PEACE DAY CELEBRATION AT CHOWCHILLA VALLEY STATE PRISON FOR WOMEN (10/19/09)
A group of us lead by Rudy Corpus of United Playaz participated in the 3th Annual "Peace Day" celebration at Chowchilla Valley State Prison for Women the largest Prison Facility for Women they say in the world.
This was my second time visiting the Prison and the celebration had to wait until the "Fog" died down; earlier the fog was so thick that one could not see a few feet. We arrived around 11:30 am from San Francisco - a 160 mile plus drive to sing, speak, and just kick it, San Francisco style.
Some months ago again led by Rudy we had the pleasure to entertain and speak to the Polynesian women and the Native American women. The setting was in doors and we had better control of the situation at hand. This time it was an out door event with over 2000 women present - complete with strict security and many watchful eyes.
After going through the usual security check and signing our names - we were led to the event itself and asked to sit down in an area especially set for guests. We were offered cookies and sodas while the inmates were served punch in small Styrofoam cups. From time to time the inmates requested us to pass the sodas but we were strained as they were some volunteers that saw to it that we had ours and the inmates could not have what was set aside for us, guests.
It takes a while for the guests such as we were to get accustomed to the prison formalities - a few minutes ago we were free to do as we pleased but now we were in a prison and fully aware of our surroundings. I noticed Rudy Corpus was adapting himself quickly and women loved what he had to say - because, Rudy has a way to make people feel at home. The man can charm thousands of women because he has a personality just like a Rock Star.
I saw Abraham Menor the photo journalist who has shared his photographs at the end of this article doing his thing. Soon, Rudy was shouting U.P. and there stood Abraham Menor in attention with his famous camera to do Rudy's bidding. I admire the patience of Abraham Menor after some time Rudy decided to name Abraham, U.P. and Abraham seemed to go the flow - shooting some fine shots of the Peace Day Celebrations at Chowchilla.
I took some time to speak to the Native Americans and the Polynesians that I had met before - some moths ago. November 17. 2009 they plan to have a two day event called " Healing Heart". If all goes well we will attempt to make another trip to Chowchilla and help the incarcerated women - cheer them up and help in the healing process too.
We had the opportunity to speak to the main coordinators who were very gracious in particular Ms. Miles who took us to the Administrative Conference Room after the event that ended around 3 pm and started a little before 12 noon. At the Administrative Conference Room Ms. Miles and the other sponsors had a good spread - which everyone really enjoyed. We thank them for their hospitality.
A few of the Correctional Officers came in and helped themselves courtesy of the Sponsors. I suppose this food set for us - was better then the usual jail chow. All in all we got to see the lighter side of the Correctional Officers. Rudy was relating to us how he brought the young girls from San Francisco to witness the states of affairs at Women Prison in Chowchilla. When the young girls saw those women incarcerated in "solitary confinement" it affected the young girls from the City of San Francisco and made a stoic impression for the better. The Correctional Office seemed to agree.
I got a chance to speak to some of the Polynesian women incarcerated and relay to them the campaign in the outside world to collect funds, food, and other support for the victims of the two Samoas, Tonga, Indonesia, and the Philippines - linked to the Tsunami. I looked around and could not see two of the women in the group that I distinctly remembered during my last visit. One danced the Tahiti Dance and she was in the hospital this time around. I did not venture to ask why. Another was studying to be a Pastor and she too did not attend the Peace Day Celebrations.
There were some well stocked exhibits and lots of sound information. One woman in particular gave us Peace Signs carved out of leather, nicely painted with a nylon cord that one could hang around the neck. Others were pressing Rudy and the other performers to autograph tiny pieces of paper, anything worth a lot to them behind the wall. I was approached by some and complied and felt humble. Earlier Rudy had introduced our team and after some piliminary remarks - introduce me to give a little speech on the Peace Day and incarceration in general.
Amy who was in our group spoke to those gathered so did Fui, her sister and one of her friends that accompanied her. There is a photograph of the three of them - cheering the incarcerated women and giving them some inspiration. Of course no one can touch Rudy. Some how as the Peace Event was coming to an end - there was Rudy creating a positive situation, towards the finale - with all the women cheering Rudy on.
The women prisoners put on several well choreographed dances. Others, recited poems and still others spoke to the over two thousand women. Time was running out as the show was supposed to start at 9 am but because of the lingering fog started closer to 12 noon. The planned schedule was squeezed and in the end most everyone was accommodated. Kudos to the organizers and the sponsors for a job well done . As to the women incarcerated at Chowchilla Women's Prison we can encourage them to be positive, seek to comfort them and support them. While, those that are lucky to be released, hopefully, they will realize the difference between freedom and license. In good time hopefully they will contribute to society and in the course heal themselves and in doing so help others - because they went through the fire.
We need peace and what is more we need a lot of it. I hope to witness the fourth annual Peace Event next year - and God Willing we will pray it starts on time and that everyone get their fair share of time to perform. A lot of work goes into this Peace Event planning - and this time all the organizers and sponsors did everyone- proud.
Enjoy the photographs courtesy of Abraham Menor:
top - back