Written and compiled by “Malik”
SAN QUENTIN, Calif. — Since 2006, the men of the Richmond Project – a group of inmates from Richmond who are now incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison – have been striving from behind these walls to be a part of the solution to the problems plaguing their city; problems that they themselves at one time contributed to, but now seek to change.
The primary goals of the Richmond Project, which uses the San Quentin T.R.U.S.T. (Teaching Responsibility Utilizing Sociological Training) program as a vehicle for its development, are to reduce the level of violent crime in Richmond, develop youth leaders and mentors, increase parental and community involvement, and collaborate with city officials to restore Richmond’s sense of self and create a positive community image.
The Richmond Project also seeks to prepare inmates for their transition home, by equipping them with the skills they need to be an asset, instead of a detriment, to their city.
The work of the group, despite the reality of their incarceration, has even reached into the Richmond community itself, through toy drives for children, donations given for school uniforms for Richmond youth, and the sponsorship of two annual essay contests at Richmond Leadership High School, where cash prizes and gift certificates were awarded to students, thanks to donations from the incarcerated members of the T.R.U.S.T. – donations that were then matched by local business owners and the Richmond Police Department. Through the creation of positive partnerships with the police department and Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, the Richmond Project looks to do much more in the future to prevent crime and promote peace in the city.
Following is a letter written in a collective voice, by the men of the Richmond Project:
Dear Richmond Community,
Hello and salutations to all those concerned. This letter is a peace offering to everyone who has ever been involved or affected by the senseless violence that has plagued our city. We here in the Richmond Project are all in agreement when we say, “Enough is enough!”
We have stood by for too long and watched those who use violence destroy our community and kill our loved ones. It’s time to put a stop to the madness.
We have some questions for you: When are you going to put the guns down? When there is no one left to shoot? Haven’t enough people lost their lives already? Take a look around you. What do you see? That’s right, nothing. You know why? Because people are afraid to come out of their homes or even walk down the street for fear that they may be shot, and that’s real sad. No, that’s pathetic! Stuff like that is unacceptable and no longer tolerated. We want our city back. Our children deserve the right to play in the front yard, not be stuck in the house because of safety issues. People have the right to be safe in their neighborhoods and if you are part of the reason that they don’t, then this message is directed to you.
As a community we are asking you personally to please, please, please stop all of this senseless killing and respect the ceasefire ordinance! God love you and we do too! We would hate to see you in here with us, or even worse… dead.
(And the men who serve it!)
Following are some shout-outs to the young people of Richmond, from the Richmond Project inmates at San Quentin:
“Don’t be afraid to be your own natural self, instead of trying to be or act like someone else. You’ll find it easier to do. It will help keep you from ending up in here, too.”
“It’s easy to say stop the violence, but it is hard to see someone you love or care about die to violence. Peace and unity to all. Violence is the road to disaster, and peace is the road to success.”
– Larnel Wolfe Jr.
“To my young brothers and sisters, this is not a life to live. Do you know what hell is? Hell is being in a little cell… Do right, not wrong. Stay strong at home.”
“Education is the key that will unlock the door of opportunity. Don’t allow your present condition to blind you and hold you back or hold you down. Believe, have faith and strive to achieve. Whatever one seeks to endeavor, seek to perfect.”
“My young brothers… Is taking the life of another young brother worth two lives – yours and the victim’s — being taken from their families? Ask yourself that question.”
– Reginald Hunt Jr
“Stop killing each other! And choose a better life and live a life that is free of crime. Killing does not solve any problems, it only creates more problems and victims.”
– Ishmael “Ish” Wesley
“Look you guys, you destroying a whole generation with this senseless violence. My only advice to you is, quit while you’re ahead. Is it really that serious? That is the question you need to ask before you go on your next murder spree. Please, stop the violence!”
– Bill Boy