Turning Prison Walls into Windows
at San Quentin
by Sheryl Young, SMC Program Director & Dawn Hawk, Chief Operating Officer
"95% of incarcerated people are coming back home. How they spend their time in prison impacts how they return home."  -Wisdom shared by prisoners at San Quentin Prison who are filmmakers in the FirstWatch media program.
FirstWatch: The Path to Parole
FirstWatch: The Path to Parole
Through FirstWatch, prisoners tell their own stories in short films, shining a light on the lives of men in San Quentin, their rehabilitation, joy, and sorrow. During our recent visit inside one of California's largest institutions with over 5,000 men, we got to meet a few of the FirstWatch filmmakers. Five men are on track to have their sentences commuted by Governor Brown, and will soon move into Re:Store Justice's new re-entry house in Oakland.
A PVF donor to the Catholic Worker House program made this new house possible, where these men will get support to obtain a driver's license, open a bank account, find a job, and develop a plan for the next chapter in their lives. Re:Store Justice has been a mover and shaker in prison sentencing reform. It also provides legal clinics, advocacy, restorative justice symposiums and community building, in addition to supporting the FirstWatch media lab at San Quentin.
We were struck by the transparency and conviction of these media-makers in San Quentin.... They shared with us their plans for giving back to society upon their release, including working with Re:Store Justice to educate prisoners about recently passed sentencing reform that can help work towards release.
The men in the FirstWatch media lab teach each other filmmaking and storytelling; they study documentaries and TV shows, discuss and analyze the visual artistry of them--and then learn by trial and error. Adnan Khan, the founder of FirstWatch explains that the filmmakers are men who went to prison before Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, so they have learned how to create films without access to the internet. All have completed their GED's and college course work while in prison, and all of the content is shot, directed, edited and scored by these journalists working inside the walls of the prison.
We also visited the talented team at Ear Hustle who produce short story podcasts that are often funny, sometimes difficult, and always honest, offering a view of people living in prison. Earlonne Woods and Antwan Williams produce these shows--even recording their own sound effects, such as men walking down the halls, washing their clothes in a bucket, birds chipping outside, and music from their guitars .
Winner of Radiotopia's Podquest, Ear Hustle has listeners around the world. Their work is admired by fellow prisoners as well, as Earlonne says, "I walk on the yard and I get pitched stories all the time!"
Antwan Williams, volunteer Nigel Poor, and Earlonne Woods
Photo by Eddie Herena/Courtesy of Ear Hustle
We were struck by the transparency and conviction of these media-makers in San Quentin. They share their trauma and their sorrow. They hold themselves and each other accountable for the crimes they've committed and for the grief they've forced upon innocent people. They also shared with us their plans for giving back to society upon their release, including working with Re:Store Justice to educate prisoners about recently passed sentencing reform that can help work towards their release.
We were given a rare opportunity to see through the walls at San Quentin. PVF is proud to have supported Re:Store Justice. We congratulate them on the work they do inside San Quentin and in the community to empower individuals to share their experiences and to drive meaningful change from the inside out.
Talent Tour at Oakland High Schools
Guest blog post by Eugene "Ace" Johnson, 2018 Bay Area Inspire Awards recipient

At the start of 2018, Philanthropic Ventures Foundation (PVF) awarded grants to six young Bay Area residents with fresh ideas for building better communities. These awards were made possible through the Bay Area Inspire Awards, which provides $5,000 grants to 18-30 year olds living in San Francisco, Alameda, and San Mateo Counties. Below is a report written by one of these awardees, Eugene "Ace" Johnson. Ace produced talent showcases in underserved schools within urban communities as a positive outlet and platform for creative expression.
The Talent Tour enables community leaders to co-create a series of Talent Showcases at underserved schools in Oakland. These schools thus empower inner city youth to use their gifts and talents to change the world. This may all seem very cliché, but the reality is we are always #BetterTogether. Through our unified efforts we intentionally exemplify the value of living, dreaming and achieving greatness as a community. 
The Talent Tour was inspired by the increasing program and budget cuts in Oakland, teacher/staff scarcity, and the lack of support educators receive from families and community at large. The goal is to advocate the need for creative and performing arts to be reinstated in underserved schools within the urban community as a positive outlet and platform for creative expression. This also provides an opportunity for a new pipeline to be created between these underserved students, neighborhood leaders, and local programs.
About the Editors
James Higa
James Higa, Executive Director, brings 28 years of executive experience from Silicon Valley, working with Steve Jobs to change the face of technology. He was at the birth of the personal computer revolution as a member of the original Macintosh team and was deeply involved in the creation of many products and services at Apple over 3 decades. He has a long history of public service as a board member of Stanford's Haas Center and in grassroots relief efforts.
Bill Somerville, Founder, has been in non-profit and philanthropic work for over 50 years. He was the director of a community foundation for 17 years, and in 1991, he founded Philanthropic Ventures Foundation. Bill has consulted at over 400 community foundations, on creative grantmaking and foundation operations. Bill is the author of  Grassroots Philanthropy: Field Notes of a Maverick Grantmaker
About PVF
PVF is a demonstration foundation practicing unique forms of grantmaking and innovative philanthropy. Our primary interest is in the creative and significant use of the philanthropic dollar.
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