Richmond-area residents participated in a Soulful Softball Sunday Ministry softball game against the San Quentin Hard Timers at the state prison on June 4.
By Rodney Alamo Brown
The people of Richmond have proven in recent years that we can work together to build a safer community that focuses upon opportunity and education.
Together, we began to reach out to our young people and to bring people from all over the city to one place, including the warring factions, in order to successfully shed the city’s past reputation for being one of the nation’s most dangerous.
One important piece in sustaining Richmond’s vastly reduced crime rate is to ensure those who once wreaked havoc on our city can share in these opportunities, an effort that will require both atonement and reconciliation.
On June 4, nearly a dozen Richmond residents including KTVU/FOX and Former Gold Glove Winner Oakland A’s Pitcher Mike Norris joined me at San Quentin State Prison to film an exclusive piece on our Soulful Softball Sunday Ministry.
The prison event is an extension of the award-winning Soulful Softball Sunday that I launched at Nichol Park in Richmond.
The fun, family-friendly gathering of community members connects residents to important resources, encourages healthy living and provides financial assistance to college-bound Richmond students.
Soulful Softball Sunday had a large enough impact at Nichol Park to warrant entering San Quentin. On June 4, about 200 Richmond natives and others attended a fun softball event at the prison during which 11 Richmond-area residents played against the Hard Timers, a San Quentin softball team featuring inmates.
The game was just as it was at Nichol Park: incredible fun. We laughed and enjoyed conversation with the inmates. One of our players hadn’t seen his cousin, an inmate serving a life sentence, since 1988.
They recalled old times. Another player, Reggie Hunt from Richmond, played on the visitors team and led off the game with a base hit. He was all smiles.
That freeing feeling of running to first base would be fleeting. Once the game ended — we lost to the home team, 22-15 — Reggie would return behind the walls to continue his sentence. But Reggie, who led us in prayer after the game, didn’t see it as a loss.
A few players commented that for the duration of the game, San Quentin didn’t feel like a prison: it felt like Richmond with a wall around it.
It wasn’t about the game. It was about a brotherhood and understanding that they may have made a mistake in their life but their life isn’t a mistake.
It’s a calling that we in our Richmond community want to move forward as a peaceful community of opportunity, and that we want everyone in on it: even those who may have contributed to the city’s past woes.
The Soulful Softball Sunday Ministry offers a chance to allow guys I’ve grown up with to express sorrow to the families they’ve destroyed. Even more, establishing such connections allows us to get closer to the reasons members of our community choose a life of crime, and to do what we can to prevent that from happening.
This is Gateway to Healing 101. We do it with sheer love, understanding and commitment. We’ll let you know when we plan to do it again so that you may join in on this new wave.
Rodney Alamo Brown is an award-winning Richmond community advocate who launched Soulful Softball Sunday two years ago.