Dozens of San Quentin prisoners listened intently as seven women described their own experiences surviving horrific crimes including rape, incest, abandonment and domestic violence.
During the panel discussion Nov. 12 in the Protestant Garden Chapel, the men received a dose of straight talk and a reality check on the hidden pains of women. Darell “Obadiah” Flowers, an inmate, said, “This was powerful, very enlightening and heartfelt. This makes you think about a father’s relationship with his daughter, about women who have been abandoned and what they need to heal.”
One panelist described surviving a home invasion robbery by three men. The intruders were looking for her boyfriend, who was living a dangerous lifestyle. She was six months pregnant, and the trauma of being roughed up caused her to have her baby prematurely, but it survived.
“Today was about pleading with the men,” said Sister Marion Barnes, executive director of the Wings of Love Ministries. “They are killing their seeds, because the kids are copying their behavior. It doesn’t make you a man to kick or beat a woman. We have to stop this generational curse.”
Some of the panelists shared stories of being molested as young as 4 years old by fathers, family members or family friends.
“Not being protected by family makes it hard for you to trust or open up,” one panelist said. “You start to suppress things or look for love in the wrong places. Just because a women looks whole doesn’t mean so.”
“Communication is vital; it’s about listening and not trying to come up with solutions. I have to find out if my daughter has been damaged,” Flowers added.
The women talked about how some men use charm on women and then betray them. If she gets pregnant, the man starts saying the child is not his, thus leaving her abandoned or forcing her to have an abortion.
“I know today is about the men saying they are sorry,” Lesley S., from New Faith Cathedral Church of God in Christ, said. “Are they sorry they got caught? That is fine, but the next sorry should be, ‘I sinned against God.’ ”
“We have to treat women as human beings and not as mere objects because without them there is no us”
Instead of bashing men, the women urged men to take care of their hearts because they are nurturers, and they love hard. Sometimes this role can cause conflict and pain.
“God holds men accountable with a woman’s love,” Bridget Kyser from the Wings of Love Ministries said. “It’s about understanding each other with compassion and giving extra love to get through the traumas.”
The discussion of suicide, verbal and physical abuse drew tears from both the men and women.
“I was in a place where I was desensitized to women’s needs,” Harry Smith, another inmate, said. “These women brought me back to a place to step in as an authentic man of God. That’s what I want for my own daughter and for us to be leaders of our families.”
The conference started with the video Sister I’m Sorry, featuring the Rev. Donald Bell.
Inmate Fateen Jackson performed a moving spoken word piece called “Apologetic Salute,” expressing his regret to crime survivors and to the dead. “Apologetic Salute” also acknowledges that survivors are the courageous ones.
Jeffery Akins, an inmate, sang a rendition of “Time is a Terrible Thing to Waste.”
“Real pain deserves a real apology” Manika D., of New Faith Cathedral Church, said. “God fills all voids. It’s for the men to take time to listen. That’s healing in itself and shows empathy.”
Diana Sackett from Corner Stone Fellowship added, “It’s daddy time. The most powerful things for a man to say are ‘I love you, I need you and I’m sorry.’”
“It’s about developing the skills to deal with relationships.”
The panelists and emcee and coordinator, inmate Tony “Pup” Waldrip, gave a special thanks to Chaplain Mardi Jackson and the Protestant Garden Chapel.
“This was about healing wounds and renewal,” Jackson said.
Waldrip added, “It’s about awakening the humanity up in us men. We have to treat women as human beings and not as mere objects because without them there is no us.”