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Autobiography @ 33

Mar 07, 2011
» Poetry

I am 33 years old and breathin’

it’s a good year to die

to myself

I never felt such extreme peace

despite being mired in constant ear-deafening screams

from the caged occupants – triple CMS1, PCs2, gang validated,
drop-outs, parole violators, lifers,
drug casualties, three strikers,
human beings

in San Quentin’s 150 year old solitary confinement

I don’t want to start things over

 

@ 33

I am very proud of being who I am

I wrote a letter to a stranger who said
“You deserve to lose at least your youth,
not returning to society until well into middle age…”

after reading an article about me in San Francisco Weekly

I told him
“A hundred years from now when we no longer exist on this earth of humankind the seriousness of my crime will not be changed or lessened. I can never pay my debt to the victims because I cannot turn back the hands of time…I will not judge you.”

whenever I think about my crime I feel ashamed

I’ve lost my youth and more

I’ve learned that the more I suffer the stronger I become

I am blessed with great friends

I talk better than I write
because the police can’t hear my conversation

the prison officials labeled me a trouble maker

I dared to challenge the administration
for its civil rights violation

I fought for Ethnic Studies in the prison college program

I’ve been a slave for 16 years under the 13th Amendment

I know separation and disappointment intimately

I memorized the United Front Points of Unity

I love my family and friends

my shero Yuri Kochiyama and a young sister named Monica

who is pretty wanted to come visit me

somehow I have more female friends than male friends

I never made love to a woman

sometimes I feel like 16

but my body disagrees

some people called me a square

because I don’t drink, smoke, or do drugs

I am a procrastinator but I get things done

I’ve never been back to my motherland

I started to learn Spanish

escribió una poema en español

at times I can be very selfish and vice versa

I’ve never been to a prom, concert, opera, sporting event

or my parents’ house

I don’t remember the last time I cried

I’ve sweat with the Native Americans, attended mass with the

Catholics, went to service with the Protestants, sat and chanted

with the Buddhists

my mind is my church

I am spoiled

in 2001 a young lady I love stopped loving me

it felt worse than losing my freedom

I was denied parole for the ninth time

I assured Mom that I will be home one day

after she pleaded me to answer her question truthfully
“Are you ever going to get out of prison?”

the Prison Industrial Complex and its masters attempted to control my mind

it didn’t work

they didn’t know I’ve been introduced to Che, Yuri Kochiyama, Paulo Freire, Howard Zinn, Frederick Douglass, Assata Shakur, bell hooks, Maurice Cornforth, Malcolm X, Gandhi, George Jackson, Mumia, Buddha,

and many others…

I had about a hundred books in my cell

I was internalizing my politics

In 2000 I organized the first poetry slam in San Quentin

I earned my associate of art degree

something that I never thought possible

I’ve self-published a zine

I was the poster boy for San Quentin

some time in the ‘90s my grandparents died

without knowing that I was in prison

 

@ 30

I kissed Dad on the cheek and told him that I love him
for the first time

I’ve written my first poem

I called myself a poet to motivate me to write

because I knew poets would set us free

in 1998 I was granted parole
then it was taken away

the governor’s political career superseded my life

some time in the 90s
I participated in most of the self-help programs

in 1996 I really learned how to read and write

I read my first history book “A People’s History
of the United States”

my social conscious mind was awakened

in 1992 I passed my GED in Solano Prison

I learned how to take care of my body from ’89 to ‘93

in 1987 I turned 18 and went to the Pen from youth authority

the youngest prisoner in San Quentin’s
Maximum Security Prison

I was lucky people thought I knew kung fu

 

@ 16

I violated an innocent family of four and scarred them for life

money superseded human suffering

I was charged as an adult and sentenced to life
with a possibility

no hablo ingles

I wish I could start things over

I was completely lost

 

@ 12

I left Communist China to Capitalist America

no hablo ingles

I was spoiled

in 1976 I went to demonstrations against the Gang of Four

life was a blur from 1 to 6

on 5/29/69

I inhaled my first breath.

 


1 Correctional Clinical Case Management System Mental health condition of prisoners
2 Protective Custody of Prisoners

War according to Mao

Feb 06, 2011
» Reflections

“We are advocates of the abolition of war, we do not want war; but war can only be abolished through war, and in order to get rid of the gun it is necessary to take up the gun. …When human society advances to the point where classes and states are eliminated, there will be no more wars, counter-revolutionary or revolutionary, unjust or just; that will be the era of perpetual peace for mankind. Our study of the laws of revolutionary war springs from the desire to eliminate all wars; herein lies the distinction between us Communists and all the exploiting classes.”

A friend gave me the English version of Quotations from Chairman Mao Tsetung many years ago when I was in San Quentin. I remember reading the Chinese version when I was in elementary school in China. I didn’t understand the meanings of what I was reading. Now I can comprehend the depth of Mao’s analysis.

I picked up the book from the book shelf and randomly came across the passage where Mao spoke about War that I found worth sharing.

New Year at the Q

Feb 03, 2011
» Reflections

Different cultures have different superstitions. One of the superstitions in Asian culture is it’s bad luck to go visit a prison. It’s one thing if you have loved ones locked up and you’re visiting them. It’s all bad if you just go visit a prison.

In the past, I had encourage some youth to go visit San Quentin so they can get an ideal what life is like so they won’t do things that land them there. However, most of the Asian youth don’t want to go because of superstition. Their parents don’t approve of them going for the same reason.

For me, I would like to think that I transcend all superstition. Therefore, I went to visit San Quentin this afternoon to brainstorm on setting up a culture competent program to help the Asian and Pacific Islander prisoners. One of the prisoners showed me a “lai shi” he received from an older prisoner. “lai shi” is good luck money that married people or elders give to the youngsters in a red envelop during new year celebration. Since there’s no red envelop in prison, they guy use a paper towel and shaded with red color pencil to make the envelop. For money, he put a prison photo ducat (Photo ducat is used in the visiting room to take pictures with visitors. It’s sell through the Prison Canteen.,) which worth two dollars, inside the envelop. I asked the guys whether all the Asians are going to have a spread to celebrate the new year. They said everyone’s too busy working and going to self help programs. They may do something over the weekend.

Culture is important. For those who are incarcerated, they still observe their cultures as much as they can. Therefore, it’s important to have cultural specific programs cater to their needs to reduce recidivism.

Again, I’m grateful that I can walk out of the prison each time I visit. Each visit gives me perspective and makes me more appreciative of freedom.

2010 Reflections

Jan 02, 2011
» Reflections

Happy beginning of 2011 my dearest family, friends and supporters!

The year of 2010 definitely ended with a bang for me. I received much media attention in my effort to petition for a pardon from Governor Schwarzenegger before he leaves office. Bay Area mainstream KTVU channel 2 news did an interview with me. People’s station KPFA’s Hard Knock Radio, APEX Express, and Letters to Washington had me on their shows. The Chinese World Journal newspaper did two articles on me. KQED online news blogged about my deportation case. Many bloggers and websites across the nation helped spread the word of my online petition. Change.org hosted my online petition. Facebook was extremely useful in reaching out to people to support my cause. We had over 2,500 people signed the online pardon petition. None of it could have been possible without the support from friends and the community.

(more…)

Responsibility, Rehabilitation, & Restoration Interfaith Round Table, Keynote speaker

Nov 13, 2010
» Engagements

San Quentin, CA
Spoke on the the need to raise awareness for restorative justice, and motivate both the incarcerated and broader community to get involved, during National Restorative Justice Week.

the Jail Generation

Apr 18, 2004
» Articles

Prisons have become the primary institutional interface for more and more youth, informing everything from pop culture to worldview and life expectations.

by Dan Hoyle, AlterNet

excerpt:

If so many young people are growing up in prison, what exactly are they being taught?

“In prison, you learn to talk less, listen more, and observe — and you learn patience,” says Eddy Zheng from a pay phone in Solano State Prison in Vacaville, CA. In 1982, when he was 12 years old, Zheng came to America from Canton, China, with his family. His parents worked full time — “my Dad worked at McDonalds; all he memorized was how to say ‘mayonaise, lettuce, tomatoes.'” Zheng didn’t adjust well. In 1986 he was convicted of kidnapping with intent to commit robbery, and was charged as an adult at the age of 16. “I grew up in prison,” admits Zheng. Still learning English when he was admitted, Zheng took ESL classes and got his GED, and then went on to receive an Associate Degree of Arts through extension classes at San Quentin State Prison (he has since been relocated to Solano State). He plans on starting a youth guidance center for new immigrants when he is released. Zheng realizes his story is unusual and praises the “huge support from family and friends beyond the community of incarceration” that have helped him make the most of his time in prison.

( read full article online here )

APA Inmate Challenges Prison Segregation Policies

Apr 04, 2003
» Articles

by May Chow, AsianWeek

excerpt:

An Asian Pacific American inmate at Avenal State Prison is challenging the racially segregated housing and discriminatory discipline policies at San Quentin State Prison and the California Department of Corrections (CDC) — practices that violate the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

In November 2001, Viet Mike Ngo, 33, petitioned the Marin County Superior Court for a writ of habeas corpus regarding San Quentin’s alleged violation of an inmate’s guaranteed equal protection under the law.

“San Quentin uses three racial/ethnic categories for the purpose of segregating inmates in cells (double-celling) and during lockdowns,” Ngo wrote in the petition. “Whites are routinely assigned cells with whites, blacks with blacks and Mexicans with Mexicans. There is de facto segregation in this housing unit by cells.”

(read full article online here )

Asian American Studies Denied to San Quentin Inmates

Mar 28, 2003
» Articles

APAs fight for their rights behind bars

by Ji Hyun Lim, AsianWeek

excerpt:

Education frees the mind, builds character — and some argue — may reduce recidivism. For Eddy Zheng, the San Quentin College program has been rehabilitative. Seventeen years ago, Zheng was sent to prison for armed robbery, sentenced for seven years to life. During his years in prison, he has been able to read, write, learn English, and receive both his GED and his associates degree. With his education, he hopes to educate at-risk kids about the consequences of crime when he is released from prison.

Zheng has taken all the courses offered to him, but he and his fellow inmates are still thirsty to learn more about their roots as Asian Pacific Americans. On March 11, Zheng, Viet Mike Ngo, Roy Remeidio and Stephen Liebb proposed to the academic committee that the education program include courses that reflect their cultural history and identity. The four men signed a petition as a formal request. However, they were faced with an unanticipated reaction.

( read full article online here )

Throwing Away the Key

Jun 05, 2002
» Articles

Why Gov. Davis’ just-say-no parole policy is wrong, Exhibit No. 1: Eddy Zheng has earned a college degree in prison, sings in a church choir, works with at-risk youth, has the support of clergymen, college professors, his prison counselor…

by Bernice Yeung, SF Weekly
excerpt:

Zheng has spent more than half his life in prison since the crime. When he first entered the correctional system, he was a gangly teen who looked younger than his age. Now he is trim, tall, and bespectacled; his choppy buzz cut is beginning to gray.

As Zheng sat before the commissioners, he felt confident about his prospects. With every question the panel asked him about the crime, his incarceration, and his parole plans, he tried to show that he was a model inmate who had remade himself in prison. A recent immigrant when he committed the crime, he had since mastered English and earned an associate of arts degree from the San Quentin college program. He took part in several self-help, educational, and religious programs. He had letters of support from dozens of people, from college professors to clergy. He had no major disciplinary infractions, and his prison counselor and psychological reports said he was qualified for release.

After Zheng delivered a closing statement, the commissioners left the room to vote on whether to grant Zheng a release date or not. Thirty minutes later, they filed back into the room, and Zheng was led in to face them. As Zheng readied himself for another denial, a commissioner told him that they had voted unanimously to grant his parole.

Zheng stared at them with stoic disbelief. Only about 1 percent of lifers in recent years have managed to get a release date from a California prison. Zheng had just beaten the odds.

( read full article online here )