I haven’t done a good job of keeping up with all the Brothers in Pen who’ve gotten out of prison and are out ornamenting the world with their sincerity (to paraphrase Jack Kerouac).
In addition to Kenny, who I posted about below, others who’ve gotten out in recent history are Yahya Cooke, Jose Camacho, Justin Medvin, Aly Tamboura… who am I forgetting? It’s been almost 2 years since Aly got out, in October 2016, and apparently I never wrote anything about that. There has been lots written about him elsewhere; here is an article written when he left San Quentin, or check out this podcast featuring Aly. He is currently very busy with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative working as a Manager of Technology & Program Delivery—utilizing the training he got at San Quentin learning to code. When he can, he puts in time scuba diving. It’s been great to see him blazing that big Aly smile out in the big world. He’s been wildly busy doing wildly interesting things.
(It seems I never posted anything about the wonderful event last August on Alcatraz–Here is a photo from that event, which featured Troy Williams and his daughter Torri Williams, and Watani Stiner and his son Larry Stiner Jr., a spoken word artist. The event was called “Connection Lost: Families Unraveled by Prison” and featured artwork by San Quentin artists. Aly was also there and added his voice to the event. Peter Merts, as always, took beautiful photos, which can be seen here.)
Jose Camacho also got out in 2016 and he is now very glad to be able to be a caretaker for his mom.
Justin “Clown” Medvin was released in 2016 as well–and last I heard was doing well, and was itching for the anthology to come out. Which it has. I’ll post news and a photo when I get one.
Yahya has been out since October 2017; nearly a year. I spoke with him today and asked him for a little news. Here’s what I got:
“I’m currently a production specialist machinist for George Martin Company in Emeryville. We make stackers for corrugated container businesses. We sell machinery to companies that make the containers. I love it. It doesn’t give me much time to pursue my hobbies, like writing, but I’ve been able to buy things like a laptop and printer. Living near Lake Merritt, in a pretty house on top of the hill. Still not married, still no children! I’ve been working with David Cohen from Patten helping guys who are getting released, getting them care packages and phones and connected to resources. But mostly my life’s just been about work.
“My job progressions have led to better and more enriching positions. The people I’ve met along the way and the amount of helpfulness—there are opportunities all over the place for people in just coming out of prison. I didn’t have to wait to get started when I got out. The disciplines I established in prison, Patten College and the writing class… those disciplines crossbreed and set you up well for living a good solid life out here.
“Where I’m at now–I’m still getting job offers, even though I don’t need them. I’m content. I’m ten minutes from work. Bought me a 2012 Infiniti. And that improved my credit rating and scores, which I need to do. I’ve been trying to learn the fundamentals that others like you have been dealing with in normal life–you’ve dealt with life on life’s terms, I’ve dealt with life on prison terms. You don’t really think past the next day. Now I’m thinking about overall goals. Something like the so-called American Dream.
“I’d like to get back to working on the short stories, and improve on the memoir. The story’s not over! I’m excited about the next chapters that are yet to be written.”