Greg, 49

Greg, 49

Meet Greg…

After the first bite, I was overwhelmed with emotions. I’m sitting at the table in a crowded chow hall with tears running down my face.

Greg, 49
Incarcerated: 27 years
Housed: San Quentin State Prison, California

I was really young when I moved to California and we lived right around the corner from her. Her home was my favorite place to be. The sun seemed to always shine on her house. She only had one daughter, so I was the son she never had. She truly adored me. I loved being in her house; there was an energy of love that wasn’t in my house. I remember helping her make sweet potato pies; my job was cutting up the sweet potatoes. It became one of my favorite things to do– help her make sweet potato pies. I remember when I was around seven and I was mad at my mother. I packed my bag,  ran away from home, and told my mother that I’d rather live with my auntie. She was a loving, beautiful, caring person. Her name was Ethel B, but we called her Aunt B. Even after I came to prison, we stayed in touch. She came to visit me a couple of times. But her health got worse and she couldn’t travel.

When she passed away recently, I was heartbroken after getting the news. I had a really hard time dealing with it; she was someone with whom I only had good memories. Also, there are no processes or opportunities for someone to grieve in prison. It’s hard. A few days after her passing, I went to dinner, and they were serving the prison’s favorite meal, chicken-on-the-bone. I grabbed my tray and noticed something strange on the tray. It looked like a sweet potato. I grabbed it and took a bite. It was in fact a sweet potato! After the first bite, I was overwhelmed with emotions. I’m sitting at the table in a crowded chow hall with tears running down my face. It reminded me of Aunt B. I closed my eyes and tasting the sweet potato took away all the pain. The taste brought back beautiful memories of her and her love for me, which got me through the grieving. It was the first time in 29 years that I saw a sweet potato being served in prison. I took it as a sign that Aunt B saw that I was struggling, and she sent me a message. ‘I got you, nephew.’ Instantly, I got better. I love you sweet potato pie! Rest in Paradise.

Vincent, 58

Vincent, 58

Meet Vincent…

My street name is “Sly,” not by gang or negative slang, but because I was caught, at the age of four, trying to scoop out peach cobbler from under the crust, like I saw my uncle do, and got busted by Grandma.

Vincent, 58
Incarcerated: 15 years
Housed: San Quentin State Prison

My street name is “Sly,” not by gang or negative slang, but because I was caught, at the age of four, trying to scoop out peach cobbler from under the crust, like I saw my uncle do, and got busted by Grandma. She called me a “sly devil” and the name stuck. Now, I want to share my own grandfather moment: One day, I was sitting in my living room watching TV with three of my four grandchildren. I had made them a snack of graham crackers with peanut butter, an already peeled tangerine and a Gogurt tube. They were running in and out of the house, letting out the cool air from my air conditioner. I screamed, “Hey! Quit running in and out of the house! Stay outside!” In return, I received a high chorus from all three, “Okay, PaPa!” But then, the door opened up again and my five year old grandson jumped in my lap, and whispered, “Papa, this is my last time, okay?” and kissed me on my jaw. I can still smell the mix of tangerine and graham crackers. It was a pure smell of a loving trusting child who saw me as the alpha protector and he loved me. 

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