A celebration of freedom took place in San Quentin’s Chapel B, with positive messages in poetry, rap, gospel, and live music.
On June 19, at approximately 6 pm 150 SQ residents congregated inside the Protestant Chapel, to celebrate Juneteenth, the month that marks the final notification that slavery has ended.
Marcus Henderson hosted the event; he opened up by showing love and appreciation to all in attendance.
“Everyone is a part of black history, regardless if you are Asian, White, or Hispanic,” said Henderson
He introduced Wayne Villafranco who played an African drum, giving everyone a history lesson about the South African Bemba Tribe. He played the drum, pausing several times to explain the tribal tradition.
Villafranco conveyed that when a Bemba women becomes pregnant, she goes into the wilderness with friends to pray and meditate, they stay there until they hear the song of the child. They recognize that every soul has an expression and purpose.
SQ resident Marquez Sherouse was introduced next; he recited quotes from famous black people about courage and liberty.
“History has shown us that courage can be contagious, and hope can take on a life of its own,” said Michelle Obama, former first lady.
“The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression,” said W.E.B. Dubois.
The host introduced “Graced out Choir” who came to bring spirituality through Gospel music, the choir was led by resident Worship Director Cainen Chambers.
The choir’s song “Glory Glory” motivated the crowed to stand on their feet, clapping their hands and swaying from side to side as if they were a choir member.
Henderson called up resident poet Steve Warren, “I appreciate all of you for coming out to celebrate Juneteenth,” said Warren.
He recited his latest poem “America’s Second Independence Day,” in reference to Juneteenth. In an excerpt from the poem Warren said, “all the youth can focus on is instant gratification and social media impressions.”
The audience cheered and supported Warren throughout his recital, letting him know “we hear you.”
The Band “Real Deal” came to the stage with a four-song set, bringing the sound of funk to the event. “How ya’ll doing,” said pianist Rico Rogers.
Their first song “Bring Back Your Love” was the most impactful, a dance tune that brought attendees to their feet, snapping their fingers, and clapping their hands.
Next up was Kevin Sample a SQ Christian mentor, he graced the crowd with a poem titled, “First People.” “Our culture was stripped and still we never swayed,” recited Sample.
The poem was a thought provoking piece that silenced the crowd, from the look on the audience faces they were in deep thought, while listening to Sample.
Henderson introduced Michael Walker; he revealed a quote signifying courage and humility.
“I am good as anybody, but not better,” said Kathryn Johnson.
SQ youth facilitator Raul Higgins came to the stage. He played Afro-Puerto Rican beats on the congas, displaying African-Puerto Rican heritage. The song was titled “Solo Corazon,” meaning all heart.
The audience seem to enjoy the Conga beats, expressing they did not know Higgins played the Congas so well.
Higgins told the crowd he met three Black people in Austin, Texas, where they were playing congas. He walked up to them and said, “What’s up brothas” they replied “que te pasa con eso,” meaning what is up with that? They all laughed, inviting Higgins to play with the trio of conga players.
Henderson introduced the rap trio “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” featuring Rhashiyd Zinnamon, Mesro El-Coles, and Raheem Ballard.
The group performed “As-salaamu A`laykum,” which means peace unto you. They electrified the audience singing about awareness and responsibility all in the form of peace. The rap trio encourage attendees to sing along, the crowd obliged by repeating the words as-salaamu a`laykum several times.
The Sponsor of the event Muslim Chaplain, Imam Muhammad Fasih came to the stage, to expound on a African woman’s contributions in Islam.
He explained to the audience about an African Lady name Umm Aymin, who became the Prophet of Islam’s wet nurse, after his mother died. The Imam elaborated that when the Prophet died Umm Aymin was not sad because of his death, she was sad because that was the end of revelation.
“We are one family, we are all Children of God,” said Fasih.
Jonquil Thomas-Weisner recited quotes about dreams.
“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly,” said Poet Langston Hughes.
The host asked Bassist Leonard “Funky Len” Walker and the Crew, to come up and play some funky tunes for the audience.
“We didn’t have a band room, we just come together, it’s what we do,” said Paul Comauex, lead vocalist.
The band played a rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” the song and its meaning seem to have everyone focusing on something.
“Brotha, Brotha, Brotha, there’s too many of us crying here today, Brotha, Brotha, Brotha, there’s too many of us dying” Comauex crooned.
The Graced out Choir returned to the stage to close out the event, they had more choir members than before.
Singing the gospel song “I’m so glad” the choir rocked the chapel and almost everyone knew the words, as the attendees rejoiced in the celebration of Juneteenth.
The event ended when the host thanked San Quentin’s Warden Ron Broomfield, and SQ administrative staff for allowing this celebration to take place: he also thanked Muslim Chaplain Muhammad Fasih.