I am, as usual, way behind in keeping up with all that is going on. So much to share. Charles “Talib” Brooks got out of prison a month ago! I was able to host him and Jonathan Chiu — who also was briefly a member of Brothers in Pen, and who also was released from prison recently, in May — on a Zoom forum talking about the situation at San Quentin, and they both had much to say. Talib’s first Zoom! I started to put together a Google doc with resources for further reading, including articles featuring Jonathan. And just yesterday, Talib came out with a wonderful article, “Writing Through Prison Storms,” in PLACES journal that explores some of his experience — and his cellmate’s another Brother in Pen, Walton — during the pandemic inside San Quentin. Please take a look at that great article, and share your comments, and join me in being grateful that Talib has lived to tell the story of his ordeal at SQ, and to remember those still there–including Walton. Some of Walton’s stories are or will be posted on this blog’s page, Lockdown Stories.
I haven’t yet posted about Prison Renaissance’s wonderful art show “Meet Us Quickly,” curated by Brother in Pen Rahsaan Thomas, at the Museum of the African Diaspora. Brother in Pen writer C. K. Gerhartsreiter has a painting in the show entitled “Make Skeletons Dance” that employs the use of nautical signal flags. Prison Renaissance is auctioning off all the paintings; 85% of the proceeds will go to the artist, and 15% to Prison Renaissance. Make a bid by December 15 to buy a painting!
There have been so many other things happening that I have not reported here. Did I REALLY fail to post that Rahsaan Thomas, as a co-host of Ear Hustle, was a finalist for the PULITZER PRIZE?? I was absolutely sure that I had posted about that, but evidence seems to prove otherwise. THE PULITZER PRIZE! The actual Pulitzer Prize. I know they didn’t win — This American Life did — but being a finalist means you got as close as you can get to winning, and just think about how many podcasts there are in the universe right now. Good storytelling continues to be a necessity in the life of our culture. Congratulations to Earlonne, Nigel, and to our own Rahsaan “New York” Thomas, the story man.
Juan Haines and Kevin Sawyer had a great article in the Guardian, a tremendously respected journal, about a mock election held at San Quentin. Shortly thereafter, my parents called me up one day and said “Juan’s on TV!” He was being interviewed by the BBC, and my parents not only happened to catch it, but were tech-savvy enough to record it. A story Juan wrote in the class, “Shadows and Shades,” also won the PEN Fielding A. Dawson Prize for fiction, and was featured in a special live PEN event read by the wonderful actor Elvis Nolasco. You can see it here.
Former Brother in Pen Wayne Boatwright continues to post insightful and provocative articles on Medium, coming out of the higher education he received at San Quentin.
Aly Tamboura helped resurrect the San Quentin News, and got Kenny Brydon, SQ News’ first Editor-in-Chief after its 2008 resurrection, writing for it again as well as many others. Aly’s daughter Alyssa also made the news by starting a program to help mediate relationships between families and incarcerated loved ones, which during COVID has also morphed into sending books to children of incarcerated parents.
More to say but I will stop there for now, and post more soon. Please keep checking back with this blog’s LOCKDOWN STORIES page, as I will continue posting stories as I receive them and get them typed. Thank you for your interest and please share your thoughts in the comments, if you like.