On December 13, 2005, Stan "Tookie" Williams is due to be executed in California. Though he maintains his innocence, Williams was convicted in 1981 of the 1979 murders of four people (one black, three Asian) during two separate robberies. Amidst a backdrop of anti-gang hysteria, during the questionable trial - any trial of a Black man in America is questionable - the prosecutor referred to him as "a Bengal tiger," as well as his South Central home as a "jungle."
Williams was found guilty by a 'jury of his peers': a lily-white jury. Despite his right to due process, all prospective Black jurors were removed from the selection pool. Historically, Blacks are wary of serving on death penalty cases. Later, in the sentencing phase of his trial, Williams appeared before the court in shackles - evoking the enslavement of our ancestors - a practice the U.S. Supreme Court has since ruled unconstitutional. Who says racism is dead?
In 1971, Williams co-founded the notorious street gang the Crips. The Crips, along w/ their rival gang, the Bloods, ruled South Central street life for decades. Ironically, the fate of this brother lies in the hands of an actor turned Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, a European immigrant who made millions of dollars in films celebrating violence as a male rites of passage. America, then, is a nation obsessed w/ violence: the hate that hate produced.
Despite his ordeal, or, perhaps, in his response to it, Williams has spent the last 20 years intervening in gang disputes. Along w/ author Barbara Becnel, he's co-written a children's book series, "Tookie Speaks Out Against Gang Violence." One of his books won national honors. Last year he helped broker peace agreements between Bloods & Crips in California & New Jersey. More than 70,000 people have sent e-mails to www.SaveTookie.org. Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx sensitively portrayed Williams in the cable TV film, "Redemption: The Stan Tookie Williams Story."
His supporters, among them Jim Brown, Snoop Dogg, Danny Glover & Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have nominated Williams for the Nobel Peace Prize. Recently, Governor Schwarzenegger told reporters he is "dreading" the decision to end or extend the life of the atoned brother, who currently survives in a six by ten foot cell. The San Francisco Chronicle published an editorial calling on the Governor to grant him clemency. Todd Chretien of the 'Campaign to End the Death Penalty,' says, "there is no reason on earth to kill him & every reason to keep him alive."
I've never believed in the death penalty. As the descendant of enslaved Africans, the emotional & psychological residue of post traumatic slave syndrome haunts my wounded psyche. As a Black man in America, I suffer the oppression of white supremacy daily. As a same gender-loving brother, I've been rejected by community, family, religion & society. As a recovering drug addict living w/ AIDS, I know isolation on an intimate level: we are imprisoned by our own minds & condemned by our own guilt.
Life has a way of somehow getting your undivided attention, whether you like it or not. My 97-year old great grandmother used to tell me when I was little, "nobody gets through this world unscathed." My mother once told me, "God don't make mistakes." In one of his books, Williams poignantly writes, "don't join a gang. You won't find what you're looking for. All you will find is trouble, pain & sadness. I know. I did." In my 45 years or so on the planet, I've learned, as has Williams, to heal: healing is the natural tendency to restore balance when it is lost. Am I my brother's keeper? Yes. Let Tookie live.
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.