S.Q. Nears Its $9,000 Goal
Incarcerated men and the outside community united in the name of hope, faith, strength and survival. Cancer survivors, prison staff, including Warden Robert Wong, community volunteers and incarcerated men walked around the lower yard track on the weekend of September 19 and 20 in support of breast cancer research.
The fundraiser raised nearly $9,000, with about $1,500 of it coming from the incarcerated population.
“This is the first time that anything like this has happened in a prison – let alone a men’s prison,” one community volunteer said excitedly, astonished at the crowd of over 300 incarcerated men sprinkled with about 20 pink shirts worn by non-inmates.
The walk, dubbed “San Quentin C. A. R. E. S.” (Compassionate Accountability Remorsefully Expressed through community Service) was part of the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer and was originally scheduled to coincide with the Avon sponsored walk in San Francisco on the weekend of June 12. It was postponed in S.Q. because of quarantine due to an H1N1 flu scare at the prison.
S.Q.’s participation was the brainchild of William Packer, incarcerated for over 20 years, who was elected to become the Chairperson of the organizing committee. In addition to Packer the organizing committee consisted of George Lamb, Christopher Rich, Earnest Morgan, David Cowan, Sam Johnson Sr. and Stephen Pascascio, all incarcerated men. Jill Friedman, community volunteer and co-chairperson, oversaw fundraising in the outside community.
Community Partnership Manager Laura Bowman sponsored the committee and served as the liaison between the incarcerated men and the administration as well as between the administration and the outside community. Chief Deputy Warden Vincent N. Cullen, Public Information Officer Samuel Robinson, CEO of Health Care Services Jackie Clark and Associate Warden over Health Care Services K. J. Williams also supported the event.
Early Saturday morning before the general population was released for breakfast, event coordinators moved tables and chairs from the education building to the yard, still covered in dew. The tables and chairs served as rest areas for various self-help groups that operate within SQ and whose incarcerated and free volunteers came to participate in the walk.
Makeshift barriers were also set up to establish a visibly contained walking area around the track that encompasses “San Quentin’s Field of Dreams” – the name of the baseball field.
A small stage rested in the middle of the field on which the S. Q. Arts in Corrections program set up a sound system that would provide not only the music that would encourage the walkers to persist, but would also serve as a platform for speakers and survivors to address and inspire walkers and also to have opening and closing ceremonies.
Around 7:30 a.m. the incarcerated walkers purposefully trickled down to the track. Soon afterwards one could hear excited chatter as they looked past the new $160 million hospital to see the outside community walkers appearing from behind the building and headed toward the track wearing pink shirts – the color of breast cancer awareness. The shirts were made especially for this event and were printed with the words “San Quentin C. A. R. E. S.”
The Catholic Chaplain, Rev. Stephen Barber, lead a prayer and representatives of the Native American community David Levett, Henry Frank, Joe Hoaglen, Robert Colbert Michael Alfaro and Zuni opened with a song and drumming honoring women.
The walk began with Warden Wong and cancer survivor Jaimee Karroll leading a unity walk for the first lap. Then the walking groups became clear as people walked at different paces while engaging in casual conversation.
Midday, some walkers broke for a lunch consisting of turkey sandwiches and water. Most tables were encircled by people drawing posters in commemoration of breast cancer survivors and the meaning of the day.
Women who are either survivors of breast cancer or whose lives have been touched by knowing someone who had breast cancer gave inspirational speeches.
Saturday’s walk ended at 2:00 p. m. and everyone returned to their homes or their cells to prepare for the next day of walking.
The second day of the walk went just as the first. Ceremonies ended with closing remarks from Bowman and the organizing committee.
Lamb stated that we all have important women in our lives who have for many of us been the one stabilizing force and that this was our opportunity to be faithful to those who have been so faithful to us.
Finally, the men presented a mock check to State Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner who, in her acceptance speech, recalled memories of her mother’s fight with breast cancer.