Amid the sounds of tennis balls hitting the hard court, basketball players yelling for the ball, and geese squawking as they fed on bread crumbs and grass, inmates at San Quentin began the first of two days of an annual walk-a-thon to help find a cure for breast cancer.
The sunny Saturday morning began with Robin Guillen’s wood flute blowing a soothing melody to cheer up the dozens of community members, and prison staff who participated in the Avon sponsored walk-a-thon.
“I want you to focus on those life forces in your life,” said Guillen to the hundreds of walkers and spectators on the prison’s Lower Yard. “This is for the mothers, daughters, aunts, and nieces,” he added.
Steven Emrick, Community Partnership Manager, and Associate Wardens Kelly Mitchell, and (A) Chief Deputy WardenJohn Curzon coordinated with inmates Stephen Pascascio and Sam Johnson to bring the walk-a-thon to San Quentin. Emrick said he cleared about 40-50 community members to join in on the walk.
“I would like to thank inmates for supporting such a worthy cause,” said Curzon.
“I get enjoyment out of events like this. We get a sense of community and giving back,” said inmate volunteer Orlando “Duck” Harris. “We all have mothers, daughters, and sisters. We have an obligation to support the women of our community. The only way to beat this is to unite.”
The walk-a-thon was Dr. Elaine Tootell’s second. “I’ll get my 39 miles in from all the walking up and down the hill doing the logistical things to support the walkers,” said the prison’s Chief Medical Officer while smiling and trudging up the hill.
Local reporters Nancy Mullane from radio station KALW and Patrick Sedillo from television station KPIX circulated through the crowd, interviewing prisoners and staff members to bring the event to the public.
Sedillo said it was the first time in five years he’s been in San Quentin. “I performed on the Lower Yard with a KPIX band, called “Eyewitness Blues.”
Inmates Douglas “Jimmy” Manns, Eric Womack, Eric Boles, and Ke’lam manned a registration table that gave each inmate a bracelet and an “I Walked” memento for donating to the cause.
“I passed out dozens of Avon T-shirts to the community and staff volunteers,” said supporter Jill Freeman. She added, “I ran out, and have to go get more right now.” San Quentin staff members, from the warden’s office to the Chief Medical Officer to the Community Partnership Manager, gave support to the walkathon, said Freeman.
E. Yazzie offered his hair to Locks of Love, which makes wigs for cancer victims. This was the first time he could remember cutting his hair, since his grandfather “crossed over.”
“I’m doing this for my aunt who has cancer,” Yazzie said. “This is a worthy cause.”
Women’s Cancer Resource Center received $1.5 million in support from Avon, said representative Peggy McGuire. The Oakland based non-profit provides emotional and practical services to more than 5,000 women with cancer annually, McGuire said.
McGuire said it was her second year participating in the San Quentin walk. McGuire said on the second day of the walk, she’ll be outside. “Our table will be located closest to the finish line,” she said. The organization can be found at: wcrc.org
Program director, Carolyn Gauther and Producer Lisa Starbird of Bread and Roses provided walking music from three bands:
“The fellas in the San Quentin music program really appreciate the outside entertainment,” said Paul Comauex, an inmate in the music program. “I say that from deep within my heart.”
Booths were set up on the Lower Yard featuring San Quentin Thespians, H.E.R.O.E.S., Arts in Corrections, San Quentin Prison Report, Alliance for Change, and Kid C.A.T.
The San Quentin Prison Report inmate reporters host a radio show on KALW 91.7 F.M. On Mondays at 5 pm, “Cross Currents” with Holly Kernan will air shows covering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in prisoners, inmate care givers who assist disabled inmates, and an ex-gang member who talks about his transformation. The reporters said they have many other story ideas which address public safety that the community would be interested in hearing.
Around 300 inmates donated more than $1,700 to the cause, said Dr. Tootell. She said about $5,000 was donated from outside sources, and she was optimistic that the goal of $12,000 would be met. San Quentin Cares will continue taking donations up until the end of October.
Sometimes the daily routine of prison life gets interrupted by the occasional institutional alarm. On the second day of San Quentin’s walk-a-thon an alarm sounded shortly after the walk began. While the inmates quietly sat in place the air was filled with the soothing sounds of Marco Davidson playing his guitar.
The walkers were entertained by several inmate musicians:
Rapper: Steven “Stiggs” Hall, stage name, Abakust 006. He performed his original songs, Eye of the Storm and Aces and Eights. Abakust 006 said, he wrote Aces and Eights on May 14, 2012 because he was arrested on that day. He said he was only out of prison 38 days when he caught this case. “If it weren’t for Arts in Corrections, I would have gotten into trouble,” he said. “Arts in Corrections helps me avoid getting into the prison life.”
Abakust 006 said performing on this day was important for him because his grandfather died of cancer. “I have a tattoo on next to my eye. A lot of people misunderstand what it means to me,” he said. “The tattoo represents the fact that I was the only person in our family that wasn’t at my grandfather’s funeral.”
The rap group, M.A.G.I.C. (Music And Guidance Induces Change), Antwan “Banks” Williams, Le’Mar Maverick Harrison, and David “Jaz” Jassy, performed their original songs, Save a Life, and Keep on Walking. Banks. Maverick said they donate two songs each year to the events they perform at.
The blues band, Wall City Band with Boston Woodard, bass; Joe Shelton, guitar/vocals; David Walker, guitar; and Lanny Poindexter, vocals/harp performed classic rock.
The event was closed by Neu Dae performing original songs from D. Buckhanna vocals, and vocals, R. James vocals, and R. Rogers Keyboard and vocals.
Huget has been teaching a guitar class in San Quentin for the past several years.
The next band was Syria Berry on guitar with William Greene backing him up on percussions. Berry said the duo performs mostly in churches in the Richmond area. They have been playing music together for about 10 years.
Finally, The James Moseley Band performed ‘70s-‘80s style music. Moseley played guitar, Doug Morton, keyboard, Jack Pendergast on Bass, and Matt Camgros, on drums. Moseley has been associated with Bread and Roses for about 15 years.