Freedom Festival Speaks to Younger Generations


Another hashtag is trending on Twitter within California in response to the rise in the prison population and the decrease in school funding. #SchoolsNotPrisons, a campaign started by Californians for Safety and Justice, has been touring major cities up and down the coast. The campaign has promoted the idea of rehabilitation instead of imprisonment and also serves as a get-out-the-vote campaign.

On Oct. 27, the tour hit Stockton with a lineup of informative workshops, a public festival, and a local race to build awareness in the city. Local organizations like Fathers & Families of San Joaquin, billboards on Pacific Avenue, and even Spotify were advertising during the weeks leading up to the event.

The next day’s Freedom Fest on Oct. 28 drew a huge crowd to Weber Point and the Civic Auditorium. Attendees could participate in arts and crafts and visit booths to get information on resources available to families.

For junior Kasarrah Hunter, the most memorable part of the festival was walking through a trailer that was fashioned into a jail cell. “I really got a sense of just how small a space they have to live in,” she said. Hunter, who has family members that spent time in prison, said the experience made realize “just how poorly they’re treated. It’s pretty sad, to be honest.”

The junior found out about the festival after watching a movie screening at the Bob Hope Theatre that highlights mental health issues among young people. “They really wanted young people to know that straying from education leads to you making bad decisions,” Hunter said. “The event really made me think about my father in prison.”

Senior Ray-Nico Galindo was very impressed with the performance that were held in the Civic Auditorium. “They were really able to connect to teens,” he said. The performances at the event weren’t just carried out by younger people but they kept the emphasis on education and voting.

Galindo was also deeply moved by the information provided at the festival. “I know that life,” he said. The senior was on the brink of homelessness for three years as a child. “I know that feeling of abandonment … the feeling that there is no one to help.” The welcoming atmosphere that the event provided “assured me that people are out there trying to fix things.”

Almost everyone that attended left with a t-shirt and a free bag along with new perspective on the prison system and the impact young people have on voting.

“I believe in second chances,” Galindo said, “and I was happy this event was spreading that idea of acceptance.”