Everybody needs a Day of Peace. On Saturday May 19, 2018 at San Quentin State Prison inmates and outside sponsors put on a major event on the yard. There was live music brought in by Bread & Roses Presents, canvas paintings & chalk drawings sponsored by William James Association, information tables about some of the many self help programs inside the prison (San Quentin is a role model for rehabilitation and programming), snack bags for every inmate from Walkenhorst’s and more than 1,000 men to enjoy the day. None of this could have happened without the support of SQ staff Warden Ron Davis, Associate Warden Sam Albritton, Public Information Officer Lt. Sam Robinson and Community Partnership Manager Steve Emrick.
One inmate said, “It was an honor to be part of it. The Day of Peace was welcoming and reaching out to all of us, no exceptions. San Quentin is so different from any other prison.”
This was the 8th annual Day of Peace. The event was created by inmates in 2006 after a race riot took place on the lower yard. The men formed a Peacemaker Team to be voices of reason in times of crisis. They believed then as many of them do now that we have the power to live the change we would like to see in the world and make it a better place for everyone. There are many peacekeepers inside the prison walls.
From an inmate experiencing his first Day of Peace: “It was overwhelming in a good way. We were able to put every day prison life aside and just enjoy the music and the atmosphere. It reminded me of a day in the park.”
The Day of Peace Committee meets all year to plan and prepare for this annual event. This is no small task, as there is extensive paperwork involved in bringing anything inside of the prison. Living every day in prison is filled with black and white rules and regulations, being on high alert and paying attention to everything going on around you. This day is very different from the normal routine of prison life, you might even say it felt relaxed.
One inmate said, “It was a new and different and extraordinary social and cultural salad bowl. People were willing to put aside their differences for one day and just come together. It’s good that we can lift each other up instead of tear each other down.”
Bread & Roses All Stars played a variety of music that the Day of Peace committee specifically requested to cover the diversity of the audience, including hits from the 60’s-80’s as well songs in Spanish. The B&R All Stars were fronted by Kurt Huget on guitar and vocals, Craig Bartock on guitar, Julia Harrell on drums and Daniel Erik & inmate D alternated playing bass. B&R staff members Carolyn Gauthier and Lisa Starbird added a few back up vocals.
The Lightworkers Union took the stage next. Robin Applewood on guitar & vocals, Chris Bryden on guitar/ keyboard and vocals, Daniel Erik on bass, Andy Kallick on percussion, Daria Johnson on drums and Adam Tutor (from Texas) on saxophone. Together they brought their youthful energy, big hearts and generous spirit to the yard.
At noon the music stopped for a moment of silence. Peace signs were seen throughout the yard.
The men say it best. “The moment of silence moved me to tears. It was quiet and then became quieter. Everybody prayed together, side by side, all races, all religions. It was a remarkable moment.”
“Regularly working with volunteers and experiencing the music, I have regained my humanity and learned how to be me again.”
“The atmosphere was peaceful. All of the races joined together listening to the music.”
“You helped me to remember that I’m human. That’s what you did. The music makes such a difference. It opens my heart and helps me to heal. It also helps me to remember that I am not just an inmate. I am a man, a father, a son, a brother and I still have feelings, ideas and talents, even after all of these years inside. Thank you for not forgetting us.”
Bread & Roses Presents…The healing power of music and making a difference. It was an extraordinary day for everyone.
Photos by Peter Merts at 2018 San Quentin Day of Peace.
1) Kurt Huget looks out at the yard
2) Bread & Roses All Stars play for the men
3) Kurt Huget, Carolyn Gauthier and Lisa Starbird sing
4) Lightworkers Union perform
5) The day's musicians and volunteers posing together