because all races are getting along. People aren’t stand-offish at San Quentin. We like to interact with each other.” – Kevin Carr
“I think the public misses out on what it’s really like in here. When I tell my neighbors that I’m going to work inside of San Quentin, they can’t imagine what I see in the men I work with everyday.” – Kara Urion, Prison University Project
“San Quentin is the flagship of CDCR as far as programs to help us adjust back to society. This kind of atmosphere is what the public should see, because they have a misconception about the people under the prison system.” – Nicky Burns
“As a prisoner volunteer I do it for its own sake. I want to be involved in more volunteering. It’s good for the soul, and I believe that everyone should be a volunteer.” – Ruben Ramirez.
“There weren’t any programs like this at Solano. This is a place of unity. The public is unaware of the brothers here who are truly rehabilitated. It would be a shame to waste them. God Bless us all.” – Brother Jackson
“This is a special day, which we hope will always be. I get to meet Jesus when I come into San Quentin.” – Jim Ryan, volunteer
“I feel it’s a good thing for us. We all need some peace in our lives.” – TY
“It’s good to see everybody hanging out and for the first time it’s good to see everybody in white, which represents peace. The atmosphere in San Quentin is peace today.” – Ronald Lew
“I especially loved the band playing the R&B music. They were really good. The way the prisoners interacted showed a lot of respect for each other.” – Correctional Officer McClean
“In 2006 there was a riot on the San Quentin yard. In 2007 we came together and had our first peace event to bring awareness and show that peace can work.” – Stephen Pascascio.
“I feel that today people put their racial stuff to the side. I wonder if prisoners can do this on the streets.” – Ke Lam
“I am contributing to the community and raising awareness to others to be positive role models.” – Jorge Heredia
“This is an event I will always remember. I look forward to working to make this event bigger next year, and when I go home I will always remember this and carry the message of peace. I like this, all of us coming together.” – Robert Curtis
“For the 34 plus years that I’ve been locked up I’ve seen a lot of violence, and I wonder why so many had to lose their lives or be hurt. This has affected not only us inside, but also our families. This event really shows that we can come together and mend our differences to continue this peace. This should be in every prison.” – Nick Garcia
“This Day of Peace should be like any other day, not only in prison but in society as well. Peace should not be contained or restricted. It should be passed down from generation to generation. If we don’t leave anything else behind for our children to remember, we should at least teach them about peace. – “Catfish”
“Peace brings freedom, freedom brings love.” – Randy “Pup” Carey