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Goodbyes hurt the most when the story was unfinished

October 5, 2017

Editorial by Troy Williams

It is with deep regret that I write about the tragic death of Arnulfo T. Garcia, a friend, colleague and former editor of the San Quentin News. My heart goes out to his family, especially his 17-year-old daughter. I can only imagine how she must feel having waited her entire life to reunite with her father only to lose him again.

Troy Williams, then executive director of the San Quentin Prison Report, and Arnulfo Garcia, then editor of the San Quentin News, were leading journalists inside, each with a sizable staff producing outstanding journalism.

Arnulfo T. Garcia and his sister Yolanda Louise Hernandez were killed in a car accident in Hollister, California. There are conflicting reports as to what caused the accident, but I am most concerned with the fact that a daughter lost her father, a family lost two members in one accident, and we lost a valuable member of our community.

It is with deep regret that I write about the tragic death of Arnulfo T. Garcia, a friend, colleague and former editor of the San Quentin News.

I was at a loss for words and struggling to complete this article then I went to talk to Watani Stiner. Watani wrote a column for the San Quentin News called an “OG’s Perspective.” It was Arnulfo who convinced Watani to write a column. Watani said, “Goodbyes hurt the most when the story is unfinished.” This rang true for me because I can’t help but think about what Arnulfo would have accomplished as a free man, absent the presence of prison bars.

Originally sentenced to 64 years to life but released after serving nearly 17 years, Arnulfo T. Garcia began his new life in the free world two months ago. I met Arnulfo while serving time at San Quentin. We participated in numerous self-help groups together from Keeping It Real to The Green Life to the Brothers In Pen.

In Keeping It Real we worked on healing the father son wound. In the Green Life we looked for sustainable solutions to healing our environment. In Brothers In Pen, a creative writing class, we wrote stories and critiqued each other’s work. Arnulfo had compiled over 10,000 handwritten pages of a memoir. So this is a man who did a lot of self-reflection.

If I am to be honest, I must say that we did not always agree. Anyone who knows us knows this truth. But it’s kind of what you expect when two alpha males are in the room negotiating big ideas in a small pond. But we never let differences stop progress and we always kept a healthy level of respect for each other.

Ultimately, Arnolfo became editor of the San Quentin News and I the executive director of the San Quentin Prison Report. Alongside a group of other men, we helped to form the first satellite chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists inside a prison.

Watani said, “Goodbyes hurt the most when the story is unfinished.” This rang true for me because I can’t help but think about what Arnulfo would have accomplished as a free man, absent the presence of prison bars.

We did some great things together and apart to further the movement for prison reform. I am most appreciative of the way in which Arnulfo made so many people naturally appreciate his leadership. And any semblance of that quality that people may see in me now, I can say that I learned, in part, from him.

He also had a way of encouraging others to write for the newspaper and as he began facilitating groups like GRIP (Guiding Rage Into Power) and VOEG (Victim Offenders Education Group) for the Spanish speaking population, he had a way of bringing in people who were originally resistant to participating in groups.

We talked a few days after his release. I can still see him smiling through the phone as he talked about what he hoped to create now that he was free.

“We talked on the phone every morning and I am going to miss him,” Aly Tamboura said, as a group of nearly 20 formerly incarcerated men and prison volunteers sat in the living room of my house talking. We came together to support each other and sat around trying to come to terms with what happened and why. We were all in shock that such a promising individual could be taken away so soon.

We talked a few days after his release. I can still see him smiling through the phone as he talked about what he hoped to create now that he was free.

My condolences go out to Arnulfo’s brother Nick, who is a champion in his own right. We hope that he will carry on the legacy of his brother. I can only imagine the nightmare this family is going through. They lost two family members at the same time and now they have to pay for two funerals. We are asking that supporters of the SF Bay View send plenty of prayers and if possible send a financial donation to one or both gofundme pages to help the family pay for funeral expenses. Any small amount will help:

With love, appreciation and regret, I make this request.

Bay View Editor-In-Chief Troy Williams can be reached at troy@sfbayview.com.

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